The United BLDG is currently under construction at University Avenue and Dundas Street in Downtown Toronto, and a unique aspect of the project is that it includes North America’s tallest heritage retention. UrbanToronto took a trip inside a couple of weeks ago to see what was up at the Davpart development site, and outside of the larger-than-life trusses that are being used to support the upper levels through excavation phase — which we covered in our previous story — the first phase of the heritage restoration is another big feat currently being tackled by crews at the site. 

Heritage restoration going on at the site of the United BLDG, image by Craig White

Four conjoined buildings previously stood on the northeast block at University and Dundas; 481 University Avenue, 210 Dundas Street West, 70 Centre Avenue, and 137 Edward Street. While 481 University and 210 Dundas were required to be retained and restored, 70 Centre, which was on the heritage register, and 137 Edward, which was not, are now gone. That doesn't mean that 70 Centre has been forgotten, however.

"70 Centre Avenue was not ultimately required to be retained by HPS and Council," said Mark Hamidi, Davpart Director of Development. "As such, no parts of its facade or stones had to be salvaged or restored either. Having said that, we prepared a detailed pre-demolition documentation of the building for City of Toronto heritage archives. While pre-demolition documentation of 70 Centre Avenue was not among the approval conditions for this development, it was something we elected and committed to do, which we included in the approved Heritage Impact Assessment prepared by ERA Architects."

While 481 University and 210 Dundas will eventually have offices in them again, where 70 Centre and 137 Edward sat will become the entrance and lobby of the condo that will eventually rise above, plus more office space. While 481 University and 210 Dundas will have their limestone facades restored, in modern contrast, the structure at Centre and Edward will be sheathed in glass panels, offering a substantial amount of natural light into the shared space.

Glass-encased lobby of new condo, image courtesy of Davpart

To keep the architectural history alive across the whole of the complex, Davpart has opted to make a physical reminder as part of the new building. "There will be plaques and heritage interpretation signs installed on the inside and outside of the building to identify the history of the heritage buildings and what previously stood at this site," said Hamidi. 

Stones removed from the parapet ahead of being cleaned, image by Craig White

Restoration is the name of the game for the University and Dundas building exterior walls though, and some stone has now been carefully removed. "With respect to the stones in the crates, " Hamidi told us, "those are all roof parapet stones of 210 Dundas building which had to be salvaged during construction and will be restored and reinstalled at later stages at their original location on the roof parapet."  

Parapet stones boxed up, ready to be sent out for a cleaning, image by Craig White

The stone is still in the process of being removed from the facade and being packaged, despite so many already pieces being packed up and ready to be sent out to for restoration. 

Stones removed from the parapet to be cleaned, image by Craig White

Stone will be a major part of the highly anticipated arcade along Dundas Street when the project is complete. While a narrow sidewalk has existed along the building's Dundas frontage for decades now, the redevelopment of the site includes the gutting one bay of the first two storeys and first basement level facing Dundas, all to create a sheltered arcade out of what was previously interior space. Once it's all done, this widened piece of public realm will be lined with shops and restaurants. 

Heritage arcade filled with retail, image courtesy of Davpart

Another part of the project's heritage that is being restored are two artworks carved into the University Avenue building, gold-leafed murals – the one at Dundas featuring a man, and the other facing Edward, a woman. Both have been covered for the duration of the construction process for their preservation. In the end, they will be uncovered, restored, and featured at either end of the University frontage. 

Stone murals that are being preserved, image courtesy of Davpart

The United BLDG will eventually be the home of a B+H Architects-designed 52-storey condo tower rising from a 10-storey base of offices and retail. The rooftop of the existing building that faces University Avenue will become the amenity floor of the condo, featuring an outdoor lounge and pool, landscaped with greenery, and offering a view of the busy street below.

The United BLDG, designed by B+H Architects for Davpart

Stay tuned for more! In the meantime, you can learn more from our Database file for the project, linked below. If you'd like, 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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