The Thinest of the Thin Houses

Very narrow houses are perfectly livable, if well designed. There are about 25 across the street from me on 12′ lots, which means they are  a bit more than 11′  wide inside. I think CCOC has a bunch a few blocks over, off Rochester. Nonetheless, very thin houses make City regulators expand with worry. A new group of thin houses is under construction at Gladstone and Cambridge. They replace the famous “yellow house” with its Charlie Brown zig-zag brown stripe. I have been anxiously awaiting their construction because they are thin – on 12′ lots. But the end unit, along Gladstone, is even thinner, being … Continue reading The Thinest of the Thin Houses

Real Estate Porn: the Elm edition

Ah, real estate porn. Featuring objects you cannot afford, splendors you can only dream about. And the opportunity to second guess and dump on the people that did spend the money to do what you wouldn’t have done! There have been many previous posts about the innovative infill houses on the west end of Elm Street. On a single 56×100 lot the developer, Sage, has inserted four houses, replacing one that wasn’t much larger than a couple of shipping containers. From the street, it appears to be two single homes; and from the backyards it appears to be two homes. The four homes have different … Continue reading Real Estate Porn: the Elm edition

Faulty Prescription for Infill Problems

(Above: good looking infills that may not be possible under the proposed new rules) The City is concluding its study of infill housing projects in the downtown wards. They examined every infill built over the last few years, photographed them, and analysed what went wrong. The most obvious problems related to new buildings being too massive compared to their neighbours, too hard paved in the fronts (often leaving no soft landscaping at all) and too many  garage doors that blight the street. So, they came up with some solutions. Alas, I left the public reveal of these solutions feeling rather let down and discouraged. … Continue reading Faulty Prescription for Infill Problems

At last, small house infill

In the Carlington neighborhood there has been a controversial infill (are there any other type??). The first proposal had a too-big house that dwarfed the post-war one-and-half storey homes that comprise most of the area. There was an odd -lot subdivision. Unsympathetic design. Most recently, there was a fuss over damage and removal of a large tree while digging utility lines. But, for all this, or perhaps because of all this, the finished result is lookin’ good. And most excitingly for all those upset about over-sized over-priced infills, this project is ideal for single persons, couples, or small families. The site on Crown Cresc. … Continue reading At last, small house infill

Champlain (de-)forest realities

I went on a walking tour Sunday morning in the Champlain Park neighborhood. This west side group of streets runs north of the transitway, from the Mosque at Northwestern to Island Park Drive. The neighborhood began as a cottage area on the floodplain of the River (the railway tracks, now transitway trench, marked the high water mark of the floodplain). Later, small houses were built in the 1940’s followed by some 2-storey homes. My grandparents lived in one on Cowley. The neighborhood had its quirks, including a lack of storm sewers and inconsistent rear yard grading, which led to frequent basement … Continue reading Champlain (de-)forest realities

145 Elm updated

At 145 Elm is a 56×100 lot that used to contain just one very small house. Now Sage Developments is constructing 4 very large “shoebox” style houses  on it.There are two at the front, two at the back, and parking for four vehicles in the centre. A number of previous posts showed earlier steps in the construction. Here is the artist’s impression of two finished units: They are very far advanced now. Two have been drywalled; two are still being wired and plumbed. Here are some shots of the framed-in units: Above: A view from the front windows back into the unit, … Continue reading 145 Elm updated

Very small lot infill

I wrote previously about a very small lot infill proposed for Preston/Norman. The lot would be about 33′ x 33′, and the house pretty much the same size. It would be a three storey apartment building. Here is a small lot infill in Toronto. It appears to be about the size of a 2 car garage, about 20′ x 20′. It’s on a very small lot on the back end of a side yard, abutting a service laneway. Two-tone dark colours allows the eye to slip over it easily. The electrical mast on the right needs to be introduced to dark brown paint; I … Continue reading Very small lot infill

Sticker infill

This infill is from Toronto. At first glance, it is a normal looking mod infill: Gray and wood … pretty normal. Look closer and you can see a lot of basement windows … must be a rentable apartment or at least finished space down there. A bit closer up reveals some other details. The exterior is festooned with lights — each side of the dormers, beside the front windows … There is the curious metal strip over the front door breaking up the horizontal wood line … the curious pattern of wood around the windows, the curious butt joints in the wood … Continue reading Sticker infill

