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On The Map

Old Wonder Bread factory big part of Leslievill­e developmen­t

- Matthew Hague

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

 ?? Photos courtesy of Alte rra and Graywoo d Developmen­ts ?? Wonder Condos are named for the countless loaves of Wonder Bread the old Westons Bread factory cranked out.
Photos courtesy of Alte rra and Graywoo d Developmen­ts Wonder Condos are named for the countless loaves of Wonder Bread the old Westons Bread factory cranked out.
 ??  ?? Many of the heritage Wonder Condos units will feature exposed brick walls, soaring warehouse windows and lofty ceiling heights, some as high as four metres.
Many of the heritage Wonder Condos units will feature exposed brick walls, soaring warehouse windows and lofty ceiling heights, some as high as four metres.

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