The stretch of Toronto's Avenue Road between Lawrence and Wilson has traditionally been defined by two-storey buildings with retail on the ground floor and apartments or converted commercial units above. While there have been a few mid-rise outliers introduced during the building boom of the postwar years and the more recent 1980s boom, it has only been in the last several years that real change has begun to take hold. 1717 Avenue Road, a mid-rise condo constructed in 2009, was the first building of the current boom to set the tone for subsequent developments on the northern end of Avenue Road, and over a decade later, the stretch is changing faster than ever.
The latest redevelopment to join this stretch is a new four-storey office building for developer Jame Financial at 1912 Avenue Road, on the northwest corner at Brooke Avenue. We recently spoke to Hoordad Ghandehari, Principal at Toronto-based ICON Architects, the firm behind the project, about the challenges of designing a medium-density development to fit in along a low-density strip. Ghandehari isn't new to the neighbourhood, as he was a project manager for the precedent-setting 1717 Avenue Road during his time at Turner Fleischer Architects, shortly before co-founding ICON with Reza Eslami in 2008. Roughly half a kilometre north of the 1717 Avenue Road project, Ghandehari has once again left his mark on the neighbourhood.
1912 Avenue Road meets the retail stretch with a modern interpretation of the locally dominant built form. A two-storey volume along the building's primary Avenue Road frontage acts as a contextual bridge between the old and the new, mirroring the height and materiality of the established retail strip. This "helps the building harmonize with its surroundings" while providing a base for the main massing behind to "sit on a pedestal, like a monument" as stated by Ghandehari. He also points out the logic behind the finishes for the lower volume, which "showcase that sleek black curtainwall glass cladding."
When asked further about the full building's exterior statement, Ghandehari describes the thought process behind the contrasting light and dark volumes. "We picked a very rustic, corrugated metal for this. The contrast between the corrugated metal and the very sleek glass would create the impact that we wanted. Tone and texture emphasize these different intertwined volumes."
1912 Avenue Road was designed to create what Ghandehari describes as a "respectful stepdown to meet the residential" single-family housing that exists to the west of the site. A pre-existing precedent on an adjacent property conflicting with the City's 45-degree angular plane requirements resulted in successful negotiations at the OMB to build beyond the 45-degree plane, with no real impact on the adjacent surface parking lot. The resulting terraces created by stepbacks are considered just that by Ghandehari, who states that "offices don't need terraces" through market demand, and that they often exist solely as a byproduct of massing considerations.
A light well is included on the building's west side, allowing natural light to penetrate the basement level with its 12-foot ceiling heights. The basement currently contains a mechanical room and storage spaces, with no parking spaces provided in the building. The City's minimum requirements called for 46 parking spaces, calculated based on the gross floor area of office and retail space, though the adjacent paid surface parking lot to the west plus the regular transit service on Avenue Road were enough to secure approvals with no parking component.
As the final stages of construction unfold within the building, the first signs of life are appearing in the corner commercial space, home to the soon-to-open Cafe Landwer, part of the ongoing GTA expansion of the popular Israeli-based cafe and eatery. A second commercial space fronts onto Brooke Avenue, though no tenant has been confirmed as of the time of publishing.
You can learn more from our Database file for the project via the link below. If you'd like to, you can join in on the conversation in the associated Project Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.
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