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Planning Docs Reveal More Details of U of T’s “PIE” Complex

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Planning documents submitted to the City at the end of 2018 reveal that the University of Toronto is moving forward with plans for their new PIE Complex at the St. George Campus. Not responding to a craving for baked goods, the Partnerships in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (PIE) Complex Phase 1 would build a new home for the University of Toronto Entrepreneurship (UTE), the Innovations & Partnerships Office (IPO), and the Vector Institute of Artificial Intelligence (VIAI), while providing additional teaching, student, and collaborative office spaces. First announced in summer 2018, a rezoning submission to City Planning has revealed more details about the building.

PIE Complex, University of Toronto, Weiss/Manfredi, Teeple, TorontoView looking west along College, image courtesy of the University of Toronto.

Located at 112 College Street directly adjacent to the northeast entrance of Queen’s Park subway station, the new tower would rise 13 storeys with two additional mechanical penthouse levels for a total height of 65 metres. Designed by New York-based Weiss/Manfredi Architects alongside local firm Teeple Architects, the building would add 17,588 square metres of new institutional space within a tapered trapezoidal form. The PIE Complex will replace the 1953-built Best Building, which is the western portion of the university’s Banting and Best Complex.

PIE Complex, University of Toronto, Weiss/Manfredi, Teeple, TorontoView looking east along College, image courtesy of the University of Toronto.

The massing and expression of the building create a unique aesthetic that will set it apart from its surroundings among a grouping of already prominent landmark buildings. Shaped as a truncated trapezoidal pyramid, linear recesses in the facade carve the massing into distinct volumes and also provide shared rooftop terraces for occupants to enjoy. The bottom two floors of the building are also recessed, lifting the mass of the building off of the ground level.

PIE Complex, University of Toronto, Weiss/Manfredi, Teeple, TorontoSouth and east elevations, image courtesy of University of Toronto.

The upper portion of the tower will be clad with a glazed curtain wall capped with custom-profiled aluminum cladding, creating its distinct grid of punched-out windows. The sculpted profile of the aluminum also creates a play of light and texture on the facade. The final colour of the aluminum is not yet specified, but early renderings indicate it will be white or light grey. The ground level as well as the recessed portions of the upper tower will be clad with minimal glazing to differentiate them from the remainder of the massing.

PIE Complex, University of Toronto, Weiss/Manfredi, Teeple, TorontoRendering looking east from College, image courtesy of the University of Toronto.

The ground and second levels will contain classrooms and multi-purpose lecture halls, as well as space for a cafe within the ground floor lobby. It appears in the plans that the university is opting for more flexible teaching spaces, with the largest space located on the second level.

PIE Complex, University of Toronto, Weiss/Manfredi, Teeple, TorontoSecond floor plan, image courtesy of the University of Toronto.

PIE Complex, University of Toronto, Weiss/Manfredi, Teeple, TorontoGround floor cafe and lobby, image courtesy of the University of Toronto.

The upper floors are a mix of closed and open-concept office spaces, labs, seminar rooms, and common areas. The two outdoor terraces highlight two unique spaces within the tower: a common lounge area on the seventh floor facing south, and a winter garden on the ninth floor facing north.

PIE Complex, University of Toronto, Weiss/Manfredi, Teeple, TorontoNinth floor plan, image courtesy of the University of Toronto.

PIE Complex, University of Toronto, Weiss/Manfredi, Teeple, TorontoRendering of the ninth floor winter garden, image courtesy of the University of Toronto.

It should be noted that this tower is Phase 1 of the PIE Complex. According to the University of Toronto’s updated Secondary Plan, which is still in development, zoning would potentially allow construction of a second tower as high as 105 metres to the immediate east, located on the current site of the Banting Building. The existing Zion Church at 88 College just to the east would be preserved. It is unlikely the university would pursue Phase 2 until work on Phase 1 is much more advanced.

PIE Complex, University of Toronto, Weiss/Manfredi, Teeple, TorontoProposed zoning envelope; Phase 1 is the lower portion to the west, image courtesy of the University of Toronto.

We will keep you posted as the PIE Complex works its way through the planning process, but in the meantime you will find further details in the database file for the project, linked below. You can get in on the conversation by checking out the associated Forum thread or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.

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Real Estate

CMHC: Toronto and Vancouver Real Estate Delinquencies Rise, While The Rest of Canada Falls

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Canadian real estate markets are seeing mortgage delinquencies fall… just not in Toronto or Vancouver. Equifax data crunched by the CMHC shows the national rate of delinquencies fell in Q1 2020. Breaking down the numbers, this trend is stronger in some real estate markets than others. Montreal for instance, is seeing their delinquency rates drop to multi-year lows. Toronto and Vancouver are on the flip side of the stat, and are actually seeing delinquencies rise.

Mortgage Delinquency Rates

The mortgage delinquency rate is the percent of mortgages overdue. Today’s Equifax numbers are mortgages that are more than 90 days overdue. Pretty straight-forward, but there’s two things to keep in mind – seasonality and level.

