Bloor & Dufferin | 128.9m | 37s | Hazelview | Turner Fleischer

WislaHD

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Super dense isn't the optimal form to achieve affordability. It's not ideal to end the space crunch which exists, in part, to unoccupied investor held units.
Nobody is making the argument that super dense is some optimal form.

But if the options are super dense versus building subdivisions in the Greenbelt, guess what. I will take super dense, 100% of the time.
 

TrickyRicky

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I used to be strongly in favour of mid-rise missing-middle development. I still am to the extent that this building type is too small a component of Toronto's built form. My contribution to your discussion here though is to raise two questions: The first is is mid-rise as it is generally accepted in this city and on this forum really mid-rise? The second is due to the legacy of physical built form and cultural norms of the city is mid-rise too restrictive?

On the first point if you go to dense mid-rise districts throughout the world and compare to what we refer to as a mid-rise building I find what we call mid-rise is far to wide and tall to fit in this category. We are calling a 10 storey building a mid-rise. A 10 storey building is an enormously tall building. I don't think it fits into the mid-rise category. Even a 7 storey building is probably functionally a high-rise. In my mind the mid-rise category tops out at the tallest possible building you could build where people could use it without an elevator. That probably means 5 storeys or 6 in an ultra high density context. So basically I'm saying that you guys might just be arguing about what shape high-rise you want to see, not if it is a high-rise or not.

On the second point the question is given our largely low-rise detached built form and restrictive planning and regulatory environment can we afford to waste land development sites on mid-rise buildings, and furthermore is a mid-rise district a superior built form than low-rise adjacent to high-rise. I would say on wasting the land development sites on mid-rise the answer is no, we can't waste the sites on mid-rise because too much land is restricted to development. I say this even though I suspect high-rise buildings may be a suspect long-term building form. Condo high-rises may be a particularly dubious concept. I would also say that while I think that Toronto needs some mid-rise only districts and plenty more mid-rises I don't really know if I feel this building form is any more superior than the high-low mix we have in Toronto. As a young man I was strongly for mid-rise buildings in emulation of successful districts in Europe and Asia but now I'm not so sure, there are positives and negatives both ways.
 

adHominem

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Which is what makes this argument so frustrating: super dense vs. Greenbelt sprawl shouldn't be the only two options, but we won't make the obvious other choice – to build a lot more midrise along the Avenues and in the Yellow Belt – mainly from a lack of political will. It's like seeing a person carrying a winter coat and coming up with elaborate heat-generating contraptions instead of just putting their damn coat on.
 

maestro

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I agree in part. Neither are preferred options. Fortunately, building on virgin farmland vs mult-tower infill developments expontially more dense than the sorrunding built environment are never the only options. There's nt much point to your post
 

maestro

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Intensification should be played like a fined tuned instrument. We tried the sledgehammer during the modern era demolishing and rezoning entire neighbourhoods for taller and bigger. Cities across North America still carry those scars from those decisions. Forcing neighbourhoods to accept much taller and denser development has had very little success. The stability of neighbourhood built environments are key to the overall stability and negative impacts of something that doesn't work as planned impacts greatly on the future success. NIMBYism doesn't exist without cause.
 

salsa

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Having just caught up with the discussion over the last couple pages, it's amazing to see certain members talk as if this proposal is not already high density, and far taller than any existing building in the immediate area.


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WislaHD

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I used to be strongly in favour of mid-rise missing-middle development. I still am to the extent that this building type is too small a component of Toronto's built form. My contribution to your discussion here though is to raise two questions: The first is is mid-rise as it is generally accepted in this city and on this forum really mid-rise? The second is due to the legacy of physical built form and cultural norms of the city is mid-rise too restrictive?

On the first point if you go to dense mid-rise districts throughout the world and compare to what we refer to as a mid-rise building I find what we call mid-rise is far to wide and tall to fit in this category. We are calling a 10 storey building a mid-rise. A 10 storey building is an enormously tall building. I don't think it fits into the mid-rise category. Even a 7 storey building is probably functionally a high-rise. In my mind the mid-rise category tops out at the tallest possible building you could build where people could use it without an elevator. That probably means 5 storeys or 6 in an ultra high density context. So basically I'm saying that you guys might just be arguing about what shape high-rise you want to see, not if it is a high-rise or not.

On the second point the question is given our largely low-rise detached built form and restrictive planning and regulatory environment can we afford to waste land development sites on mid-rise buildings, and furthermore is a mid-rise district a superior built form than low-rise adjacent to high-rise. I would say on wasting the land development sites on mid-rise the answer is no, we can't waste the sites on mid-rise because too much land is restricted to development. I say this even though I suspect high-rise buildings may be a suspect long-term building form. Condo high-rises may be a particularly dubious concept. I would also say that while I think that Toronto needs some mid-rise only districts and plenty more mid-rises I don't really know if I feel this building form is any more superior than the high-low mix we have in Toronto. As a young man I was strongly for mid-rise buildings in emulation of successful districts in Europe and Asia but now I'm not so sure, there are positives and negatives both ways.
What we consider a mid-rise building in Toronto = a building with all the construction and maintenance costs of a high-rise, but with smaller profit margins for the developer, and a condo maintenance fee spread among fewer owners.

There is a reason why our Avenues and Midrises plan is not having results City Planning desired from it.

And as you say, I question why we are stunting density on our Avenues when those Avenues are the one corridor outside of downtown in this city where we have elected to allow growth to occur.

The answer for me rests not with the Avenues, which are very narrow corridors that only amount to a small % of the land mass in the city, but in addressing those "stable neighbourhoods" or Yellowbelt. We should be lining those residential streets (at least immediately adjacent to the Avenues) with 4 to 5-storey buildings.

