A Toronto developer is taking an out-of-the-box project by turning a house into six apartment buildings

Matthew Cohen and Brian Torry have big plans for 44 Wilson Park Road in Toronto.Non-Joint Projects

Finding the site – a large 50-by-135-foot lot with a majestic Victorian home and back lane – was something akin to a planetary alignment, according to developer Matthew Cohen, considering what he and his business partner, Brian Torry, have. in mind for it.

Through a new project called InCommon Projects, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Torry want to transform 44 Wilson Park Rd., In Toronto’s Parkdale neighborhood, into a missing mid-type cluster of six apartments. They will do this by adding a floor to the main house, creating seven units, an inner courtyard and a woolen suite.

“We were a little lucky in the sense that there are a lot of elements to the terrain, and the building itself, which really lends itself nicely to our proposal,” Cohen says.

Equally important, however, was the polyglot nature of the neighborhood’s residential complex – a quaint, highly “Parkdalian” confectionery of detached homes, farmhouses, promenades and apartment buildings. The mix, at least in theory, should make the project easier to sell with the City of Toronto’s planning division, which oversees new projects to make sure they match the “character” of the neighborhood.

The InCommon proposal is certainly not a garden variety filler, but the partners say this kind of small-scale intensification fills a need. “The idea introduces a new scale of housing to the city that we deem necessary to bring more families and households into established downtown neighborhoods,” says Cohen, whose father, Howard, owns Context Development, one of the largest builders. of the city. .

Wilson Park’s app lands at an opportune moment as to how the city is thinking of intensifying neighborhoods. For years, low-rise housing estates in Toronto have been essentially bordering on any kind of renovation other than demolition. Even more modest businesses, such as replacing a single-family home with a triplex, could face high hurdles.

In the post-war suburbs, pre-war qualifying rules explicitly prohibit anything other than separate homes. In older locations in the core, the mix of housing types in some pre-World War II neighborhoods such as Parkdale – where duplexes, triplexes or promenades can share blocks with single-family homes – has been grandfavened in post-war zoning rules.

But rising land prices, investment trends, gentrification and neighboring opposition have generally conspired to prevent the construction of smaller-scale multi-unit projects. A similar project to InCommon’s, a 12-first fill in Deer Park, received a lot of publicity and drew the wrath of the local residents association. Even luxurious town hall fillings can trigger intense local battles and lengthy challenges at the Local Planning Appeals Court.

The plan for 44 Wilson Park Road in Toronto would turn a house into a cluster of six apartment buildings.Non-Joint Projects

However, the city’s planning policies – and especially sacred cows as the principle of protecting “stable” neighborhoods – are evolving gradually. Last year, a council adopted a report, “Expanding Housing Opportunities,” which cautiously presents the notion of allowing missing mid-type projects, such as garden sets, to move up in low-rise housing estates.

In October, the planning department launched a public consultation survey on permitting multi-cinemas, and the city is in the process of looking at related moves, such as intensification of “main streets” (which, as parts of Mount Pleasant Road, for example, are withdrawing from arteries) , and approving small-scale commercial uses in neighborhoods. However a council has recently pushed back one related policy, allowing residential homes across the city.

Other North American cities, such as Seattle and Portland, as well as the state of California, have pushed for more aggressive planning reforms allowing for greater intensification in neighborhoods, notes Ryerson University professor David Amborski. “It’s really moving on a snail in Toronto.”

The InCommon plan for 44 Wilson Park is certainly more ambitious than the city’s definition of a multiplex, which is two to four units. Mr Cohen says the seven units range in size from one 430-square-foot studio to variously tuned two- and three-bedroom units, with enough space for a family.

Four will have more than 1650 sq. M. ft. of interior space, and all but the studio are designed to include a private outdoor terrace. “We’re really trying to create family spaces for the most part, so our three-bedroom units also have a family room or office, living room or dining room,” adds Mr. Torry, who is also a real estate broker. PSR and longtime member of a local residents association. (The team has not yet released its prices.)

From left, Brian Torry, Matthew Cohen and architect Timothy Mitanidis.Sandy Nicholson / Sandy Nicholson

As for a built-in shape, the most unusual feature, according to Toronto’s vernacular, is that the complex will wrap around an interior backyard that will have landscaping and possibly amenities such as a communal sauna or outdoor kitchen. “I’ve done some work with the Center for Social Innovation earlier in my career,” Mr Cohen says, “and they talk about creating‘ collision points ’where you meet your neighbor and you may not have necessarily planned on it. ”

Larger town hall complexes often have a communal courtyard, but these plots tend to be large and open. The inner courtyard of the Wilson Park project will be more similar to the types of enclosed backyards that are created by the construction of a lane series.

According to InCommon architect Timothy Mitanidis, principal of Creative Union Network, the project goes to the Adjustment Committee in November. He points out that it would be possible to demolish the house and build a very large replacement without going through this process. But the InCommon plan requires several variations in height and parking, although it will not exceed the allowable density of the lot. The zoning regulation states that 45 percent of the interior space – about 4,000 sq. Km. ft. for the proposed expansion – must belong to a single dwelling. Mr Mitanidis says he did not think this particular regulation would undermine their case.

Mr Cohen and Mr Torry, who once helped contain local opposition to housing on Roncesvalles, say they have tackled the neighbors and decided to add more parking than the town required, at least in part to make the units attractive to people with children .

Ultimately, their long-term plan is to use this venture if they can get it off the drawing board, as a kind of template for developing other small-scale condominium projects on larger residential sites initially developed for a single home.

One challenge, they concede, will be to find appropriately scaled lots in neighborhoods where there are already missing mid-type buildings.

The other, of course, is figuring out how to navigate community and regulatory adversaries. Although the city is looking at just such an intensification, InCommon’s team admits it’s hard to predict what will happen at the Adjustment Committee, which has demolished more innocent projects. As Mr. Cohen says, “It’s a nasty shot.”

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