Beyond four walls

Condo de­vel­op­ers are start­ing to build more than just sky­high tow­ers; they’re build­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

NOW Magazine - SuiteLife - - Suitelife - By SAB­RINA MAD­DEAUX

Peo­ple are liv­ing closer to­gether than ever but seem far­ther apart. In de­vel­op­ers’ rush to cap­i­tal­ize on the condo boom, aided in part by the city’s lack of ur­ban plan­ning over­sight, the idea of com­mu­nity has been put on the back burner.

The re­sult is scores of would-be neigh­bour­hoods with no sense of ca­ma­raderie, where ev­ery­one rushes in and out of their lit­tle spa­ces as quickly as pos­si­ble, eyes glued to the ground.

Condo cul­ture is here to stay, but there’s a sense that some­thing is miss­ing: the magic of get­ting to know your neigh­bours, the feel­ing of be­ing truly at home in your home. Th­ese days, condo res­i­dents are look­ing for more than just four fancy walls and a roof over their heads.

In re­sponse, a new crop of de­vel­op­ers is de­ter­mined to build Toronto’s neigh­bour­hoods of to­mor­row. Where mar­ket­ing ma­te­ri­als used to trum­pet lux­ury ameni­ties and prime real es­tate, they now in­creas­ingly use phrases like “ur­ban vil­lage” and “com­mu­nity.”

One such ex­am­ple is the Ca­nary Park Con­do­mini­ums’ Ca­nary Dis­trict in the east end. Lo­cated at Front and Cherry, Ca­nary en­vi­sions the de­vel­op­ment as an ac­tual com­mu­nity.

Open­ing in 2015, the first phase con­sists of four build­ings all de­signed by dif­fer­ent ar­chi­tects but phys­i­cally con­nected. Krys­tal Koo, Ca­nary’s vi­va­cious mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor, bub­bles with ex­cite­ment about the project. You get the feel­ing she truly be­lieves in what she’s pro­mot­ing.

“We made them work to­gether by de­sign­ing paths within the build­ings so that you can cut through them and in­ter­act,” says Koo. “You can start at the park, Cork­town Com­mons, and walk all the way through the build­ings to the Dis­tillery. “

Walk­a­bil­ity is key to Ca­nary’s out­door spa­ces. The build­ings sit back from the street to cre­ate a prom­e­nade the width of Spad­ina. There are just two lanes of auto traf­fic – the rest is pedes­trian space.

“We wanted to have a walk­a­ble neigh­bour­hood rather than just rows of mon­strous tow­ers,” says Koo. “You’re go­ing to want to come out­side here.”

Ca­nary’s ap­proach to street- level re­tail is also unique. Rather than sim­ply throw­ing in the typ­i­cal every­day ne­ces­si­ties like nail sa­lons and dry clean­ers, the de­vel­op­ers ap­proached Live Learn

Work Play, a company ded­i­cated to mixed-use neigh­bour­hoods.

“We’re plan­ning a large health and well­ness scene, from food shops to bike shops,” Koo ex­plains. The neigh­bour­hood is also home to a new

YMCA, which will de­velop its pro­gram­ming based on res­i­dents’ feed­back. “It will be the heart of the Ca­nary Dis­trict,” says Koo. “Rather than hav­ing ameni­ties tucked away in build­ings, we wanted to cre­ate space where peo­ple can gather.”

Another huge in­cen­tive for res­i­dents to leave their con­dos? The en­tire neigh­bour­hood will have free wire­less in­ter­net.

Per­haps most im­por­tantly, Ca­nary Dis­trict doesn’t aim to be an is­land unto it­self. Res­i­dents from sur­round­ing ar­eas are en­cour­aged to drop in and take ad­van­tage of the com­mu­nity cen­tre , parks, paths and lo­cal shops.

“It’s not like Lib­erty Vil­lage, where there’s not a lot man­dated in terms of what can be built,” says Koo. “Here, ev­ery­thing’s man­dated. You can’t go over a cer­tain num­ber of sto­ries. There will al­ways be open space.”

Else­where, de­vel­op­ers and condo boards are turn­ing to tech­nol­ogy to bet­ter con­nect their res­i­dents. Over 250 Toronto build­ings are us­ing

Bazinga!, web-based soft­ware that gives condo res­i­dents ac­cess to vi­tal build­ing in­for­ma­tion and

We Wanted to have a Walk­a­ble neigh­bour­hood rather than just roWs of mon­strous toW­ers,

the abil­ity to eas­ily book ameni­ties, meet up for so­cials or even bor­row a cup of sugar.

“Bazinga! was de­signed to help en­rich the way peo­ple live,” says Bazinga! di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing Larissa Dun­don. “We found that peo­ple liv­ing in a com­mu­nity are of­ten like­minded and have shared in­ter­ests. We’ve seen res­i­dents go on group out­ings, look out for one another and even set up tu­tor­ing lessons.”

Other con­dos are in­creas­ing the num­ber of common-area spa­ces so that res­i­dents can get to know one another and host friends.

“Units are get­ting smaller and smaller, and we’ve prob­a­bly hit that point where they can’t get any smaller,” says Ben Ro­gowski of Can­derel Res­i­den­tial, de­vel­op­ers of Aura at Col

lege Park, Yacht Club Toronto and the DNA con­dos.

“The condo life­style is mov­ing to­ward a more Euro­pean feel where peo­ple are spend­ing more time out­side their apart­ments,” he says. Can­derel tries to ded­i­cate more space than other de­vel­op­ers to com­mu­nity spa­ces like din­ing rooms and ter­races.

It all makes you feel that Toronto can grow into a world- class city that un­der­stands the im­por­tance of com­mu­nity. After all, a city is only as strong as its neigh­bour­hoods.

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