The Canary District Condominiums within the West Don Lands officially broke ground this morning at the corner of Mill and Cherry Streets in downtown Toronto. The ceremony was preceded by an informative press conference where key partners of the development introduced us to both the condominium, as well as the larger West Don Lands precinct.

West facade of Canary District Condos, image by Edward Skira

Mill Street - south facade of Canary District Condos, image by Edward Skira

East facade of Canary District Condos, image by Edward Skira

Front Street - north facade of Canary District Condos, image by Edward Skira

The Canary District Condominiums is one of many developments planned for the West Don Lands; while its name could lead one to believe it's a district in the larger sense (akin to CityPlace or the Distillery District) it is in fact a single project composed of four buildings, a perimeter development that will stretch from Front Street to Mill Street, with local streets running on its eastern and western sides. A different architectural team will design each block within the West Don Lands in order to create a neighbourhood of varied experiences, held together by a common belief in contemporary modernism and good city building.

Courtyard within the Canary District Condos, image by Edward Skira

Canary District Condominiums Courtyard: Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects for DundeeKilmer Integrated Design Team

The four buildings contained within the Canary District Condominiums will engulf a raised courtyard, accessible from the second floor and mezzanine. An outdoor barbeque and dining area compliments the amenities pavilion, within which residents will have access to a party and billiards room. The project will contain 369 residential units, designed to appeal to first time buyers, young families and empty nesters alike.

Meg Davis of Waterfront Toronto, image by Edward Skira

The event opened with comments from Albert Schultz, Artistic Director of Soulpepper Theatre Company, based out of the Distillery District. Schultz' opening remarks were followed by those of Meg Davis, V.P. of Development at Waterfront Toronto. Davis emphasized the strong connection the neighbourhood will have with WaterfrontTO's projects that line both the Don River and Lake Ontario. She also pointed out that that the Canary District is unique within the history of Pan Am and Olympic Athlete's Villages; while most villages are built and developed for the games and subsequently converted to other uses, the West Don Lands was already established and conceived of prior to its association with the games.

Bruce Kuwabara of KPMB Architects, image by Edward Skira

Bruce Kuwabara, a founding partner of KPMB Architects, addressed the design and artistic merits of the development. The Integrated Design Team – composed of KPMB, architectsAlliance, Daoust Lestage Inc. and MJMA– looked to planning theories espoused by Jane Jacobs and Marshall McLuhan, particularly Jacob's emphasis on walkability and the notion of a global village that McLuhan pioneered. Blocks were approached as neighbourhoods rather than buildings, permeated by publicly accessible laneways and serving both residents and non-residents alike.

Peter Clewes of architectsAlliance, image by Edward Skira

Peter Clewes of architectsAlliance then took to the podium to address building design and unit layout. While architectsAlliance is known for their dramatic tower and podium designs, they've taken a bit of a turn in the West Don Lands, embracing the multi-unit dwellings that we see in the project renderings, a style we've seen gaining traction within Europe (look to the work of BIG Architects) but had yet to catch on within Toronto. While no floorplans have been released as of yet, Clewes previewed a two-bedroom plan; rather than the conventional long and narrow plans (maximizing the number of units based on the circumference of a building) the project will contain wide and shallow units. While not as economically viable within skyscrapers, these units greatly increase ventilation, and dramatically increase the amount of natural light within individual units.

Jason Lester of DundeeKilmer, image by Edward Skira

Jason Lester, President of DundeeKilmer, wrapped up the event with specifics regarding the Canary District Condominiums. The building will contain townhouses and lofts priced from the low $200,000s, and will be LEED Gold Certified. The building will contain a variety of units from studios to two-bedroom plus dens, ranging from 405 to 1475 square feet. Registration has already begun, with sales expected to begin later this month.

From R-L: Bruce Kuwabara of KPMB, Meg Davis of Waterfront Toronto, Peter Clewes of architectsAlliance, Wayne Carson of Kilmer Van Nostrand Co. Ltd., Jason Lester of DundeeKilmer/Dundee Realty, Albert Schultz of Soulpepper Theatre, Ken Tanenbaum and Larry Tanenbaum of Kilmer Van Nostrand Co. Ltd. and Krystal Koo of Dundee Realty.

The event closed with the ceremonial groundbreaking, marking the beginning of construction. We can't wait to hear more about this development; while as a single building the Canary District Condominiums is notable, of particular importance is the relation it will have to the surrounding West Don Lands precinct. Peter Clewes briefly introduced a couple of developments that will be joining the Canary District Condominiums – be sure to check back later for more information and some eye-catching renderings. In the meantime, we've set-up a fact-filled dataBase page for this project that includes all the project renderings, which you can find below. Let us know what you think, and be sure to check the associated project forum.

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