Attracted by affordable rents and abundant and flexible workspaces, artists and craftspeople have long been drawn to Parkdale and the adjoining eastern stretch of Queen Street. Functioning as urban pioneers, their presence has helped to slowly resuscitate these neighbourhoods by increasing the circulation of people and pulling in investment. Recognizing the changing character of these neighbourhoods, developers have responded by bringing projects to market that allow residents to take advantage of the vibrancy of these areas.

The latest in this influx of projects is an application by the SiteLine Group to construct a mixed-use project at 440 Dufferin Street consisting of 399 residential units and over 5000 square meters of light-industrial space. Designed by the architectural firm RAW, the project is divided into three blocks with each component consisting of a 4-storey podium anchoring a tower above. Descending in height from 24-storeys in the southernmost block, to 12-storeys in the middle and 8-storeys in the north, the project will share one parking garage containing 306 spaces.  The decision to break the project into a series of three blocks is intended to enliven the pedestrian realm through the creation of new streets that will bisect what would otherwise be a monolithic block. As explained by Roland Rom Colthoff, a founding partner of RAW Design, there is a rhythm to the pedestrian's experience of a street, a rhythm that is best maintained by blocks of 100 or 200 meters. Additional street-level improvements include a wider than mandated setback from Dufferin to allow for better streetscaping as well as a new public space at the southern portion of the site and a connection to the West Toronto RailPath.

Below is a siteplan for the project as well as two images that show the structures that are slated to be replaced by the development:

Site Plan for 440 Dufferin Street. Viewed from the east across Dufferin Street, the rail line that defines the southern portion of the site is to the left. Image from City of Toronto Planning Application.

Looking south on Dufferin. A view of the site as it currently exists. Image from Google Earth.

Looking north on Dufferin. A view of the site as it currently exists. Image from Google Earth.

Turning to the design of the project, below are three renderings provided to us courtesy of RAW Design. The decision to rotate the towers creates both a dynamic fan composition and opens up sight lines in order to provide residents with improved views. 

View of the project as seen from the northeast. Image courtesy of RAW Design.

Looking south along Dufferin Street towards Queen. Image courtesy of RAW Design.

Ground-level rendering of one of the 4-storey podiums. A planned connection to the West Toronto RailPath can be seen just to the left of the centre of the rendering. Image courtesy of RAW Design.

Adventurous, comtemporary and progressive, SiteLine Group, the development company behind the proposal, and RAW have what Roland Rom Colthoff has described as a "mutually reinforcing" drive to foster better design. The decision of the developer to give RAW a "free-hand" in crafting this project has clearly paid dividends as the conceptual renderings above so emphatically demonstrate. Promising too is the decision to replace the studios lost to demolition with new space in the base of the development. Not only will this ensure that the arts community will be able to remain in the neighbourhood, but improvements to the new workspaces will include a larger street presence and improved provisions for shipping and receiving, including the ability for artists to load material directly into their studios. All will help the community's artists and craftspeople not only maintain, but improve their economic viability. This commitment to the arts community through the allocation of such substantial amounts of light industrial space is unprecedented in the city, allowing for the preservation of a feature that has made and continues to make the area vibrant with the need to encourage the development of more sustainable forms of housing.

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Related Companies:  CentreCourt, Fitzrovia Real Estate Inc., Graziani + Corazza Architects, NAK Design Strategies, RJC Engineers