Cityplace has its fair share of detractors, but the fact is that it appears ready to become one of the most successful planned neighbourhoods in Toronto.
Development of the old railway lands started on the east side of Spadina and now continues on the west. Clearly, the lessons learned on the former were applied on the latter. Though there's much skepticism about this sort of urban mega-development, Cityplace seems to be getting it right.
As much as anything, this success is based on a solid understanding on the importance of the public realm. Much remains to be finished, but the attention to public amenities such as sidewalks, parks and even architecture has already made a difference.
Certainly, Cityplace will not be another St. James Town in terms of what's going on at street level. At Cityplace, roads are connected and sidewalks lined with planters. There are even a few small squares and public art pieces. The quality of the planning is matched by the quality of the architecture, which is remarkably sophisticated.
The most obvious problem is that of Spadina, which bisects the site. Where it meets Bremner Blvd./Fort York Dr., Spadina is fully nine lanes wide, seven for cars, two for streetcars. The reason, of course, is that Spadina has been turned into an on/off ramp for the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Blvd.
Why the city would allow such a use in an area set aside for residential development remains a mystery. It looks like another example of trying to have it both ways; clearly, the idea was to allow the suburbanization of Toronto to continue while accommodating urban intensification.
At some point, the city will have to decide in which direction it wants to go.
LUNA, 8 TELEGRAM MEWS: With this project, the much-praised "Vancouver model" comes to Toronto. The block-sized complex consists of two towers, 38 and 18 storeys, sitting atop a podium building that includes townhouses and retail. The lower section does all the hard work, defining the context and creating a streetscape.
The materials, glass and brick, seem appropriate for a complex that is contemporary but which also inhabits land that comes out of Toronto's industrial past.
One also can't help but admire the architecture, which, without being precious, manages to be engaging both on street level and from farther afield. Though some of the balconies are handled awkwardly, these buildings bring a nice sculptural quality to the skyline.
The wooden fences and dividers that run along the fronts of the townhouses add a bit of warmth to the place. Of course, everything here is still brand new; planters await planting and trees have yet to take root. A pathway extending along the north side of the site succeeds in incorporating the railway tracks into the whole; it becomes almost scenic.
Though there are no mountains in the distance and Lake Ontario is too far to see, Cityplace has a definite Vancouver feel, most obviously in the tower-on-a-base approach but also in the acceptance of towers. In a situation like this, the issue is to figure out how the building meets grade.
In St. James Town, highrises shoot out of the ground and continue upwards until they stop, abruptly. In Vancouver, the towers don't meet the ground directly; the transition is more sensitively handled by the podium.
One can't help but wonder about the wisdom of lining these streets with residential buildings instead of retail, but there can be no doubt Cityplace is an emerging neighbourhood, not simply a collection of condo towers.
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