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Design Review Panel Weighs in on Proposed 861 St. Clair West




Toronto’s Design Review Panel met for their first session of 2019 last week, easing back into things with a short meeting to review only one project, albeit one that elicited many compliments from Panelists. The project in question is 861 St. Clair West, a 9-storey condo building proposed for the southwest corner of St. Clair and Winona Drive that was submitted for Site Plan Application (SPA) last year. Headed by The Benvenuto Group and designed by StudioAC with Ventin Group as project architects, the new mid-rise offers a unique form within a quickly densifying neighbourhood along St. Clair West.

861 St Clair West, StudioAC, Ventin Group, Benvenuto Group, TorontoRendering looking southwest, image courtesy of Benvenuto Group.

The building is notable for its angled facades and material expression, composed of alternating lines of perforated aluminum panels and precast grey brick. The massing follows the zoning almost exactly, adhering to the angular plane and stepback requirements of the City’s Avenue Study. Rather than being seen as a constraint or hindrance in the design process, the zoning criteria became a driving force in the design of the building.

861 St Clair West, StudioAC, Ventin Group, Benvenuto Group, TorontoSchematic section showing zoning envelope, image courtesy of the Benvenuto Group.

In the words of the architect, “the demand for balconies in the city has caused balconies to become the defining architecture of many buildings…we embraced this, and allowed it to determine the massing and architecture of the building.” This is apparent through the expressed metal balcony railings, which continuously wrap around the building with a consistent material of perforated aluminum. The railings are also angled to mimic the zoning envelope, helping to define the overall form of the building.

861 St Clair West, StudioAC, Ventin Group, Benvenuto Group, TorontoRendering of the south elevation, image courtesy of the Benvenuto Group.

The mid-rise will contain 80 condo units, with a mix of 42% one-bedrooms, 57% two-bedrooms, and 1% three-bedrooms. Three retail units will be located on the ground floor facing onto St. Clair, with one wrapping around the east elevation to have a second face onto Winona. A landscaped patio space is envisioned on the east facade along Winona to service the corner retail unit.

861 St Clair West, StudioAC, Ventin Group, Benvenuto Group, TorontoRendering of the east elevation, image courtesy of the Benvenuto Group.

The Panel had some encouraging comments for the design team, but also offered some suggestions and words of caution. Calling it a “courageous and encouraging departure from what we’re used to seeing in these mid-rise forms”, Panel members remarked that it was a “very interesting project” and a “wonderful start”, and “appreciated the approach and enthusiasm with the project”. They did, however, caution that the design was only partway there.

Panelists commented that the building was halfway between a sculptural object and a standard mid-rise, but it was clear that the design team wished to trend more toward an object with its unique handling of the form. They offered suggestions to improve the design, recommending that more attention be paid to the articulation of the east and west facades. They also encouraged the designers to work with the play between “singularity and multiplicity” to add more variance into the currently monolithic design, referencing Kings Landing – Arthur Erickson’s waterfront condo development – as a precedent.

861 St Clair West, StudioAC, Ventin Group, Benvenuto Group, TorontoRendering of the northeast corner, image courtesy of the Benvenuto Group.

The Panel’s main concern with the project regarded the zoning envelope. They pointed to two areas where it potentially infringes on the requirements: at the rear south elevation, where it is unclear if it is a private driveway or a public laneway to the south (which would change the setback requirements), and at the west elevation, where the lack of a stepback at the fifth floor could potentially render the land to the west undevelopable. The City indicated that the wording of the zoning by-laws left much to interpretation and that they were working with the developer to determine the appropriateness of the proposal.

This zoning discrepancy could be a major speed bump for this project: it is currently submitted for SPA because it seemingly fits within the zoning, but if it is determined that it does not adhere to current zoning regulations, it will either need to be redesigned, or it will need to be submitted for rezoning first before being approved for SPA.

861 St Clair West, StudioAC, Ventin Group, Benvenuto Group, TorontoPhotographs of building model, image courtesy of the Benvenuto Group.

Overall, the Panel was pleased and encouraged with the design presented, and voted unanimously in support of the project. They did, however, caution both the design team and the City that the zoning needed to be ironed out before the project proceeded.

