Bringing people back to the streets

28 Mar 2011

Roland Rom Colthoff explains how RAW Design's new Motif project reflects a recent shift in the residential sector

As part of the transition of Toronto’s Ossington strip, from a forgotten byway to one of the hottest bar-hopping gastro dining streets in Toronto, a former electrical distribution warehouse is being replaced by Motif Lofts and Towns. The construct will be a boutique mixed-use development, consisting of a handful of contemporary loft apartments, prestige retail space at grade level and a series of live-work townhomes.

Motif represents part of growing alternative to high-rise living – decidedly urban and strengthening the sense of community for new and existing residents. Rather than wholesale replacement of the existing fabric with a high level of development, it builds on the character of the context, adding density while preserving character.

RAW is working on a number of projects proposed in this vicinity, including the acclaimed Cube lofts on College Street (about a 20 minute walk from Motif). These projects represent a maturation of the condominium market in Toronto and a desire for new residents to invest not only in a product, but more importantly in a neighbourhood and its lifestyle. Projects like Cube and Motif are a reflection of the interest of Toronto’s newest citizens in their city.

The Queen West Trinity-Bellwoods area where Motif sits, once the epicentre of boho cool, is now marked with tell-tale gentrification as a miscellany of young adults and new families have started to move in. The new residents appreciate the ability to walk to many of the city’s most happening streets, cafes and bars and not to mention Trinity Bellwoods Park, one of the largest and friendliest open green spaces in downtown Toronto. Motif provides these optimists with a modern living option in keeping with their ethos.

Motif combines two distinct dwelling forms in a deceptively simple site organisation. It is an intimate environment of 25 bright and open dwellings that provide views onto Toronto’s hottest new neighbourhood made possible by a clever combination of a point tower core and an internal private lane.

Ossington is addressed by a modest five storey loft structure featuring a repetitive brick grid framing large windows with sliding doors and ‘juliette balconies’ aligned with the existing buildings on the street for the first three storeys. The upper storeys of the building step back above this to provide broad terraces on two levels for the upper loft units. These lofts are served by a single elevator and extremely compact stair core.

Turning the corner onto Rebecca, a simple and contemporary rhythm of repetitive wood framed bays and recessed front ‘stoops’ replaces the blank warehouse facade on this side street with a friendlier streetscape of five town homes. The towns are large glazed boxes clad in simple Ipe wood framing over brick demising walls. Each town has an individual garage accessed via a rear lane. The towns have large terraces off the main living area which also serve to cover the rear lane. The south side of Rebecca, currently a casual rhythm of townhomes, is reinforced by the addition of these new towns on the north side, framing Rebecca as an intimate mews street.

Motif will also replace a gap that currently exists in the pedestrian fabric of the trendy nightlife street, enhancing the daytime activity of Ossington with new retail uses and street-smart condos.

Contextually, Motif does all the right things, lining up with its neighbours on Ossington to complete the streetscape and stepping back at the right moments to prevent unwanted shadows. It does this while providing open plans suitable for its occupants lifestyle and bright interior spaces not usually available at this scale of development.

Motif is attracting a sophisticated buyer who aims to be surrounded by an environment, architecture and design that reflects their times. Motif lofts offer exposed industrial ceilings and rustic wide planked floors, while the townhomes present more refined finishings, both feature Italian Scavolini kitchens with European appliances, quartz countertops and hardwood floors. Many features of the suites and building are typical of the upgrade features and finishes available in much larger projects such as the high-end kitchens, central heating and cooling plant and separate storage areas.

We are starting to see a vast increase in the number of similarly scaled projects along the Avenues in Toronto. These present a viable alternative to the ‘frat-house’ culture of the new high-rises sprouting in the core, giving more discerning purchasers the option of buying into an established neighbourhood where they can not only savour its flavour but also contribute positively to its evolution.

Roland Rom Colthoff
Partner and co-founder at RAW Design

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