National Post (Latest Edition)
On The Map
Old Wonder Bread factory big part of Leslieville development
Exposed brick walls, lofty ceiling heights, soaring warehouse windows — these elements add charm to factory lofts conversions. They can also make them more expensive, as demand for character suites outstrips the city’s century-old warehouse stock.
One in the dwindling ranks is Wonder Condos, under construction in Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood. Five of the eight storeys at 462 Eastern Ave. are being fitted into the old Weston Bread factory, a 1920s facility that, until closing in 2014, cranked out countless loaves of the Wonder Bread the project is named for. The remaining three storeys will be modern, glass- clad units set on top. Even though both apartment types will have access to the same amenities — a gym, a co- working station and a pet- washing bay — suites featuring the original brick- and- beam construction sell for $ 1,300 per square foot, $ 300 per square foot more than the new-build units.
Part of what justifies the price jump here, and in factory conversions in general, is ceiling height: at Wonder, the industrial lofts have four- metre ceilings, compared to a three- metre canopy in the new sections.
Conversions also tend to be more complex to develop. Remaking Wonder has been finicky enough that two developers — Alterra and Graywood — are collaborating.
“Graywood took on the development and planning responsibilities and Alterra took on the construction,” says Neil Pattison, a vice- president at Graywood Developments.
Their wish to preserve historical elements and weave them into the design was a key factor that brought the companies together. “Wonder wasn’t technically designated a heritage property,” says Pattison. “But we knew the city would still require us to consider its heritage.” That wasn’t a problem, as far as Graywood was concerned, he says. “There was never a question of us tearing down and starting over. Many of the homes in the area were built to house people working in the factory. It’s an important landmark in Leslieville.”
Graywood Developments already had a taste of what it’s like to navigate heritage guidelines. It preserved the facade of an old warehouse when it built Five St. Joseph Street, a 48- storey highrise just north of Yonge and Wellesley. But Pattison recognized early that his company could learn from Alterra’s heritage experience. It has turned a former Catholic School building into a luxury mid- rise at Yorkville’s 36 Hazelton, and at 105 George St., at Adelaide, knit together a contemporary tower and historic post office.
Building a new structure around a heritage facade is
one thing, says Rob Cooper, CEO of Alterra. “It’s completely different when you’re incorporating the existing slabs, columns and walls. There are no 90- degree angles in a building constructed over 80 years ago. Nothing is level.”
As Cooper points out, in order to deal with the surprises that can pop up mid- construction during a project like this — hidden columns that don’t appear in the original floor plans, the wonky ductwork poking through walls — it’s important to have an experienced ground crew, as well as builtin leeway for extra time and costs. “This type of work can be painful,” he says.
But it can also be rewarding. Despite the challenges, Alterra and Graywood Developments have found a lot of room to be creative in the 289- unit structure, 91 per cent of which is sold out.
“There are a number of elements from the factory that we have salvaged that are now being used by the interior designers,” says Pattison. “We found large freight-elevator doors. Those are going to be used as sliding doors into the move- in room. We also kept some of the large industrial cooling racks that ferried bread around the factory. Some of those are going to be repurposed as light chandeliers in the lobby.”
“That’s where the fun comes in with a building like this,” says Cooper.
Its history appeals to the older, more established buyers who’ve signed up, who mostly intend to live in their suites. “Having all the heritage distinguishes us from the new-build condominium down the road,” says Cooper. “In five years’ time, when someone is living here and they tell their friends, ‘ I live in Wonder,’ they are going to hear, ‘ Yeah, I know that building.’ The heritage adds value. Ultimately, it’s the most important piece.”
Suites start at $ 903,900. For more information, visit wondercondos.com.
Three additional storeys coming to the old Weston Bread factory, a neighbourhood landmark