For sale a four-bedroom, 9,000 square-foot penthouse apartment in the heart of TORONTO’s Yorkville, with four separate terraces, 24-hour concierge service and it’s own elevator. Ready to move in. Its owners have begun divorce procedures. The penthouse is on top of the 55-storey Four Seasons Private Residences Tower. But don’t get your hopes up. It’s on the market for $36-million.
The great sprawling mass that is America’s second largest city is developing a downtown, and this year there are several cranes on the skyline and more construction than I can ever remember. Once a ‘no man’s land’, Downtown LA has become one of my favourite places to visit in California. It’s fascinating to watch a fine city evolve.
<The old Central Market – best ice cream, best coffee, a must for foodies>
<Super graphics are everywhere – this one features actor Anthony Quinn, and has just been given a fresh coat of paint>
<The LA Phil performs at Grand Avenue’s Walt Disney Concert Hall; the Broad Museum is next door and the Museum of Contemporary Art is across the street.>
<The Bradbury Building – a Los Angeles architectural treasure> Downtown Los Angeles has more 1920’s, 30’s. and 40’s buildings than any other North American city. Many have been lying dormant for half a century or more. They’re coming back to life, and some are being earthquake-proofed. (A newly discovered fault lies beneath the city centre.)
<The Hotel Cecil is still there. This was home base during my first visit to LA in the 1960’s. It has quite a shady past.>
<One of those wonderful La La Land sidewalks on Broadway. This street is home to several old movie palaces, which are either locked up or repurposed.>
<The juxta-positioning of buildings all over Los Angeles reminds me of TORONTO> On Spring Street musicians, artists and gallerists are hanging on by their fingernails as developers move in. LA’s Gallery District is rather short on galleries these days. Also, I was told, Skid Row is expanding as more of the homeless find themselves on the streets. But overall, things seem to be looking up.
<Los Angeles Central Library>
<One of several LRT lines spanning out from Downtown – this one goes to Santa Monica and the beaches. More are on the way.>
<ABOVE TWO PHOTOS by Ross Winter, another Downtown Los Angeles fan>
<On the freeway, this little sign popped up in a forest of warehouses>
<Of course it wouldn’t be Los Angeles without a freeway. Downtown is encircled by several of them.>
There’s a genuine community feel about Roncesvalles Avenue and its adjacent streets. Now flourishing after a two year facelift, the west end’s “Main Street” is packed with one-of-a-kind shops, pubs, restaurants and TORONTO’s oldest cinema.
<The community-run REVUE Cinema opened in 1912>
<Coffee and all that Jazz, Howard Street>
Centre of the Polish community, birthplace of the first Canadian Sphynx Cat, High Park next door, The Roncy is reachable by three streetcar lines and the subway.
A Roncesvalles Avenue first – the friendly, hairless Sphynx Cat, suitable for cat lovers with hair allergies. Read the Sphynx Cat story at http://torontoist.com/2013/03/toronto-invents-the-sphynx-cat/
The King, Dundas and College streetcars all pass through the Roncesvalles neighbourhood. Subway stop – DUNDAS WEST, and walk 3 blocks south.
Those words are nearly sacrilegious in this country. Until lately MONTREAL has been the go-to citiy for foodies, but “I feel we have lost the title in Montreal” writes David McMillan of Joe Beef in a Foodism Magazine guest column. “MONTREAL was the pioneer and set the template for Canada. TORONTO has picked up the ball and run with it, because it’s a bigger place,” says John Bil, the seafood specialist behind Honest Weight in the JUNCTION. “I spend 90% of my time eating Indian, Sri Lankan, Chinese and Korean food. It’s not just new age (downtown) chef-type restaurants. We can branch out to Scarborough, Mississauga and Brampton, where there are pretty amazing places to eat.”