861 St. Clair West joins a slew of proposals in the immediate vicinity that will create a node of mid-rise density along St. Clair. To the east, the 10-storey Nest Condos were recently completed, while to the northeast, Eight Forty on St. Clair will rise 8 storeys. To the northwest, two 12-storey condo mid-rises are proposed on either side of Oakwood Avenue at 898-900 St. Clair West and 908 St. Clair West. If all of these are approved, this stretch of St. Clair could be completely transformed in the next five years.

861 St Clair West, StudioAC, Ventin Group, Benvenuto Group, TorontoImages of mid-rise projects in the immediate vicinity, image courtesy of the Benvenuto Group.

We will keep you posted as this development continues working its way through the planning process, but in the meantime, you can tell us what you think 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

The cost of renovating your bathroom in Toronto in 2021





Home renovations can be a big task, especially bathroom renovations where you have to work with either an awkwardly shaped space, or one with lots of pipework and very little natural light.

Nonetheless, getting a bathroom renovation by Easy Renovation to change your existing bathroom layout, improve the ambience or add more natural skylights can be worth all the trouble. But determining how much a bathroom renovation would cost is important while setting a budget.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things with social distancing rules, working from home, and for some, being made redundant. Therefore, having a complete grasp of the financial implication of a bathroom innovation is very important.

Owning your dream bathroom can be made a reality and the good thing is, regardless of your financial situation, there are always available options. If you also decide to put up your property for sale in the future, a bathroom upgrade would be a great investment—as it would add significant value to the property. Your bathroom renovation project, like every home renovation, can either be very affordable or extravagant, but one thing is certain, you’re bound to have a more refreshed, stylish and modernistic space.  

Looking through detailed sketches of luxurious and expensive bathrooms can be quite tempting, especially when you’re on a budget. However, your bathroom can be equally transformed into something that looks just as modern, stylish and refreshing but without the heavy price tag.

Conducting a partial bathroom renovation means you only have to change a little part of your existing bathroom rather than tearing it down and starting from scratch. If you intend to carry out this type of bathroom renovation in Toronto, depending on the size of your bathroom, you can spend between $1,000 – $5,000. With a partial bathroom renovation, you can save money by tackling smaller problems that exist in your present bathroom—or you can just upgrade a few of its features.

Partial bathroom renovations are quite affordable and would leave your bathroom feeling new and stylish without being time-consuming or a financial burden—which is important considering the economic impact of the pandemic. Repainting the bathroom walls, replacing the tiles on the floor and in the shower area are examples of partial bathroom renovations which is the cheapest to accomplish.

A more expensive and popular bathroom renovation is the standard 3- or 4-piece renovation. This renovation type involves a lot more services that are not covered by a partial renovation budget. To execute a standard bathroom renovation in Toronto you need a budget of about $10,000 – $15,000.

Unlike with a partial renovation, you would have to make a lot more changes to various elements of your bathroom without the hassle of changing the overall design. You can easily restore your current bathroom into a modernistic and classy space that fits your existing style. Making changes to more aspects of your bathroom is quite easy since there is more room in your budget to accommodate it.

A standard 3- or 4-piece renovation includes everything in a partial renovation plus extras such as revamped baseboards, installing a new bathroom mirror, buying new lights, installing a new vanity, changing the toilet, and buying new shower fixtures.

If you’re one of those looking to make a complete overhaul of your existing bathroom, then the option of a complete bathroom remodel is for you.

Unlike a bathroom renovation, remodelling means a complete change of your current bathroom design and layout for one that is newer and completely unrecognizable. The possibilities when remodelling a bathroom are endless especially when you have a large budget of over $15,000. That way, you can get the opportunity to create the perfect bathroom for yourself.

In addition to all that’s available with a standard bathroom renovation, bathroom remodelling allows you to make bathtub to shower conversion, relocation of plumbing, relocation of the toilet, reframing the bathroom and even relocating the shower.

In conclusion, a bathroom renovation can be a very important upgrade to your home and depending on the features that you decide to include, in addition to the size of your bathroom, this would influence the total cost of the project.

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Real Estate

7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary





Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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Real Estate

‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market





The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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