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[PHOTO] Photos from a Canada Day walk across Toronto

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I went on an extended hike east and south across Toronto

Of course, I wore my red-and-white plaid shirt. How much more Canadian could I get?

My red-and-white plaid shirt, perfect for Canada Day

I last shared a picture of this statue of King Edward VII, built for a park in Delhi but later relocated to Queen’s Park, in May 2009.

Equestrian statue of King Edward VII, Queen's Park

I love these art deco office buildings east of Queen’s Park.

Art deco office buildings east of Queen's Park

I like what a simple Instagram trick did for this shot on Bay Street, looking south at the towers.

Towers of Bay Street #bay #baystreet #toronto

This alley lies just west of Yonge Street on Wellesley.

An alley of Toronto, off Wellesley #toronto #alleys

The painting on the side of the Armen Art Gallery is worn.

Authentic Canadian Native Art #toronto #alleys

The display of some of the books on sale at the Glad Day Bookshop was fresh.

Book for sale at Glad Day #gladday #books #toronto #queer

The Paul Kane House, set in its own parkette and named after the famous 19th century painter of First Nations, is almost entirely surrounded by towers.

Paul Kane House among the towers #toronto

This mural at Church and Wellesley is part of a #pinbuttonpride street history project put on by the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives.

Pin button pride in the Village #toronto #worldpride #churchandwellesley #pinbuttonpride

Crews & Tango was still colourfully decked out for Pride.

Crews and Tango, Pride edition #toronto #churchandwellesley #worldpride

This rainbow of tulips planted outside a convenience store was adorable.

Tulips of Pride #torontopride #worldpride #churchandwellesley #flowers #rainbow #tulips

Outside Mies van der Rohe’s Toronto-Dominion Centre, the Pride flag flew alongside the flags of Canada and Ontario.

Pride in the Financial District #toronto #worldpride #financialdistrict #flags #miesvanderrohe

The twin towers of the Royal Bank of Canada headquarters, with their gold-impregnated windows, rise up.

Royal Bank of Canada towers #toronto #financialdistrict #rbc

[PHOTO] Hudson Condos, 438 King Street West

Hudson Condos, 438 King Street West

The 21-story Hudson Condos tower at 438 King Street West, on the northeast corner of Spadina and King, is a development that quite appeals to me visually with its dynamic lines.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 17, 2014 at 11:07 am

[PHOTO] Tableau Condominiums under construction, 117 Peter Street

The Tableau Condominiums tower announce in 2008 in the Entertainment District at 117 Peter Street is quite noticeable even in its current unfinished state. The meshwork rises high even without considering the cranes.

Tableau Condos under construction, 117 Peter Street (1)

Tableau Condos under construction, 117 Peter Street (2)

Tableau Condos under construction, 117 Peter Street (3)

Tableau Condos under construction, 117 Peter Street (4)

Tableau Condos under construction, 117 Peter Street (5)

Written by Randy McDonald

June 15, 2014 at 8:11 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Stuck in Condoland”

Toronto Life‘s Philip Preville has a feature article noting that, between the condo boom downtown and the high price of real estate across Toronto, many people are having to live with homes that are smaller than they expected. Often much smaller.

Shannon Bury was 27, with a marketing job in the 905 and her own condo in Burlington, when the big city came to fetch her. The company she worked for was acquired by a larger firm, Pareto Marketing, which moved her job to Toronto. She moved along with it and traded up, selling her place in Burlington and buying a 607-square-foot, one-bedroom-plus-den unit in Charlie, a 36-storey tower proposed for Charlotte Street near King and Spadina. She got the unit pre-construction for less than $300,000, which was a steal, because really she’d purchased much more than space: she bought the dream Toronto and its developers have been selling throughout this decade-long boom. She was single in the city, blonde and svelte, with a well-paying career-track job and, soon, a condo on the edge of clubland. Toronto would be at her feet and at her service. It was the spring of 2008.

Then she met a guy. A great guy, Paul LeBrun, a Winnipeg native who’d landed in Toronto with a Bay Street securities job. They met at a mutual friend’s condo in February 2010, at a party to watch the Vancouver Olympics men’s gold medal hockey game. (The running joke among their friends is that Paul still doesn’t know who won; he was too busy wooing Shannon.) Before long they were living together at Yonge and St. Clair, with an eye to moving into her condo later that year, once it was finished. But the construction fell behind schedule, and their life together began to outpace the cranes. They got married in the ­summer of 2012, and when they moved into Charlie that November, they were already planning their family. “We figured it would take eight months or so to get pregnant,” she says. “Then there’d be nine months of pregnancy, so we’d have time to enjoy condo life before the baby arrived.” She conceived by Christmas.