Worth reading – a column in Montreal’s La Presse about TORONTO’s emergence as the foodie capital by Marie-Claude Lortie. http://startouch.thestar.com/screens/dbcc054b-3240-4265-9803-77c477ef6c3f%7C_0.html
British architectural firm WilkinsonEyre has designed a new pedestrian bridge, connecting the TORONTO Eaton Centre with Saks Fifth Avenue and the Hudson’s Bay deparment store. It should be in place by this coming fall. WilkinsonEyre has done projects around the world. The IKEA Museum in Sweden and Guangzhou’s Financial Centre are two of them. <RENDERINGS – CFEaton Centre>
TORONTO‘s Financial District has outgrown Bay Street. It’s spreading towards the waterfront, south of Union Station. South Core is expecting an influx of 20,000 new office employees and close to 10,000 new residents in the immediate future. Forecasters predict the area’s population will grow 80% to 130,000 by 2031.
This new neighbourhood is giving Bay Street North a run for its money when it comes to attracting large corporate tenants. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce recently announced that it’s moving 15,000 employees from King and Bay to new headquarters in South Core.
CIBC will join head offices for Telus, the Health Care of Ontario Pension Plan, CI Financial Corporation, and Sun Life Financial. The Royal Bank of Canada (the country’s biggest) is moving 4,000 employees to the neighbourhood; Cisco Systems Inc. has chosen South Core for its new Canadian headquarters and one of four global innovation hubs.
Erected in 1917 between two waterfront warehouses, the Harbour Commission Building has survived radical changes on the shores of Lake Ontario. Infill has left the 6-storey structure on dry land, surrounded fore and aft by numerous skyscrapers, the Harbourfront Centre, three theatres, Queens Quay, the Power Plant contemporary art gallery, shops, a streetcar line and a cycling/walking trail.
<PHOTO ABOVE – Harbour Commission Building, lower right, on its pier; City of Toronto Archives>
It takes an imaginative soul to see potential in an axle-grease-laden body shop in SAN FRANCISCO’s grubby Tenderloin at 466 Eddy Street <PHOTO ABOVE>, and turn it into a 3,200-square-foot Japanese spa & restaurant. The husband-and-wife owners told SF Weekly that in the beginning “the building was an open canvas. It was four brick walls and a hole in the ground, which meant we could make our own decisions in designing the interior space.”
The rebuild took about three years – and involved earthquake proofing, complying with the city’s fire code, police department permits, setting up a restaurant and obtaining a massage license.
Could something like this happen in TORONTO’s overheated real estate market? We certainly have a good supply of empty auto-body shops. The one above is on Gerrard Street East at Sherbourne. Two other San Francisco auto-body shop conversions. The Standard Deviant Brewery is on 14th Street, a neighbourhood devoted to old auto-body shops <PHOTO BELOW – jubilant Standard Deviant Brewery owners after securing their lease>.
And the Volvo Centrum Shop, at 16th and Sanchez, which sold for $4.6-million in 2016 is about to become a frontispiece for a luxury apartment building with glass walls. <PHOTO BELOW>
TORONTO was once known as a city of multiple churches and relentless conservatism. But like all cities it was oftentimes naughty, and you can experience some of that in the Police Museum and Discovery Centre, the Old Don Jail and, until April 30 ‘Vice and Virtue‘, a stellar exhibit at the Toronto Reference Library. All are free.You’ll find the Toronto Police Museum and Discovery Centre on the ground floor of Police Headquarters, 40 College Street, open Monday to Friday from 8:30am – 4pm. Elmer the Safety Elephant, the Boyd Gang, an old fashioned police station, traffic signals, handcuffs, finger printing, a motorcycle and police car, photographs, models – they’re all here. Kids love it, and the exhibits are adult-friendly as well.
Self-guiding yourself through the Old Don Jail is something completely different. THE DON is a heritage building with a very shady past, our city’s Alcatraz, site of 70 executions and numerous escape attempts, home-from-home in the 1950’s for the notorious Boyd Gang, minuscule cells, segregation cells, punishment cells, the Polka Dot Gang’s temporary residence – and now it’s been given one of Canada’s finest restorations and is open to the public for self-guided walk about tours.
It’s a kinder, gentler place now, and you’re welcome to visit from Monday to Friday, excluding holidays, from 9am to 5pm. Groups of 15 or more must arrange their visit in advance. Call 416-461-8252 and ask for the Communications Department. Streetcar #506 travels along Gerrard Street East to the Don. It’s near the corner of Broadview & Gerrard.