September 03, 2010
The locals may not always appreciate it, but North Toronto is undergoing big changes.
Much to the chagrin of many, these often include highrise towers. The most dramatic examples are the two skyscrapers on Yonge St. south of Eglinton Ave. They unleashed a furor when first proposed, but since then, things have settled down and it’s apparent to all that the addition was one of the best to happen in the neighbourhood in years. The switch from two or three storeys of the original housing stock to 30, 40 even 50 floors was a bit much for some. And yet, this sort of density makes sense; indeed, it is inevitable in a growing city.
Closely connected to the downtown core, Yonge and Eglinton has emerged as one of the most cosmopolitan parts of town. Even on a weekday evening, the streets are full of people and the restaurants crammed.
The old North Toronto of worship and Woolworth’s has long since disappeared. The new North Toronto is an exciting place to be these days, and let’s be honest; those highrises the neighbours fought tooth and nail to stop are another reason why the area has taken off. Yes, there must be limits to growth, but given the suburban densities of much of the city, especially the post-war city, there’s still a lot of room left to expand. The difference now is that expansion will take the form of infill, contextual development that fills holes in the urban fabric.
The Republic, 70 Roehampton Ave and 25 Broadway Ave.: Not only does this complex include two condo towers — 27 and 24 storeys — it also encompasses the new North Toronto Collegiate Institute.
Though it reads in many respects like a single architectural entity, the project comprises both public and private space. That alone makes it innovative and worthy of attention.
Though this sort of integration isn’t new, it’s still rare in Toronto. Of course, the fact the old high school had to be replaced after decades of neglect doesn’t inspire confidence, but this configuration of school and residential indicates an openness to new ideas, which is always welcome.
Architecturally, the buildings stand above their neighbours, many of which date from earlier, less distinguished, era. Though both Republic buildings are slabs, neither feels overpowering or inappropriate. In fact, the whole project is a model of how to fit a lot onto a limited site. And once the dust has settled, NTCI will even get its playing field back.