New Bloor Condo: Blank stare & no reply

The construction billboards showed a stylish building with cascading terraces and lush greenery. But, what the community got from the Context Development Co. on Bloor Street at Ellis Park Road was a flat, featureless six storey wall of brick and glass: a back alley design on our major street that is remarkable for its failure to show any affinity with the landscape it imposed itself on.

07 - Feb Context building.jpg

Faced with the blank wall, the BWVRA asked simply “is that it?” We wrote Context the letter below asking what it plans to do to at least dress up the exterior of its building. Art, iron work, planters?

That letter went late last year. So far, we’ve heard nothing but the silence one would expect from…a blank wall.

The feeling of the Executive at the BWVRA is that this developer, having carved out a piece of our precious park, forced its immediate neighbour to leave her now-unsafe home, and blighted views from the Grenadier Retirement Residence, ought to show some consideration for the thriving and attractive community which drew the developer here. Answering our letter would be a start.

If you add your voice to these queries, we might be able to get some answers, and perhaps a measure of improvement from Context. Please leave your comments here and we will report back.

Context Developments
Howard Cohen, President
500-229 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5B 1N9

Mr. Cohen,

I am writing on behalf of the Bloor West Village Resident’s Association. We have had a number of individuals raise concerns with the Bloor Street side of your new development called Home beside High Park.

Individuals had hoped this new high-end development would add to the street but currently the Bloor Street side of the building adds little to the street if not detracting from the street with the current wall of brick.

Are there any plans to add high quality ironwork, canopies and/or plants to improve the appearance of this side of the building? Your company is known for high quality developments specifically from a design standpoint and currently the Bloor Street side of your building a number of people feel is lacking.

Can you please respond back to let us know your plans and we will communicate to the resident’s association?


Michael Davidson
On Behalf of the Bloor West Village Resident’s Association

11 thoughts on “New Bloor Condo: Blank stare & no reply

  1. You are dreaming in Technicolor if you think you can get the developer to do anything with the walls of this building. The fact is the developer no longer owns the building. Control of the condominium corporation would have been turned over to the individual condo owners some time ago and they now own and control the building collectively. Good luck getting the residents to pay for this!

    The time for seeking design changes is before a development gets approved. It’s simply too late now.

  2. Regarding the Context Condo

    I disagree with the objections you are raising about this excellent building.

    I believe the developer has already constructed an extraordinarily well designed project, whose materials and visual features are without precedent in this neighbourhood. I would also point out that although it may be blocking views from the Seniors home of the park, the Context building is itself a great deal nicer to look at than the Grenadier from High Park. Rather than punishing a carefully thought out building, lets use it as an example of what can be achieved.

    I would ask the BWVRA to concentrate instead on trying to keep projects like the Georgian Town Homes (farther east on the north side facing the park) from being approved. That project, up for many years now and still not fully occcupied, was built cheaply and without serious design consideration, by a developer obviously looking to make money, not a civic contribution. It is with some irony that we see the “objectionable” Context building fully sold out, while the “tradtional” building languishes, unable to attract residents.

    Lets get smart, and concentrate on first lobbying for good design in whatever style, rather than limiting the architectural debate to whether it “fits in”.

  3. I agree that the building in question does not fit well with most of the other buildings on Bloor St. West from, say, High Park Avenue to The South Kingsway, IT IS MUCH MORE BEAUTIFUL!

    Please concentrate your efforts on something more relevant to the area residents (at least this one), and especially on something that is not already a done deal. Which, in the case of the Context Condo, I think was a good deal.

  4. It’s just the side facing the street that people felt was lacking any character — it’s just a brick wall that doesn’t do much for Bloor Street. The other sides are pretty nice, I agree!

    What are you interested in, what do you think we should pursue? We’re happy to hear your ideas & comments — we’re here for you!

    Robyn Kalda
    speaking for myself, not as the voice of the BWVRA

  5. Further to my last rant, I agree that the north elevation of the Context Condo is the least sucessful, but I also believe that as the boulevard planting gets established it will create a “green bridge” that will help connect the Village to High Park.

    The dog supply retail is probably not the best tenant to enliven the streetscape. Hopefully in the future, that space might become a restaurant, market, or bookstore, and then the building will be considered a success. Conversley, I hope the space does not become a bank, cell phone store, or designer clothing boutique.

    As for the direction I would like to see this forum take, how about asking the question:”What is the most mediocre development or building in the BWV?” Discussing mediocrity is the most relevant dialogue we can undertake.

    of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance

  6. The building design doesn’t bother me either. The images of cascading plants are matched by the back of the building — I think most of us knew that’s where they’d be.

    My concern is the maintenance, now that it is over the condo corp. Will the oak trees be cared for and/or replaced when necessary? A good crop could go a long way to re-greening that strip of the street. Secondly, can we stop drivers from parking their cars at the corner of Ellis and Bloor “just for a moment” while they pop in to Starbucks for a coffee? It’s tough enough to turn at that intersection without an idling vehicle blocking the way.

