Food for Thought: A new condo development in historic St. Lawrence Market
15 Aug 2015
158 Front Street East

Sam Crignano, president of Cityzen Development Group, beams with excitement at the prospect of his latest condo creation — 158 Front. The developer behind the L-Tower and Pier 27 condos, Crignano is billing this development as an especially rare opportunity for buyers. “Because it’s one of Toronto’s oldest neighbourhoods, there are very few development possibilities remaining,” he says.

The neighbourhood’s historical status is not lost on anyone, but it gave principal architect Peter Clewes from architectsAlliance pause for thought: “Lord Simcoe actually laid out the first 12 blocks of Toronto within this part of the city — encompassing the St. Lawrence Market.” The important question, he says, “from a city-planning perspective, was how to allow for more density within the neighbourhood while still respecting its heritage factor.”

The solution partially evolved from what Clewes did not want for the building — a huge, towering wall of glass that would come across as an affront to the majority of two-to-seven storey buildings making up the streetscape. Instead, Cityzen, in partnership with Fernbrook Homes, settled on two 26-storey towers on either side of a 14-storey amenities-packed podium. The suites range in size from 400 square feet to 1,400 sq. ft. and begin in price at $289,900.

Clewes employed a strong contrast of black bricks punctuated by white framing to break up the building’s facade. He also composed a structural fracturing of the building, creating blocks of suites rather than one austere external surface.

“This fractured ‘box’ approach is one way to break the building mass into smaller pieces, in sensitivity to existing residual heritage buildings in the neighbourhood,” Clewes says. Some residents felt the developers should employ a design scale of a series of smaller brick buildings rather than one larger structure. “It’s definitely a debate worth having in such a historical neighbourhood,” he says. “But ultimately, we wanted to create a contemporary building that could sit in contrast to its surroundings, but also be respectful of them.”

Crignano gave Clewes his first opportunity to design the entire interior of the building as well. “We had worked together before on Pier 27 and I just believed so much in Clewes’ vision,” Crignano says. “I knew he could do it.”

Clewes’ interior for the luxury building with proximity to St. Lawrence Market, the Distillery District and the waterfront, complemented the modern exterior. Inside, the lobby and amenities areas feature a minimalist aesthetic with a graphic black-and-white theme. The interiors are marked by “an absence of design flourish,” Clewes says. Instead, contemporary porcelain tiles, stone, patterned glass and tons of natural light create an elegant, simple aesthetic.

But perhaps the highlight of the development is its central podium, which contains a unique, multi-level amenity area. Co-created by Clewes and Mark Stables, owner of Movement Haus (which helps new and older condo developments design user-friendly, better programmed and customized fitness amenities), Stables’s firm will stay on at 158 Front to program the space year round. “So many yoga studios in the city go unused because, the truth is, they are not being programmed. They end up just being dead space,” Stables says. Ceiling heights in this amenity zone range anywhere from nine to 18 feet because of the various mezzanines and pockets of vertical open space. “It’s a really exceptional amenity area contained in the central podium between the two towers,” Clewes says. “The spaces aren’t self-contained, but opened up to each other vertically so people can see what others are doing on different floors. It’s very innovative.”

Crignano says that one plus of having two towers is that there will be more corner suites. “These definitely tend to be the most coveted,” he says. As for the suites themselves, Clewes says that as smaller units are more in demand, maximizing the amount of natural light a suite gets makes it that much more livable. To this end, the open-concept suites contain sliding doors between the rooms so light can easily travel. “Similar to the amenity theme, it’s about thinking of spaces as overlapping — and not so self-contained.”

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