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Design plans unveiled for Toronto’s Canary District

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A team that included architects and developers has unveiled design plans for the Canary District, an area in the city’s West Don Lands which will transform from a home for athletes participating in the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games into a sustainable, mixed-use neighbourhood.
The Canary District neighbourhood in Toronto’s West Don Lands
The Canary District neighbourhood in Toronto’s West Don Lands

A team that included architects and developers has unveiled design plans for the Canary District, an area in the city’s West Don Lands which will transform from a home for athletes participating in the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games into a sustainable, mixed-use neighbourhood.

To be constructed in two stages, the development will feature a mix of market condominiums, affordable housing, a George Brown College student residence, YMCA, and street-level amenities such as retail stores, cafes and restaurants.

The project will advance implementation of Waterfront Toronto’s precinct plan for the area.

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“Unlike many athletes’ village projects which are purpose-built to house competitors during major athletic events and then converted to other uses following the games, this project is advancing the building of a community that was already planned and under development,” said Meg Davis, Waterfront Toronto ‘s vice-president of development.

Infrastructure Ontario and Waterfront Toronto are working with TO2015 to develop the section of West Don Lands that will be home to the athletes’ village. Dundee Kilmer Developments signed a fixed-price contract in January 2011 to design, build and finance this development.

Dundee Kilmer President Jason Lester said plans call for stage 1 of the Canary District to be completed in January, 2015, in time for the TO2015 organization to prepare the athletes’ village for the games that summer.

This stage includes construction of a new 82,000-square-foot YMCA recreational facility which will function as a training facility during the games, George Brown College’s first-ever student residence, 253 units of affordable rental housing, the Canary District condominiums and 418 units of “block 4” residential units.

Lester said design development work has been completed for all six stage 1 buildings. Another 1,200 housing units will be constructed in stage 2, to be completed by 2018.

The architectural vision for development of the 35-acre district was unveiled at a recent news conference by Waterfront Toronto’s Davis and Toronto-based architects Peter Clewes of architectsAlliance and Bruce Kuwabara of KPMB Architects—representing a high-profile integrated design team.

The event also included an overview of plans for Block 11—the first building slated for construction. Ground was officially broken on the 369-unit condominium building, which will be rebranded as the Canary District Condominiums following the games.

To ensure aesthetic diversity across the Canary District, teams from four architecture firms—architectsAlliance, KPMB, Daoust Lestage Inc., and MacLellan Jaunkalns Miller Architects—were commissioned to design “unique, contemporary buildings” reflective of their trademark architectural styles, Dundee Kilmer Developments said.


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The integrated design team was tasked to work within Waterfront Toronto’s precinct and block plan built over years of consultation between key stakeholders such as the City of Toronto, local community groups, Infrastructure Ontario, and TO2015 “while still injecting their own unique creative flourishes to build a truly livable and sustainable neighbourhood. “

Kuwabara, a partner in KPMB, said the challenge was to transform the prescribed blocks into “highly livable, contemporary modern architecture” while restoring the West Don Lands to the city and contributing to the Waterfront Toronto revitalization vision.

Clewes, a principal in architectsAlliance, added that the Canary District neighbourhood was designed from the outset as a community for the 21st century, one that achieved “a perfect balance” between the city and nature.

“This is a unique site at the mouth of a historic river, where people can live, work and play in urbane, modern buildings, in the midst of an urban landscape of animated streetscapes, public spaces, pathways, courtyards and plazas,” he said.

Some of the key elements incorporated into the district’s design include an extensive pedestrian network to allow for a highly walkable neighbourhood, open and transparent streetscapes, as well as large-scale building windows and balconies to offer a connection between residents living above and the bustle of streets below—a direct nod to the late Toronto urban planning visionary Jane Jacobs’ “eyes on the street’” thesis.

To connect the Canary District with the neighbouring Distillery District, materials such as masonry are being used at street-level, while a contemporary and modern design aesthetic has prevailed to exemplify the area’s status “as Toronto’s most cutting-edge new community.” The community’s overall design maximizes green spaces throughout and meets LEED Gold criteria, while honouring requirements of Toronto’s mandatory green building standard.

Dundee Kilmer Developments is a partnership between Dundee Realty Corp. and Kilmer Van Nostrand to develop the athletes’ village project.

by Patricia Williams

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