Toronto gets it — will Victoria?

by Yule Heibel on October 30, 2007

Take a look at this article from CEOs for Cities: Artscape Helps Broker Triple-Win Deal in Queen West Triangle for the low-down on a fascinating & essential new project in Toronto.

What Toronto will do is provide space for artists — precisely the kind of people who provide the “infrastructure” that innovative, creative cities need, yet also precisely the kinds of people who, being on the lower end of the earning scale, typically get squeezed out when cities gentrify.

From the article:

An innovative partnership has been forged in the Queen West Triangle between Artscape, the City of Toronto, Westside Lofts (Urbancorp) and Active 18 that will see the creation of a 56,000 square feet artist live/work project within the Westside Lofts development at 150 Sudbury Street.

The development of affordable artist live/work units within a condominium complex is a first for Toronto. The deal also represents a new self-financing model for affordable housing development that requires only a nominal public investment.

“Developers, community activists, and the City have a strong shared interested in making the Triangle as creative and dynamic as possible” said Artscape President and CEO, Tim Jones. “There is no reason why this model cannot be replicated across the city to address the decades-old problem of the displacement of artists through gentrification.”

The value of the project has been independently appraised at $19 million. Artscape will purchase the units for $8.4 million, a price that includes the cost of construction but not architectural and other soft costs, land value contributed by the City in the form of free density, or profit.

Artscape plans to create up to 70 affordable ownership and rental units. Monthly rent for a one bedroom rental unit is targeted at $725 or roughly 80% of Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s average market rent for Toronto. Unit sizes and mix will be determined after consultation with potential purchasers and renters. Construction on the project will begin in January 2008 with completion projected for early 2010.

Obviously, cities like Victoria (not to mention Vancouver), which, due to housing affordability issues are in danger of losing their creatives, could benefit from schemes such as this. Seems to me it’s a pressing problem insofar as we don’t have the “other way out” for creatives at this point, namely having them merge into higher-paying industries. We’re still nurturing that along, too… Visual artists, musicians, theatre people: their support structures are just now moving from skeletal to skin-and-bones, yet our housing (UN)affordability is the 800-lb. gorilla with plenty of muscle.

Oct.31 update: Canada’s National Post also has an article about this, published yesterday, Oct.30: Details trickle out on Queen West Triangle deal. It includes more, …well, details. That article is in turn based on another one published by the same paper on the same day, City, developers reach a deal on West Queen West, and both article include photos (the former a photo of the site today; the latter, a rendering of what it might look like). Interesting quote from the “Details,” which points out the danger(s) of downtowns becoming condo-only communities that don’t have as many job-generating businesses or industries as the suburbs: “It could hopefully serve as a model. It’s not really just about the Triangle. It’s about making Toronto a place that doesn’t become a bedroom community for the suburbs.” The following bit made me sit up, since we also have an old Carnegie Library, sadly underused now and with no one knowing quite what to do with it anymore since it’s not big enough for a library, but awkward for office space, too:

“It’s a groundbreaking project in a number of ways,” Mr. Jones said, adding that the project’s self-financing model could serve as a city-wide template. “It means that if we can do it here in the Triangle, we can build hundreds of these units across the city.”

Landmark’s largesse is also helping transform the old Carnegie Library building, a nearly 100-year-old site with soaring ceilings that currently houses Toronto Public Health offices, into a “new performing arts hub.”

Here’s a picture of what the new proposal would look like:


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: