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West Toronto lofts with an ecological edge

Unique green design includes courtyard garden with pond system to deal with storm-water runoff

Zinc-clad Roncesvalles Lofts will include sheltered areas; providing microclimates for outdoor living

Excerpt from an article by Ellen Moorhouse – Special to the Toronto Star

Mario and Frank Ribeiro, who own a site near Roncesvalles Ave. and operate their business, Triumph Aluminum and Sheet Metal Inc. there, plan a new 37-unit new soft loft project that could prove to be one of the most innovative condos around.

Called Roncesvalles Lofts and priced at about $370 a square foot, it will have some unusual features. The brains behind this unabashedly modern design, to be clad in zinc and accented with light green stucco, is David Peterson, a 34-year-old intern architect.

Peterson had no shortage of problems for this particular loft project, not the least of which is the site on Ritchie Ave., close to where Howard Park and Roncesvalles Aves. intersect.

“It turns its back on its neighbours, which is what this building does with the exception of Ritchie Ave. You know it looks out toward Ritchie, but on the back sides, it’s either utilitarian spaces (such as parking and access) or places where you can get diffused light without the view.”

The courtyard side is oriented to line up with the backyards of the houses along Ritchie Ave., offering an extension of that green space. Residents in the area will no longer be looking at an industrial block wall from their yards, Peterson says, while loft owners will gain light from the southwest exposure and views of neighbouring gardens.

In the High Park area, storm water and sewage often flow through the same pipes. By having the courtyard retain storm water, Peterson says, “what the engineer tells me is that the amount of water we send to the sewer will be less than the current industrial property, despite the fact we’re building 37 units.”

“I didn’t want windows looking out on the lane anyway. One thing we did with the windows on the second storey is turn the window, so it faces into a window well… The material inside reflects the light, so you get diffused light into your bedroom and not the view.”

Those spaces include the courtyard, the window wells, balconies, the external access corridors and above-ground parking for bicycles and cars under a cantilevered part of the building (there’s also underground parking).

Peterson wanted the building to connect with its setting, but he wanted the residents’ views to focus away from the less-attractive industrial parts of the neighbourhood. He has done that by controlling how people move through the building.Residents will get to ground floor units by walking through the garden courtyard. Upper-floor units are approached by elevator and along the corridors, open to the sky, with doors to the lofts on one side.

“It’s tough,” says Ribeiro, who has supplied metal cladding for institutional and commercial projects, as well as some condominiums, such as the Phoebe on Queen St. W., and the French Quarter downtown, east of Yonge St.

Although Peterson says the loft project has been well-received by the neighbourhood, not everyone is enthralled with the prospect of more development and the increasing residential density that new lofts will bring to the area.

Lily Korkka, who lives in one of the Ritchie Ave. homes, is already smarting from the impact of the larger High Park Lofts project across the street, and is skeptical about just about anything developers promise.

She’s planning to launch an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board against Roncesvalles Lofts in a bid to stem the rush of redevelopment. “I don’t think that model fits into the neighbourhood,” she says.

“This is a kind of building type that’s not seen in the city,” he explains. “It’s not a townhome, it’s not a highrise, which isn’t appropriate to this area, and in some ways, it’s not the type of mid-rise we’re used to, either.

Avi Friedman, an architecture professor at McGill University and tireless advocate for innovative and flexible housing, welcomes brownfield developments such as this live-work loft project.

Read the rest of the article here

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