Game on! Building for Pan-Am 2015
18 Sep 2012

Toronto is arguably one of those great cities whose diversity is as big as its heart. Our urban metropolis — the largest in the country — is a heady mix of many things. Neighbourhoods vary, ethnicities converge and the people who inhabit it are a true mishmash of culture and personality. We’re known (and somewhat revered) for this multiplicity so when, in 2008, bids went out to host the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games, we made a smart move: Take advantage of our diversity and sell it hard on the world stage. And sell we did.

Come July 2015, more than 10,000 athletes from more than 41 countries will take over our town for two weeks of sport and competition. The games will be the largest multi-sport event ever to be held in Canada, so with that demand comes high expectation. State-of-the-art infrastructure needs to be built and new communities created. Top of mind for city developers is the “village;” a home-away-from-home for visiting athletes to sleep and recharge during their stay. Toronto didn’t have buildings to convert so, instead, took advantage of a residential development already in the works. Enter: The Canary District.

Situated in the former industrial lands of West Don Lands, this condominium project will transform into the official Athlete’s Village but, unlike other village projects, which house competitors during major events and then get converted for other uses, the Pan Am Athlete’s Village will be re-imagined as full residential environs after the games are over. For locals, the project gives them the opportunity to own a piece of Toronto history.

“Our goal was to make a place that will reflect the best of our city and culture for PanAmerica’s athletes in 2015 and endure for generations of Torontonians as the preeminent downtown neighbourhood,” says Bruce Kuwabara, Partner of KPMB Architects and part of the high-profile integrated design team.

To take the concept of diversity home, teams from four architecture firms including architectsAlliance, KPMB, Daoust Lestage and MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, designed eight unique buildings. Mass, scale and height is simultaneously different: Each façade recessed and roof heights constructed to varying degrees. The goal? To create a series of conversations between buildings as you move through the village.

“We identified key qualities we associate with Toronto and Canada — open, heterogenous, complex and democratic in our design vision for the Canary District and infused every element into this legacy project,” Mr. Kuwabara says.

For their first offering, Block 11 (sales of which begin this June) inhabits a unique location that is a convergence of city, river and lake. Comprised of chic one- and two-bedroom market condos, also on deck is ground-floor townhouses with quaint porches, front gardens and summer-suited terraces.

Beyond an impressive aesthetic — think hardwood floors, ceramic porcelain backsplashes and European-style kitchen range hoods — the overall design meets LEED Gold criteria and honours the requirements of Toronto’s Mandatory Green Building. Here we find green spaces that are maximized through courtyards and laneways, while architects introduced a secondary system of pedestrian routes that follows the paths of two former CNR rail lines to allow for a walkable neighbourhood. This attention to detail is not lost once indoors. Window openings have a larger expanse than is typical, while ground-floor units have floor-to-ceiling glass. “We wanted to create a modern and inviting aesthetic, but it had to be geared towards a healthy, vibrant lifestyle that promotes walking and social connection,” says Jason Lester, president of Dundee Kilmer Developments L.P. “We want to encourage residents to get outside and really live here.”

Starting at $200,000 the suites are affordable for either the first-time owner or empty nesters, but the amenties don’t suffer because of it. Slated to open is the city’s largest YMCA; a dramatic complex that offers a fully glazed gym and fitness centre with pool and a two-storey atrium that works as a casual social space. Further contributing to its appeal, the Canary District’s main street — Front Street East — will be brought to life with more than 40,000 square feet of retail space, public art, restaurants and cafes. Accessible and recreational services will also be on-offer to further inspire a sense of community across the neighbourhood. “We’re offering a dynamic, urban lifestyle that is very much reflected in this first building,” Mr. Lester says. “It will be a lasting community where people want to live, want to work, and want to play.”

Originally posted on The National Post.