  7. I totally agree that the Context Condo Development at the corner of Ellis Park and Bloor is an eye sore. When it first went up I honestly thought it was going to house Ministry staff such as a new office for the Ministry of Transporation or perhaps the Parole Board. It looks very institutional from the front. I later heard that it incorporated the design elements of one of the finest architects that have ever lived – Frank Lloyd Wrights – Falling Water. I am sorry, but I have been to Falling Water and it in no way evokes the feeling or design of Wright’s work, other than some similarity with the cascading balconies. It does seem odd that the building is so flat in the front with all its design in the back. It appears not balanced to me and perhaps that is why people find it so unappealing. I am not sure if there is anything that can be done to the front facade or that they developer feels that they would have to do anything to change it, but it would be worthwhile and interesting to try.

    While I realize that perhaps this is not the most pressing issue of our time, I do feel that we live in a beautiful part of Toronto and one that merits ensuring that its beauty remains.

  8. I agree with Mr. Ironside and Ms. Moncrieff. I would also like to point out that the condominium site was never part of High Park; that there are no “blank walls”; that the building is definitely “high end”; and that one should not mistake the harsh February light for the warmer features of the rest of the year.

    I would also like the BWVRA to focus on other issues, such as:
    – the condition of the stairs next to the condominium
    – the poor condition of sidewalks and intersections in the neighbourhood
    – and grafitti

    Ironically, it is The Grenadier building opposite the Context site which presents the best example of development gone wrong and what residents should be more concerned about. The Grenadier was a “spec” building from the get-go and its poor design and construction are the evidence. It was wrapped up in the “Greymac” fiasco of 1982. The failure of its developer; and the fraud encompassing its financing; thus became a cost to all of us as taxpayers as it was assumed (reluctantly) in the real estate portfolio of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC). The CDIC only unloaded it about 1998 (I think).

    As members of a residents’ association, I think we should beware tendencies to slip into NIMBYism and focus on the quality of proposed developments and their lasting impacts.

  9. I think the BWVRA is a little out of line taking aim this late in the game at the developer of this site. The condo is a successful peice of architecture. One I would live in if i had a million dolars. i agree with the above comments that this is the most unsuccessful side of the building but the commercial elements provide some much needed life to this part of Bloor Street. The brick selection is keeping with the neighbourhood and the sidewalk is in much better shape than the rest of Bloor West.
    I beleive that the BWVRA should be writing the Condo Corp and not the developer about what good neighbourly thinks they might do to have the building ‘fit’ into the area. (The people living there are the ones with the million dollars).
    The planter at the base of the building is a start to have vines establish that can climb the facade of the building. Iron work or sculpture on the duilding north side would also assist. Architectural canopy over the commercial areas would also help. Comments about survival of the trees on Bloor will now be the responsibility of the City as these are City responsibility.
    Maybe the BWVRA as a neighbour can politely request the owners of the Condo to consider investing in the north facade of thier building. Asking can’t hurt.

  10. Let me start by saying that I think this is a great forum for expressing our opinions. Many of us either can’t come to meetings or are not as comfortable in voicing our opinions in large public forums, especially when you feel like a lone voice of dissenting opinion. I now find that my voice is shared with others in our neighbourhood.
    Having contemporary design in our midst may mean it is not the same as the other buildings but in fact can “fit in” with the existing setting. The Context building does just that. Good, clean, functional and creative design in our area can only be a good thing. Not all structures have to be the same in height, scope, materials or design style. I agree with earlier comments on the retail space and how this could drastically change the front view of the building. We certainly can’t tell them who they can rent to nor can we mandate who has to be in that space but yes a restaurant with a front patio would be great in that location or a small grocery store with fruit and vegetable displays would be a terrific addition to this end of the Village.
    Let’s encourage good design, construction and civic responsibility in our local development and worry less about keeping everything the same.

  11. I am concerned that criticizing this project harms the credibility of the BWVRA. Not that the article contends this but, people need to start accepting that intensification on main avenues with access to transit is good sustainable development and is fundamental in curbing urban sprawl (an environmentally backward phenomenon that is contributing to climate change). This what the City’s Official Plan also mandates. Therefore, a building like this one, that in my opinion is well designed and offers a vibrant feel even at street level, needs to be considered a success.

    I think criticizing this project from a design standpoint is risky and carries the odour of NIMBYism.

    In general, I think when at the negotiating table in the future, the BWVRA’s main goal should be arguing for excellence in design and architecture; and sometimes that means the building needs to be a bit higher. I think as people become more educated in planning and design principles they discover that height can be beautiful too (keeping in mind the protection of neighbourhoods). There is nothing worse than getting an ugly squashed down slab building because of a community’s tunnel vision with respect to height.

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