I would start with the Annex, but we are more interested in covering an area of 1.26sqkm with 6 subway stations in a heritage district to become a live-in museum than we are concerned with providing housing for people close to transit and amenities.
 

Lenser

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In terms of mid-rise I tend to think of 6-8 story buildings as being an ideal average but in my view up to 2o stories in many instances would not be unreasonable.
 

jaco_says

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Mid-rises are the single most expensive built form in this city. So while we need more of them, to think we can replace towers with them is foolish. Unless the goal is to build a city for only the ultra-wealthy, in which case that path is the best one.
 

ponyboy

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Perhaps being less accepting of tall towers would motivate more midrise, tipping the balance for some developers to consider midrise. But we have been unable to hold firm on a elevation plan because of the successful appeals for increased height, and many are philosophically opposed to even trying for those strict restrictions. I would rather Toronto not become a mega populated city. I personally think midsize cities are the most livable places, combining the benefits of some density and critical mass, but the global economy seems to be creating the megacity regions. Can we do more to direct population growth to other cities, or are too many leaders too invested in a growth-based mindset?

As far as the missing middle argument, an important entry point for a motivated politician should be to identify which primary schools are at undercapacity, and then to direct intensification along the avenues of the catchment to build the kind of apartments and condos that families want. In some of our low density beloved neighborhoods, like the Seaton village or the Annex, many families would love to live there, and these communities also suffer from undercapacity schools. Perhaps a deal can be made -- neighbourhood schools wont be closed if the community gets behind 10-year avenue intensification plans with as of right zoning. It would protect the leafy low rise interior of neighbourhoods, add in a midrise zone along avenues, with some point towers at major intersections, and save schools from being closed by boosting the number of kids in the area.
 
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maestro

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Mid-rises are the single most expensive built form in this city. So while we need more of them, to think we can replace towers with them is foolish. Unless the goal is to build a city for only the ultra-wealthy, in which case that path is the best one.

In an ideal real estate market, high rises are the most cost effective form in a downtown or city centre type environment. A midrise shouldn't be more expensive than a 50 storey or an 80 storey skyscraper that takes vast sums of institutional capital and 3 to 5 times longer to develop. Midrises aren't being built in part because we have runaway real estate speculation and planning policy that sympathizes with the speculation. Real estate values are capped accordingly in parts of the city where asking above and beyond current density and/or height limits is a fools errand. Dozens of midrises are going up in these areas and I can't think of a single one selling in the ultra wealthy range.
 

Bentley

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In an ideal real estate market, high rises are the most cost effective form in a downtown or city centre type environment. A midrise shouldn't be more expensive than a 50 storey or an 80 storey skyscraper that takes vast sums of institutional capital and 3 to 5 times longer to develop. Midrises aren't being built in part because we have runaway real estate speculation and planning policy that sympathizes with the speculation. Real estate values are capped accordingly in parts of the city where asking above and beyond current density and/or height limits is a fools errand. Dozens of midrises are going up in these areas and I can't think of a single one selling in the ultra wealthy range.

I don't think I'd agree. Mid-rises as a product type are riskier to build for a few reasons.

First, as a smaller project there is less profit in absolute dollars to be made, and less contingency, and so unforeseen problems have a much greater impact on a mid-rise than a high rise. For example, if you happen to identify contaminated soils after you demo your site and do more boreholes, and it costs you a million dollars, that million is a direct hit to your bottom line. On a project that might make a 10 million dollar profit vs a 50 million dollar profit, the impact is 10% to the profit line vs 2%. Doesn't take many of those problems (which happen in different forms on almost every project) to erode any profits away.

Second, your budgets naturally get smaller for everything. What happens if the mid-rise site (which is often in a less desirable location and needs more marketing dollars to sell) doesn't sell as quickly as expected. Spend another 250k on advertising.

Third, from a design standpoint, mid-rises tend to not be typical in nature. They have setbacks and elevation changes. High-rises are almost entirely copy and paste for the majority of the floors. So your soft costs and fees on a PSF basis are usually smaller on a high rise, and your construction efficiency is better, so you get better trade pricing.

Fourth, the construction market is so busy that most quality trades only want to do large scale projects. So you get stuck with B and C trades who screw things up, and end up costing you money, time, etc. This is not even counting the pricing risks mentioned above due to the product type being atypical in nature.

Fifth, the types of investors willing to invest in mid-rises as a result are a lower tier. Higher cost of capital, which means less profit potential on a deal. The majority of mid-rise builders are less sophisticated so they might be willing to take a smaller return. They are often the ones who don't last very long in the industry. This is not a hard and fast rule as there are a few who have carved out their niche, but if you look at the builders doing a lot of mid-rise they're probably not the top 10 names you'd think of in Toronto development.

The only way mid-rises can become a viable category to move the needle on solving supply constraints is if as of right zoning is implemented along all avenues. There should be a standard methodology (ie. 45 degree angular plane to the neighbourhood and height of the width of the right of way). If by doing that a developer can shave 18 months from their schedule and go straight to market, that smaller margin project that gets built in 24-36 months instead of 42-60 months can make a lot more financial sense on an IRR basis. This could help attract better capital into that product type, and get larger scale developers pushing that product type more as it may end up being less headaches and risk.
 

WislaHD

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In addition to the above, amenities and maintenance in mid-rises cost the same as in a high-rise on a per-sqft basis, yet it is spread amongst fewer units, ergo, mid-rise tenants typically have higher maintenance fees.
 

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