Innovation in West Queen West
By Edward LaRusic, from Novæ Res Urbis
A proposal in West Queen West takes advantage of a gap in the marketplace and the updated building code to bring a different kind of product to the neighbourhood: stacked, stacked townhouses.
Curated Properties principal Adam Ochshorn told NRU that “cabin”—its new six-storey residential project at 45 Dovercourt Road—is intended to attract people looking for a different kind of condominium unit. He said that townhouses are a desirable housing form, but the city is running out of land downtown where it can accommodate them so his firm has put a spin on the traditional and come up with 25 two-level units.
“So what we decided to do is to basically put them on top of each other. It’s stacked and then stacked again… The market has gotten away from a big sector of the population downtown in regards to buying that semi or detached format on a side street downtown close to amenities.”
RAW Design architect Aleksandra Popovska—a member of the Cabin design team —told NRU that this project stands in contrast to the typical one-storey condo units with a small balcony that is commonly being built. She said these units would feel “more like a home” with bedrooms and large terraces that can give more of a backyard feel.
“The appeal would be to growing families or people who want to live in a house or a larger space but can’t possible afford some of the single-family detached houses in the area.”
Key to making this project work has been the update to the building code this year to permit six-storey, wood framed buildings. “[Using wood instead of concrete] allowed the building to articulate the different two-storey units, especially by undulating the façade, which allows the creation of terraces,” Popovska said. She noted that using concrete would have driven up the costs both in terms of materials and the construction staging that would be needed. “Allowing it to be built out of wood has made it possible to develop that site.”
City planner Aviva Pelt said that the city hasn’t released a preliminary report on Curated’s application yet, but expects to have one for the September 8 Toronto-East York Community Council meeting. The most immediate concern for staff is how the building transitions to the north, where there are semi- detached houses.
“It’s the last property in what was an industrial zone that has a regeneration designation in the official plan,” which she said necessitates a rezoning amendment to permit the residential use. “And there’s neighbouring houses directly to the north. We’re going to be looking at transitioning to the neighbourhoods. Right now, that’s our focus.”
Ochshorn said that the design team has talked with city staff, Ward 18 Trinity-Spadina councillor Mike Layton and people in the neighbourhood to ensure that despite the tight fit his building can provide an appropriate transition. The building has been designed to step down towards the residential houses, and windows have been setback 15 feet to address privacy concerns. He expects mid-rise buildings downtown that embrace a stacked townhouse feeling will become a growing trend, and one that his company can capitalize on.
“[Purchasers are] getting that kind of brand new product in a design aesthetic that they like, in a location that they like. It’s condominiumized so there’s not a yard to take care of…. and they’re living close to the action, and close to work without being right in it. That’s what we always look for in a project. You’re close to all your amenities, but you don’t want to be living on top of a bar.”
Along with RAW Design, the Cabin development team includes planning firm Dales Consulting and interior designers Mason Studio.