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Toronto’s Yonge Street, also known as Highway 11, connects the shore of Lake Ontario to an area west of Thunderbay and almost to the Manitoba border, 1,178 miles away. The street is one of the longest in the world and it is also where many businesses took off in downtown Toronto more than 100 years ago. Preserving Yonge Street’s heritage is important to the city, which does not allow developers to demolish historic façades to raise new buildings, making façade preservation a requirement for new developments.

Graywood Developments Ltd.’s new project, Five Condos, is located in a historic area of Yonge Street between Wellesley and St. Joseph streets. The new 48-storey building, which broke ground in May 2011, will have a unique modern design by Hariri Pontarini Architects. “The outside of the building looks like a wave, with the rolling effect of water going up the entire length of the building,” explains Larry Gayne, project manager for Graywood. The tower envelope will be curtain wall, with the aluminum and glass windows coming from China.

Preserving the Heritage

The location of the project means that the sleek, modern design of Five Condos will have to blend in with some of the older, neighbouring architecture. The new building incorporates the five-storey historic façade on St. Joseph Street with the historic three-storey warehouse on Yonge Street, both of which date back to the early 1900s.

Once the old building was demolished on St. Joseph, Graywood erected a structure to sustain the façade until it can be connected and supported by the new building. “We actually hung it [the façade] in the air,” Gayne explains. “It has a large and elaborate steel structure in front of it that is holding it in place in a cantilever fashion, with a huge concrete substructure so it can’t move in either direction. The steel structure connects into the façade at each floor and then horizontally at multiple points.”

The company expects to transfer the façade load into the foundation by April, according to Chris Hawkins, Vice President of Construction at Graywood. “The foundation will come underneath to pick up the load. As we build up, we’ll tie up the lateral load, so by the end of the summer the existing façade will be completely supported and we’ll be able to remove all the supports.”

The three-level Yonge Street building – built originally as a warehouse for Rawlinson Cartage, a shipping and storage company – will be completely remodelled and incorporated into the design of the new condominium tower. “The building on Yonge Street was approximately 100 feet deep from the street,” Hawkins explains.

“We cut about 40 feet off and retained the front 60 feet,” Hawkins adds. “We’ll completely replace the guts of the old building and clean and restore the old building’s masonry so it looks like it did 100 years ago.” The interior of the old warehouse will have the same amenities and modern aesthetics as the rest of the new development.

The ground floor of the new development will be dedicated to commercial areas, with restaurants, stores and other businesses at street level. The original 60 feet of the building will flow into the commercial area on the first floor. “One of the spaces will be occupied by the Royal Bank of Canada,” Hawkins says. “Its physical space will start in the historic building and go back into the new structure seamlessly.”

Unique Luxury

The 48-storey building has been designed with a variety of unit configurations. Loft-like units will be on the second, third and fourth floors, boasting ceilings nine to 10 feet high. Tower units will be on floors six to 41 and penthouse suites with 10-foot ceilings on floors 42 to 48. The units will range in size from 400 to 1,400 square feet, from studios to two-bedroom-plus-den units with modern design features such as granite countertops in the kitchens and hardwood floors.

The building will have six levels of underground parking and bicycle storage, amenities and outdoor areas located on the second and fifth floors. The fifth floor also will have a fitness center with changing rooms, a piano bar, cocktail lounge and party room. This floor will have roof gardens designed by landscape architect Janet Rosenberg and Associates. The second floor will host the second large patio area, with a barbecue area, water features and trees. Hawkins estimates the investment in the outdoor landscapes to be about $1 million dollars.

Hawkins and Gayne predict Five Condos will be an asset to the city of Toronto. “It’s going to be a very attractive and interesting building in a fantastic area,” Hawkins says.

“You will have something brand-new and cutting-edge in terms of the lines and you will also have the historic component,” Gayne adds.

Five Condos is on schedule to be completed by April 2015, and has already sold 95 percent of the condominiums, according to Gayne.

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