Jacob, now 10 months old, is busy teaching his parents the true meaning of square footage. To make room for all the baby equipment, Shannon and Paul relegated to storage an armchair, an end table, a coffee table and, most recently, a loveseat. A lone couch remains from their brief childless-couple condo life. “Our time is spent in play dates, and play dates are spent with everyone sitting on the floor anyway,” Shannon says. Jacob’s playtime inevitably spills out into the hallway. The neighbours don’t complain, and neither does Shannon when, for instance, her 20-something party-boy neighbour has friends over for pre-drinks on the balcony before heading out clubbing. “I can’t hold it against him,” she says. “I’d be doing the same thing in his position. I’m jealous, really.”

Everything that happened to Shannon and Paul in the last few years is also happening to the city itself, shaped by forces greater than any of them. Toronto has been swept up in a maelstrom of human and economic migration that has swelled its population in the core. Shannon and Paul bought into the New Toronto brand: the vertical city of luxury living, cultural experience, Momofuku food and trendy boutiques. That’s how the lifestyle is marketed by politicians and developers alike, and it’s incredibly appealing to young adults in all their forms: staid professionals, graduating millennials, hipsters.

Now their lives are changing, in a wave that could turn out to be as big as the one that herded them downtown: they are becoming parents. Downtown Toronto is being reshaped by the latest baby boom. The total number of ­preschool-age kids is rising fastest where condo towers are going up, and nowhere is the demographic shift happening more intensely than in the crane-addled area south of Queen from University to Dufferin; there, the number of kids under age five has increased since 2006 by a whopping 65 per cent. Toronto is bearing witness to the birth of a new generational phenomenon: the Condo Kid.

And the city is welcoming its Condo Kids, in essence, by putting their cribs in the alcove nursery that condo marketers call a “den.” The real estate tracking firm Urbanation says that, as of last March, there are more than 25,000 condo units under construction in the former City of Toronto, and few of them will have more than two bedrooms. Only 21 of the 50 projects in pre-construction will have three-bedroom units. Even the units with two bedrooms are getting smaller: the average size of a condo in the GTA has dropped precipitously since 2009, from well over 900 square feet to 797 square feet today. Singles in the city are coupling up, having kids and looking for bigger homes, yet developers continue to flood the landscape with ever-tinier units—a situation abetted by a lack of planning and enabled by politicians. A quiet revolution is underway in how Toronto raises kids, one that was perfectly predictable but for which the city has failed to prepare. A whole generation of families are finding themselves stuck in their starter homes.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 12, 2014 at 7:33 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • At the Cranky Sociologists, SocProf notes the militarization of policing in the United States.
  • The Dragon’s Tales updates us on fighting in the east of Ukraine.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog’s Jonathan Wynn notes the quiet potential for controversy over representations of non-traditional gender and sexual orientation.
  • Far Outliers discovers the first American official graves in Japan (dating from the mid-19th century, in Hakodate) and the first Japanese official graves in the United States (dating from the late 19th century, in Hawaii).
  • At Lawyers, Guns and Money, Robert Farley links to his analysis of what a war between China and the United States would look like. It would be costly for both, though perhaps more for the Americans.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen observes the extreme dependence of the economy of Afghanistan on war-related subsidies.
  • Torontoist’s Desmond Cole makes the case that affordable housing is a major but unexplored issue in this election.
  • Towleroad notes the racism expressed by the “Mr. Gay May” selected by Têtu magazine in France.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the latest developments in the libel case brought by global warming scientist Michael Mann against Mark Steyn.

[LINK] “An Afterlife for Europe’s Disused Places of Worship”

Sharing Christine Bohlen’s article in The New York Times about disused places of worship in Europe on Facebook, I said that in Toronto the tendency seems to be to turn these places into condos. This Little Italy church, for instance, has long since made the transition.

A church gone condo in Little Italy

That’s not something that can be done with every church, in Toronto, in Europe, and elsewhere. What can be done with often beautiful buildings which can no longer serve their original purpose? Some people in Europe are trying to answer this question in an organized fashion.

When a church closes its doors, it is a sad day for its parishioners. When it is slated for demolition, it is a sad day for the larger community, as Lilian Grootswagers realized in 2005 when she and her neighbors in the small Dutch village of Kaatsheuvel learned that St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church was due to be torn down and replaced by a four-story apartment block.

Leaping into action, Ms. Grootswagers started a petition drive, collecting 3,250 signatures, almost one-quarter of the village’s population, and sought help on a national level. As it turned out, St. Jozefkerk, built in 1933 as the centerpiece of an unusual architectural ensemble, was eligible to be on a register of historic buildings.

Today, nine years after it held its last Mass, the church is still standing, empty but awaiting its next incarnation. Its rescue was a victory for a widening effort across Europe to preserve religious buildings in the face of rapid secularization and dwindling public resources.

Begun as a grass-roots movement in 2009, the Future for Religious Heritage took shape in 2011 as a network of groups from more than 30 countries, dedicated to finding ways to keep churches, synagogues and other religious buildings open, if not for services, then for other uses.