Better infills through consultation

The City has done a review of all the infill housing put up in the last few years in selected central area neighborhoods. Staff went out and photographed every house from the street. I must commend them for actually doing part of the study out in the real world and not from charts and drawings in the back room. It wasn’t that many years ago that the City reprimanded staff for actually going out in the field. It is a practice I would like to see more of (the going out in the city part) by planners. There are been a … Continue reading Better infills through consultation

It’s a Soho World After All …

Soho Champagne & Soho Italia have a sales office at the south end of Preston, on the proposed Soho Italia site. Now the sales office is really an information office, as there isn’t yet anything to sell on either location, nor is there much information. They will take your name if you are interested in the Soho Champagne (first tower of which is at the top of the photo, in dark; its larger sibling is shown transparent, as is the Soho Italia tower) and ask for “community support” for the Italia Tower. I declined to give my support, and the rep … Continue reading It’s a Soho World After All …

Inside the Staircase House (iv)

The view out the window from the second (bedroom level) floor towards the cliff managed to be interesting. The window is in the hallway and will need to be draped or frosted. I was surprised at how much light came in. Wa-a-a-y down at the first floor (studio level) there is a small window that looks right into the cliff face just a few feet away. The jagged rock has tree roots coming out through the cracks. The house has about 2600 sq ft of living space spread over the four floors. The huge windows make the most of the dramatic distant … Continue reading Inside the Staircase House (iv)

Inside the Staircase House (iii)

The kitchen/dining room are on the third floor. Just beyond the fibreglass insulated wall is the garage. The front door to the house is just off-picture to the left. The room in the background is a walk in closet and powder room. The developer is standing where the kitchen cabinets will go. There will be a wall of 15 cupboards, of four different widths, heights, and depths, making an organic sculpture with pizzaz. Cabinets are being crafted just a few blocks away (buy local…) by Prendergast on Young Street. There will also be an island. Turning to face the other way, the … Continue reading Inside the Staircase House (iii)

Inside the Staircase House (ii)

It looks weird from the Lorne Street sidewalk level (third floor of the house) to see huge windows facing the escarpment. It seems, from the outside, that little light would get in. How wrong that is … the huge windows flood the house with light. The two windows on the cliff side might need to be covered in shears or with window film for privacy. The main staircase runs up past the windows through a multi-storey light well: The stair stringer is a single steel box beam, with metal supports for each tread. The treads themselves will be wider wood … Continue reading Inside the Staircase House (ii)

Z6 grows a shell

The Z6 condo under construction at the corner of Balsam and Booth is finally showing some signs of its final look. The picture above shows the brickwork on the Balsam side. It is considerably less-detailed than promised in the advertising picture, but that’s just quibbling. The building is a breath of fresh air on Booth Street and in the centre of the neighborhood which dearly needs a shot in the arm, a visible testimony that someone has faith in the community’s future. The remaining yellow panels will be clad in various metal sidings. The building appears to have an interesting mix … Continue reading Z6 grows a shell

Preston/Norman infill detailed …

Recall that a previous post looked at the potential redevelopment of this lot at the corner of Norman and Preston. In essence, the proposal is to demolish the garage and build a 3 storey apartment unit.  See,   I asked readers what they thought of the infill, and got a number of intelligent replies. So, end the suspense, what does the site owner propose? What does the project look like? These two elevations are from the City development application:   And this one is from the developer:       The landscaping plan shows the ground between the building and the street to … Continue reading Preston/Norman infill detailed …

Interior of the Beaver

The lobby area of the Beaver Barracks building on Metcalfe features a large common room and kitchen to cater to events, parties, and cooking lessons: The sloped wood ceiling is made of reclaimed wood. Several large trees were cut down on the site last year. That wood was augmented by some wood reclaimed from the Ottawa River. They were milled into rough-cut boards to make ceiling panels like above. The main lobby also has these ceiling panels. They look great from a distance, but personally I felt they were a bit too rough and crude, too “packing-crate” for my liking. Here is the interior … Continue reading Interior of the Beaver

More good news

Continuing the story of the Beaver Barracks development, the tallest apartment building is at 464 Metcalfe. It is a familiar sight to motorists from the Queensway or Catherine Street: The exterior of the building is broken up into several components to reduce its apparent mass and height. The round “turret” at the right corner intrigues the eye; there will be an interior shot in a subsequent post.  Notice the glass garage door and commercial storefront appearance of the ground floor. It is the new ambulance station, built right in under the building. An interesting safety feature: the garage is drive-through. Returning ambulances … Continue reading More good news

And now, some good development news

There are plenty of horror stories about proposed and actually constructed buildings. But it is not all bad news. Amongst the dross, there is some gold to be found. It is time to focus on some good developments. The subject of a number of posts over the next week will be the Beaver Barracks story. The project is named after the former military barracks on that site. It is located on the west side of Metcalfe Street at Catherine (the Queensway), ie immediately west of the Police Station and south of the Canadian Museum of Nature. The developer is CCOC, the … Continue reading And now, some good development news

Infill: what might fit?

