The excitement is palpable in the voice of David Hofstedter, founder and CEO of Davpart Inc., as he speaks about his latest endeavour. Arguably their most prominent development to date, Davpart is proposing to construct The United BLDG, a 54-storey mixed-use office and condo tower on the northeast corner of Dundas and University in the heart of Downtown Toronto. They have enlisted B+H Architects as lead designers, with ERA Architects as heritage specialists.
Integrating over 220,000 square feet of office space, nearly 40,000 square feet of retail space, a TTC subway entrance, and 759 condo units with their associated amenities all in one building wrapped in a retained heritage facade, this project is no easy feat. Davpart first purchased the property in 2011 with an eye on redevelopment, and according to Hofstedter, they began brainstorming ideas almost immediately. Eight long years later, the project is finally on track to being realized, with sales and marketing now underway.
"We wanted to create something more than what's apparent to the eye, something really exceptional...that captures people's imaginations," Hofstedter said of The United BLDG. The challenges in making the project a reality began piling up almost immediately. Aside from balancing the needs of the diversity of programs contained within the building, the design team also had to navigate the various zoning restrictions and heritage requirements of the project, including having to avoid intruding on the protected view corridor north toward City Hall from Queen Street, and having to design a tower while the City was concurrently forming their Tall Building Design Guidelines. As the years ticked by, changing market conditions also impacted the project, shifting the design of the residential units more toward the high-end market.
The existing heritage buildings pose a particularly tough challenge, one that requires some impressive engineering. Davpart has dubbed this project "the tallest heritage retention development in North America". As part of the development, the existing west, south, and partial east and north facades will be preserved and will form the envelope for the podium of the building, along with some original integrated public art that will be restored as well. In order to do this, the facades will be left in situ, shored up while everything around them is torn down, excavated, and built up again. Measuring 9 storeys high, a facade retention of this height has not been seen before in Toronto, and apparently, not in North America either. It will be interesting to see how the engineers and contractors will accomplish this.
Though relatively new to the construction scene, Davpart has had plenty of experience when it comes to mixing old with new. After beginning his career at his father's company - H&R Developments - Hofstedter ventured off in 1993 when he founded Davpart. At the time, Canada was in a recession and the real estate market had bottomed out, so given the rather bleak market conditions, Hofstedter decided to take a different direction than his father's company. Capitalizing on the cheap available real estate in the 90s, Davpart began buying undervalued and generally run-down properties across the city, fixing them up, and turning them into successful and profitable ventures. Their portfolio grew to be diversified across many uses, including industrial, commercial, residential, and retail, with projects like 67 Yonge Street and Gerrard Square Shopping Centre representing some of their many successes.
More recently, Davpart has ventured into new construction in Toronto. Their first project, Avro Condominiums at Sheppard and The Allen, is now under construction, while The United BLDG is moving through the late stages of the approvals process. Another project is on the way, with 1 Eglinton East located at one of Toronto's most active development nodes, which is currently moving through the planning pipeline.
All of this past experience, along with years of design and planning, are now culminating in Davpart's most ambitious project, The United BLDG. "I think it's a very exciting project," Hofstedter exclaimed. "It's being embraced by the City, it's being embraced by the community… and it will be a great improvement to this important corner of the city".
UrbanToronto will be watching this building closely as it moves through sales toward construction, so keep checking back for more updates! Additional information and images can be found in our database file for the project, linked below. In the meantime, you can join in on the discussion by checking out the associated Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.
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