But making the transition from places of worship to some other purpose is a tricky one, which necessarily involves not only community support, but also managerial skills. “You can only manage a building if it has income,” said Leena Seim, executive officer of the Future for Religious Heritage, which has an office in Brussels.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 3, 2014 at 8:44 pm

[URBAN NOTE] On the condo country Fort York library

Yesterday on my Facebook feed, Toronto Life‘s Informer noted the imminent library of the latest branch of the Toronto Public Library, the new Fort York Branch opening opposite Fort York on the bottom of Bathurst Street, in condo country. The new branch will actually anchor the Library District Condos, a complex built by developers who offered to pay the costs of the branch’s construction. The whole thing is described by the National Post‘s Alex Jivov.

Opening this Thursday at 190 Fort York Boulevard, Toronto’s 99th Public Library Branch will contain unique features such as 3D printers, digital innovation hubs, and DJing equipment, all available for public consumption.

The 16,000 square foot glass structure will contain 35,000 books at opening. A computer centre will allow visitors to access the entirety of the Toronto Public Library’s electronic catalogue, totaling over ten million e-books, movies, magazines, and music albums.

Five full time staffers will provide assistance to those wishing to navigate and use the new facilities.

Designed by KPMB Architects, the Fort York Branch has partnered with developer Context Development to create a community built around the new library. “Everyone can agree libraries are wonderful things to have,” said Toronto Public Library Board Chairman Michael Foderick. “They have been and will continue to be a cornerstone for every successful community in this city. We’re just laying a new cornerstone right here in Fort York.”

The partnership has allowed the library’s $9.1 million cost to be completely funded without any cost to the taxpayer, according to Foderick.

The new location will have, among other things, DJ-ing equipment and a 3-D printer.

There’s certainly need for this location, in a neighbourhood that has literally sprung up out of nothing over the past decade. When I walked down there a decade ago soon after moving to Toronto, there was nothing but empty lots. By the same measure, I’m not sure that allowing the Library District Condos’ builders to build a taller building in exchange for doing something nice for the city is the best policy. What are the parameters for these offers? Where will it stop?

(Still, beautiful library.)

Written by Randy McDonald

May 29, 2014 at 8:13 pm

[PHOTO] Looking south at Spadina and King

Looking south at Spadina and King

This is a new neighbourhood. Most, if not all, of the towers to the right of this picture, west of the CN Tower, didn’t exist just a few years ago.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 28, 2014 at 1:01 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Mirvish’s new condo plan will keep Princess of Wales intact”

People upset by 2012 news that a stretch of King Street hosting the Princess of Wales Theatre would be torn down for a new Frank Gehry-designed condo complex can rest easy. The theatre will live! From Newstalk 1010:

It looks as though David Mirvish will get the condo towers he wanted on King Street.

He’s also going to be able to keep the Princess of Wales Theatre intact.

According to several sources, Mirvish, architect Frank Gehry and Toronto city staff have been working on a compromise to get giant condos built on King St., while keeping heritage buildings in the area.

The new plan would see two condo buildings, instead of three, and much taller than original specs. The two buildings would soar 92, and 82 storeys respectively. But while it’s taller, Mirvish and Gehry say it’s actually smaller in scale.

The Globe and Mail.

Toronto’s head planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, said it is wrong to call the new plan a compromise. “It’s a new project that’s better than the project that existed before,” she said.

Ms. Keesmaat said planning staff are “absolutely thrilled” with the result. “Frank Gehry has been able to use his creativity to come up with a proposal that, quite frankly, exceeded my expectations about how you could have a tremendous amount of development on this site and at the same time be very true to its historical context.”

While the block would get a taller tower, Ms. Keesmaat said its slender profile would reduce shadows.

Mr. Gehry conceived the original design as a candelabra with three candlesticks. The two-tower design will be “sculpted almost like waterfalls flowing into a pool on one side, and on another aspect of it having a clay appearance,” Mr. Mirvish said.

“Frank is building me a jewel box,” Mr. Mirvish said. That “box” will be placed on top of the warehouse on the west end of the block, and will have 9,200 square feet of space to house art exhibitions. That’s a small fraction of the space in the original design to house Mr. Mirvish’s personal art collection. OCAD University will have a facility on the site as planned.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 27, 2014 at 10:02 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • blogTO notes the construction of another tall condo on Wellesley between Yonge and Church.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper observing that the Titius-Bode law apparently doesn’t work for exoplanets.
  • The Dragon’s Tales observes that Western sanctions against the Russian space industry could harm its long-term prospects vis-a-vis China and the United States.
  • Eastern Approaches covers Ukrainian industrialist Rinat Akhmetov’s turn towards supporting a united Ukraine.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World blog notes that Russia is pivoting towards Asia, especially China, to compensate for its broken Western ties.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money tries to explain the concept of privilege.
  • Marginal Revolution quotes Neal Stephenson’s argument that dystopian science fiction is popular because it’s cheaper to film.
  • Torontoist examines ongoing efforts to revitalize the downtown neighbourhood of Alexandra Park.
  • Towleroad reports on the jailing of six men in Morocco for their homosexuality.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy examines ethical issues with being a corporation in the United States.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that a prominent North Ossetian has called for the annexation of ex-Georgian South Ossetia into the Russian republic.
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