As seen from Preston Street (off camera slightly to the left) looking along Pamilla Street (pronounced locally as Pa-milla). The brick house is long established; its back yard also abutted Pamilla. A double garage was built, with a ped door between the two garage doors, leading to apartments above.  It looks like it may have been commercial premises at one time, converted to housing in … when?… the forties or fifties? It has … character, and interest, and adds to the variety of the neighborhood. And provides a lot of housing units between the two buildings on the one lot. Behind the house is … Continue reading Infill: what might fit?

Staircase House

above: lot preparation last fall … Recall this infill on Primrose and Lorne, by the staircase, has been featured on earlier posts. By the end of December, the garage floor has been poured on the third floor — flush with Upper Lorne — although the bridge to get to it was not yet in place. The picture above shows the windows installed. Notice that on the fourth floor there is one large room to the right and a smaller room instruding onto the deck. The smaller box, fenestrated on several sides, is the stairwell that runs through all the levels, with generous windows … Continue reading Staircase House

Purely speculation, of course

A sales office trailer showed up this week on Preston at Sydney Street, just a half block north of Carling Avenue. The photo above is taken from beside the CIBC, at the foot of the Little Italy Arch. The trailer belongs to Mastercraft Starwood, the condo builder. Readers may recall that they are building a glass box condo on Parkdale opposite Tunney’s Pasture, and on Lisgar by the former plastics store (theirs are the big adverts that show a lady sitting on a …). They also bought the Aquerello site on Champagne Avenue south, beside the dog shelter. It had been rumoured they bought the … Continue reading Purely speculation, of course

Modern “shoebox” infill

This infill on Eccles is now occupied. The occupants had it designed and built for themselves. You can read about it on their blog   The scale is compatible with other buildings on the street. Personally, I like many of the homes built in this style, with exterior plywood panels and metal siding. Actually, I prefer corrugated metal siding rather than the smooth stuff, but that’s just me. Does anyone know the name of this architectural style? I call it shoebox, because that is what it reminds me of, a stack of shoeboxes. But that doesn’t sound very complimentary, so … Continue reading Modern “shoebox” infill

Infill near St Anthony’s school

Infill homes should somehow blend in with their neighborhood. Unless they stand out as radically different (see for eg, those infills that look like oversize shoe boxes with plywood and bent metal exteriors). I confess to being quite baffled about what works or doesn’t. Like porn, I know it when I see it (err, that didn’t quite come out the way I meant…).  Which means it is subjective. The house above sort of blends in. It’s the right width, and shape, but suffers from a garage door front (the city doesn’t regulate garage door frontages on single family homes). Nonetheless, … Continue reading Infill near St Anthony’s school

Infills in progress

Earlier this fall, the edge of the Nanny Goat Hill between Upper Lorne Place and (upper) and (lower) Primrose was chewed out and footings installed. Some previous posts showed details of the lot, and then the first floor foam block foundation system:, and  at and at and at and at The bottom two floors, (the lower Primrose levels) are foam+concrete walls. The third floor is level with Upper Lorne, and will have the garage level opening off that street. The fourth floor (when viewed from Primrose) aka the second floor (when viewed from Upper Lorne) will be half interior space and … Continue reading Infills in progress

A Modest Proposal for 2011

   Cities are organic creatures. They grow, we hope, as cities that decline are not exactly great places. We want growth, and new things, but want them somewhere else — easily accessible but not too close. I am getting tired of the litany of complaints about intensification. We knew when we adopted the policy that it had certain effects: house prices will rise; infill will occur in both small scale and large scale developments. Those new residents will use transit, and walk sometimes, but mostly will drive cars. Changing population demographics means new housing types are desired to meet new needs. Some … Continue reading A Modest Proposal for 2011