It’s not the coolest place to live in Toronto, and it’s not Hogtown’s most self-consciously tony place to put down roots. But for home hunters who value convenience and efficient modern living above all – and who don’t want to be slaves to the car – the district around the intersection of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue should not be overlooked.
The area is central, though not deep downtown: Any place in the city’s core can be reached in a few minutes via the Yonge subway. The apartments I’ve visited in the older towers that dot the neighbourhood are attractive and ample, suitable especially for young working singles and couples.
If the shops and stores concentrated at the crossroads are middle-brow, they are also plentiful. There’s a cinema, a big-box bookshop, a good grocery store, unassuming bars and restaurants, and much else – amenities of the kind you’d expect to find in any regional shopping mall, of course, but here knitted tightly into a walkable swatch of urban fabric focused on a key node in the city’s transportation grid. It’s a frontier where old North Toronto suburbia meets the contemporary metropolis, and it features some of the good things about both conditions.
What isn’t at the angle of Yonge and Eglinton, or at least hasn’t been until now, is a work of residential architecture that expresses the big-city character of the intersection. (Toronto’s official plan rightly calls for imposing structures at important crossroads.) This lack of an exclamation point could be remedied, however, by a new mixed-use highrise complex that a consortium led by Bazis Inc., the Vaughan-based development company, intends to put up on the north-east corner.
Designed by architect Rosario Varacalli, a Bazis partner, E Condominiums (as the project is called) is composed of two conspicuous towers joined underground. In plan, the condo stack set to rise right at Yonge and Eglinton is square, and it’s scheduled to reach a height of 64 storeys. Its companion, planted a little way north and east, is a 38-storey rectangular slab.
For the record – I got these figures from Bazis principal Michael Gold – the suites will range in area from about 460 square feet to more than 1,200 square feet, and in price from somewhere in the $200,000s to $1-million. Like the sizes and prices, the most common layout on offer – one bedroom plus den – is what you’d expect to find in most any condo tower being constructed in Toronto these days.
More unusual, however, are the nine-foot ceilings in every one of E Condominiums’ units.
And speaking of unusual: This is the first condo project I have ever heard about, anywhere, that will feature a boxing ring in the residents’ health club.
Most tall-building designers are under pressure from developers to craft buildings that differ somehow from the standard-issue modernist box. The result of this insistence can be mere novelty. But if constructed according to the renderings I saw at Bazis’ headquarters last week – the proposal is currently winding its way through city hall – E Condominiums could make a good artistic contribution to the look and urban sense of the Yonge-Eglinton crossing.
The base of the larger tower, for example, is appropriately robust and dramatic and public-spirited. Recessed 30 feet from the sidewalk at the corner, the very tall, glassed-in ground floor of the larger tower, its upper two levels and underground component will contain about 60,000 square feet of retail and office space. The bold transparent volume of the ground level is to be capped by muscular horizontal blocks – each of them one storey thick and faced with dark translucent glass – that thrust and pull back, generating overhangs and deep cavities. This street level of the building opens into a shopping concourse under ground, which, in turn, is connected to the Eglinton subway station.
At least in profile, Mr. Varacalli’s towers will look a lot like, well, glass boxes – but boxes with a couple of notable differences from the ordinary. The 31st storey of each high rise, for example, suddenly shifts sideways and juts out toward downtown. The wall of the portion cantilevered outward is a slab of thick transparent glass, which is the side of a swimming pool hanging over the city streets below. I can’t recommend the pool to swimmers with a fear of heights – but this punchy single-storey element, trimmed in red, effectively accents the otherwise black tower facades.
Black, that is, but not simply black. The outermost skin of the buildings – there is an inner surface of floor-to-ceiling clear glass – will be composed of glazed panels that are all black, but surfaced in various ways: some matte, others polished, still others fabric-textured. This play with appearances should produce lively faces that change with the lights and weathers.
E Condominiums is not as avant garde as I would like to see, but it’s probably going to be good for the corner and the city. I look forward to finding out if its proposed height – which is desirable in this spot – survives the city’s planning bureaucracy, which often lops a few storeys off the tall buildings that Toronto developers like to raise.