Mortgage delinquency rates, like other forms of credit delinquencies, tend to be seasonal. When looking at seasonally sensitive numbers, quarterly changes don’t tell us a lot. Unless there’s a sudden and abrupt change that’s not seasonally observed. Instead, it’s the year-over-year change of the quarter that’s more important.

The next note to keep in mind is there’s no universally high or low level for delinquencies. Some regions like Montreal, have always had higher levels of delinquencies. Cities like Toronto and Vancouver are always lower than the national level. With regional variances like this, it’s more important to focus on the velocity of change. If Vancouver had the same level of delinquencies as Montreal, but with Vancouver supersized mortgages – it would be catastrophic for the economy. It only needs to be up a few points for real estate markets to be in trouble, before it becomes an emergency.

Canadian Mortgage Delinquencies Fall

Canadian mortgage delinquencies were falling across the country in the first-quarter. The rate of mortgage delinquencies fell to 0.29% in Q1 2020, unchanged from the previous quarter. Compared to the same quarter last year, this was 3.3% lower. Since delinquencies are seasonal, the quarter over quarter change is less significant than the annual change. In this case, the delinquency rate was improving on the national level.

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Bank of Canada Pumping Billions Into Mortgage Liquidity To Prop Up Real Estate

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Canada’s central bank is desperately trying to prop up real estate markets with liquidity. Bank of Canada (BoC) has been injecting billions into Canada Mortgage Bonds (CMBs). The central bank began purchasing a few million worth of bonds during last year’s real estate slow down. As the pandemic hit, the BoC began buying hundreds of millions worth of CMBs per week. The flood of liquidity has a limited impact on preserving prices, but creates a massive withdrawal risk.

Canada Mortgage Bonds (CMBs)

Canada mortgage bonds (CMBs) are debt securities guaranteed by the Government of Canada. Basically, lenders originate mortgages, and then group them into a pool. The pool is then sold to the government as a mortgage backed security (MBS). In order to buy MBSs, the government sells CMBs to investors to generate the funds. The cash flow from the MBS is then used to make payments to investors holding CMBs. Long story short, the CMBs are a state secured vehicle for mortgage financing.

Since the government of Canada guarantees all CMBs, they pay very little interest. In a normal market, when demand rises for CMBs, interest paid falls even further. When demand drops, interest rates typically rise to attract more investment. Simple supply and demand, right? Not in a country that’s gone all-in on its housing bubble.

When real estate markets began looking a little tired last year, the BoC stepped in. They started buying CMBs to “improve liquidity,” which is bankster for suppressing rates. At first, they said it was going to be on a non-competitive basis – meaning they would support market rates and prevent increases. Starting on March 20 of this year though, they announced they would start buying on a competitive basis. They now actively play a role in driving mortgage rates down. This drives investors even further away from the asset class, meaning they have to buy even more. In other words, money printer goes brrr.

The BoC Is Injecting Hundreds of Millions Per Week

The BoC has purchased billions in CMBs since the beginning of the year. As of July 22, the BoC held $7.95 billion in CMBs, up $234 million from a week before. That works out to a balance increase of 1,450% from the same week last year. What started as just a few million worth of bonds, has turned into a few million per week.

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‘Hobbit house’ hits Alberta real estate market for the first time

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Thanks to a creative Calgary family who had a vision for their vacation home, J.R.R. Tolkien fans don’t need to journey to Middle-earth to visit the Shire.

They only need to know where to look in the Alberta foothills.

An earthen home built into the hillside near Millarville, Alta., by Calgarians Rodney and Ouida Touche in 1971 is on the market for the first time since its construction.

It was designed by Bill Milne, the architect behind the Calgary Tower and the city’s pathway system.

And if you ask many of the Millarville locals about a striking piece of real estate — the home with rounded walls and windows, hidden by its partially bermed construction — they will likely recognize the property they call the “Hobbit house.”

As a child who spent summers there with her parents and siblings, Karen Lightstone did not understand the nickname.

As an adult who decided with her family to sell the house, it finally clicked.

“I have a copy of The Hobbit, and I pulled it out when we were to put it on the market,” Lightstone said.

“And the whole opening paragraph of Chapter 1 talks about the round door opening to a long, tube-shaped hallway. The best rooms are on the left because that’s where all the windows were. And I was like, ‘Oh my Lord, this is exactly what they built.'”

Home hidden to keep from being ‘eyesore’ in landscape

The house was built by carving away half of a hill, Lightstone said, and pouring concrete between domes made of mesh and rebar.

Because the home is partially bermed, it’s hard to see — a conscious decision, made to keep the home from ruining the sweeping landscape.

“My parents were trying to figure out where a good spot would be. They really didn’t want it visible on the ridge. They didn’t want any of the neighbours to be able to just see this house, because to them, that would be a bit of an eyesore,” Lightstone said.

“I don’t know how they came to decide exactly how it was going to be. But I do know — from doing some trips with my dad and from conversations he had — they were always interested in something unique like that.”

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