Sunday, September 18, 2011
The Annex: B.hold, a ‘playful’ plan for west end
The bleak 1950s-era building, which takes up a significant portion of the east side of Bathurst just south of Bloor St., does nothing to engage with the bustling corridor just outside its doors.
Instead it offers an imposing wall of red and brown brick; in planning parlance, the school turns its back on the street.
But to Michoel Klugmann, whose company will be levelling the building to make way for B.streets Condos — a nine-storey midrise with 195 units — that faceless facade represented an opportunity to “attract eyeballs to the site.” (The defunct school will serve as the sales centre for B.streets, with sales slated to begin this fall.)
“We wanted people to know there’s an opportunity here and we figured we’ve got this great canvas,” says Klugmann, vice president of Lindvest Properties.
The developer’s creative team at L.A. Inc. tapped blogTO photo editor Tom Ryaboi to snap candid shots of neighbourhood residents going about their daily business. Those images have been used to create a large airbrushed mural that covers 25 metres of the school’s brick wall along Bathurst and wraps around the building’s north side.
The installation — featuring a kissing couple, a busker and a man enjoying coffee and a newspaper, among other representations — is intended to celebrate the diversity of people and culture in the Annex.
Pity it will be torn down to make way for the condo. “The art is transient; it only has a chance to make an impact for a while,” Klugmann acknowledges. “But it allows us to sell the units and allows new people to come and continue the story of the people who live here.
“We’re looking at it as planting a seed, and eventually others are going to do what the guys (in the mural) are doing and do it in real life,” he adds. “So instead of art imitating life, it’s life growing from art.”
B.streets Condos — a nod to Bathurst and Bloor — range from 380-square-foot studios to 1,250-square-foot three-bedroom suites, with prices from the mid-$200,000s to just shy of $1 million.
Klugmann notes there is an “unusually high” variety of suite designs for a building this size, with more than 50 different unit layouts. Most of the suites will have either a balcony or a terrace — or both in the case of the two-storey units at the top of the building.
Six townhouses will be at the base of the condo, facing the rear laneway. “They’re meant to animate the laneway,” Klugmann explains, noting this had been a special request from local Councillor Adam Vaughan. There will also be a passenger drop-off and second entrance at the back of the building.
B.streets will have 125 underground parking spots and about 7,500 square feet of retail space at street level.
Designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects, the B.streets building will feature irregular cubic modules that pop in and out of the facade, helping to break it up as it moves down Bathurst. The rear portion of the building steps down as it transitions toward the existing residential neighbourhood behind the condo.
“Typically you find midrise buildings are formal, ordered and structured,” says architect David Pontarini. “We wanted to be a bit more playful about it, a little more relaxed. So the building has got an irregular cornice line that follows the street at the base and kind of pulls in and out, and it gets even more articulated as you get above that — it kind of jumps up and down.
“There’s a lot of stepping and terracing that breaks the scale of the building down.”
The top portion of the condo has a cream colour, giving it a less heavy feeling, while the bottom four storeys are clad in grey brick. “We’ve got a really strong colour at the base of the building that’s grounding that base into the street and into the urban fabric,” Pontarini says. “Then as you get up it becomes a little lighter.”
The city’s go-to downtown condo design firm, Cecconi Simone, handled the interiors at B.streets. The motif is intended to complement the look of the building itself: a mix of contemporary and industrial-era design — kitchen-cabinet doors made with metal mesh and metallic tile backsplashes laid out in a brick-like pattern. Bathrooms will have small glossy tiles, with porcelain vessel sinks and stainless steel fixtures.
In terms of amenities, B.streets will have an outdoor patio at ground level, as well as a party room, lounge, fitness room, dining room, pet spa and hobby room — “a place where you can assemble your things; a workspace,” Klugmann says.
Location is obviously a big sell here, with a TTC station nearby and an eclectic mix of restaurants/bars, entertainment venues and independent shops along Bloor.
B.streets has been receiving “significant” interest from locals, Klugmann indicates. “They’re either renting and could never find a place to buy or they’re looking for a different way to have a home — lower maintenance.”
The Annex is among the city’s most iconic neighbourhoods but there hasn’t been much in the way of condo development in the area over the years, he says. “Opportunities haven’t arisen. It’s obviously not Yonge and Lake Shore (Boulevard).”
That said, he believes B.streets could help spur future projects. “There are many people who want to call (the Annex) home,” says Klugmann. “It’s time somebody took a look at it.”