Rare laneway housing proposed

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Novae Res Urbis Toronto Edition (Vol. 18, No. 4)

Rear Window: By Edward LaRusic

A new proposal near the Dufferin Street and Bloor Street West intersection is adding something rare to Toronto: laneway housing.

The developer, Curated Properties, has applied for rezoning and site plan approval to adapt a former boiler factory, Pendell Burners, into 16 dwelling units, 13 of which would be three storey loft houses. Th e site is located at 50 and 52 Bartlett Avenue.

Curated Properties principal Adam Ochshorn said that this site, which is sandwiched between residential uses on all sides, is unique.

“It was a former factory that made boilers. At the turn of the century, it was the Dovercourt Twine, and that involved into the [Pendell Burners] factory, and up until August of last year, they still manufactured boilers here.”

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“Basically, we are revitalizing the existing structure and adding a small addition on it to make a connection to [Bartlett Avenue].”

“I think that one thing that has to be said about a project like this, is that it’s very rare in the City of Toronto. When we did our research, there are some laneway house examples, such as a pair of semis in a laneway, but we don’t see much multi-unit.”The proposal envisions a small lobby entrance and access to utilities off of Bartlett Street. Parking will be provided through a three-tiered lift system accessed off the laneway. Ochshorn noted that you don’t oft en see this kind of development in Toronto.

Toronto & East York district west community planning manager Lynda Macdonald said that laneways have a practical purpose so building houses next to laneways oft en result in both policy and technical challenges.

“Generally the pattern in neighbourhoods is not to have housing on the laneways. From an official plan perspective, the policies direct us to look at the existing patterns.”

Macdonald also said that servicing is a real challenge.

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“Laneways in Toronto generally don’t have services under them at all. They don’t get plowed in the winter, and because they tend to be narrow, it’s difficult to get emergency vehicles to them. Sometimes the fi re truck just can’t get in there. And from a basic level, we can’t get our garbage truck in there either. So a lot of the services we provide for citizens don’t exist on laneways.”

“The laneway system in Toronto has been established to provide servicing for housing and developments, so we keep that service off the main street. Th eir function is really to carry cars.”

Thanks to the unique nature of the site, Ochshorn said that they were able to work through the planning concerns.

“Each site has to meet specific criteria based on what the city wants. If you’re in a laneway it’s difficult because you’d be contravening by-laws when digging up your laneway to install your services. Because there are service here already and
because we have a connection to the street, all of our services won’t run in the laneway, and therefore we can meet all the aspects of the [city’s] checklist.” 

Ochshorn said that the city also doesnot like people traversing laneways to get into their homes.

“We don’t have that because we have that corridor connection to all of our units via Barlett.” 

Ward councillor Ana Bailão said that the development was quite different from the kinds of development the city normally sees. “It was an innovative approach to take advantage of the building that was there and still work within the guidelines that the city has.”

While Bailão is pleased that the developer is maintaining the former industrial building and keeping within a scale that is appropriate to the neighbourhood, she said there are a few details that are being worked out during the site plan approval stage, such as how garbage will be collected. Her biggest concern with the project is privacy.

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Also see this recent report from Heather Loney and Mark McAllister of Global News:

Developers hope to turn Toronto laneways into unique homes

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