The renovation, retrofit, and refurbishment of existing buildings is an opportunity to upgrade the lifecycle of building assets; the environmental impact, user experience, and economics of older buildings, all of which can be enhanced through judicious application of today's technical and design know-how. UrbanToronto spoke with Margaret Knowles, Senior Vice President of Development at Morguard, about how the real estate manager transformed 60 Bloor Street West in the heart of Toronto into a Class A office building seeking LEED Gold Certification. It has been reenergized and revitalized with a sparkling new exterior façade, extending and enhancing its commercial future and community impact.
The 15-storey office tower is situated at the northeast corner of Bay and Bloor streets in the Yorkville neighbourhood. Bloor Street boasts some of Canada’s most expensive retail rental rates and represents many iconic international luxury and mid-priced brands. Originally designed by Zeidler Partnership Architects, the 1970-built office tower was showing its age before a B+H Architects-led modernization began in 2018.
There have been significant investments as of late: the renovation of the façade, concourse, and main floor luxury hall at Holt Renfrew, a Morguard property.
Morguard oversaw an extensive refurbishment program that included a new exterior façade, lobby and common area renovations, and modernized elevators. Each of the retail and office floors were retrofitted: sprinklers added, light fixtures changed to LEDs, mechanical systems upgraded, and windows replaced with double-glazed units using thermally broken frames. With the modernized HVAC system tied into a new, more flexible control system, tenants experience enhanced comfort and air quality. “Our intent was to modernize the building, introduce greater efficiencies, attract and retain commercial and retail tenants, and make it the go-to property in the area.” says Knowles.
In the redesign of the stairwell, Morguard introduced the Fitwel green building certification program, which focuses on improving and safeguarding the health and wellbeing of tenants/occupants. The use of colours, inspirational graphics, and well-placed water coolers encourage the building’s hip, diverse group of tenants to take the stairs.
Most notable is the building’s total facelift: a completely modified glazing and a rhythm of exterior lighting ‘fins’. At grade, the retail space boasts two-storey glazing that is luminous at night. New entrance canopies attract guests, and a third-floor element that wraps the building’s Bay-Bloor corner is outfitted with coloured architectural lighting that can be artfully programmed.
The renovation at 60 Bloor, managed by Ledcor, involved skillful construction coordination and logistics, working in close collaboration with tenants and operations teams. The work was carried out at night as the building was fully occupied during the entire construction process; the new HVAC system was commissioned in parallel with the existing operating system. Project duration was approximately 30 months, and the hard cost construction budget was approximately $43M.
Morguard had completed a similar significant retrofit kitty-corner at 77 Bloor Street West in 2017, which informed this work. “Both of the properties were bought at the same time. They are 1970s buildings, not efficient from an HVAC point of view, and not able to compete with new construction. That was the purpose here; to return the property to a class A building boasting modern amenities and greater efficiencies that attracts and retains tenants. That's what we did,” says Knowles. “As a result of that, on 77 Bloor we kept a major tenant that was being wooed by all the new development happening in the financial district,” says Knowles.
Despite the impact of COVID, the refurbishment was completed in 2020, with minor remaining works. A new tenant is expected to anchor the prominent Bloor and Yonge corner, after The Gap closed its flagship store after a 21-year run.
Morguard identified an ROI opportunity for the institutional owner: “Not only did we retrofit the building, but we actually expect to reduce its carbon footprint between 35 and 40%, and its operating costs, in terms of its utility costs, by a like amount,” says Knowles. Morguard gained additional lobby ceiling height at elevators by removing asbestos and dropped ceilings, and gained 1-foot taller vistas as a result of the compact ventilation equipment along the strip windows. The considerable financial investment requires long-term thinking and clarity around what technologies, materials and methods are available and how they can be applied to enhance the value of a fading property.
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