Opened in 1948 by Edwin Mirvish, Honest Ed himself, the famous Honest Ed's discount store on the corner of Bloor and Bathurst Streets was put on sale earlier this year by the Mirvish family. It was confirmed this week that the site has been sold to Vancouver-based developer Westbank Projects Corp.
With its brightly lit sign and bargain deals, Honest Ed's has become a well-recognized attraction to both locals and tourists alike. The store’s 65-year history along with its prominent location in Toronto's popular Annex neighbourhood will ensure that the redevelopment of this site will be watched closely.
Westbank Corp. has not yet announced their plans for the 1.8-hectare site, but it is reported that they will lease the property back to Honest Ed's for the next few years while preparing their redevelopment plans.
Though Westbank’s projects have predominantly been luxury hotels and residences in the British Columbia market, the developer is not new to Toronto: their entry into this market was with the Shangri-La Hotel and Residences, a building which elegantly rises 66 storeys amongst the downtown towers on University Avenue. The company had plans for a development in partnership with Cadillac Fairview at the Shops at Don Mills designed by Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). Although the development at Don Mills has been iced, Westbank currently has two other Canadian projects on the go with the world-renowned architecture firm.
The Bjarke Ingels Group is known for designing modern, unconventional buildings that, in their own words, "creates a pragmatic utopian architecture that steers clear of the petrifying pragmatism of boring boxes". The following BIG-designed Westbank properties are no exception, each poised to become a truly dramatic addition to the Calgary and Vancouver skylines thanks to their bold, innovative architecture.
Earlier this year, plans for the 58-storey, BIG-designed Telus Sky Tower in Calgary were announced. Scheduled for completion in 2017, the LEED Platinum, mixed use development is located in downtown Calgary and will feature environmentally-friendly technologies such as a storm water recycling system for washroom toilets and outdoor irrigation. On its exterior, the tower features a morphing silhouette with sawtooth balconies that thins out and twists as it reaches its 700-foot height. The complex will feature public spaces including roof decks that will exhibit works of art by local artists.
In the last week Westbank received approval from Vancouver City Council to construct the BIG-designed Beach & Howe tower on a site located next to the Granville Street Bridge. Arguably even more stunning than Telus Sky, this tower is expected to become a city landmark with its distinctive honeycombed façade and tapered design. The 52-storey tower rises from the ground with a triangular floor plate, allowing for a large public space at its base. It then transitions to a more traditional rectangular floor plate, giving it a precarious but intriguing appearance.
While Westbank has not commented on the possibility of BIG’s involvement at the Toronto site, it is hard not to speculate about a development designed by the award winning firm here. Below are samples of mid-rise BIG projects located in their home base of Copenhagen, Denmark, likely closer to the scale and massing that the City might like to see at the Honest Ed's site.
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