Welcome to my blog on housing, culture, and design in Toronto, where I share my insights, ideas and point of view on the many facets of the Toronto Real Estate Market.
I LOVE my career as a realtor and housing conceptualist - now in my 28th year - which has provided a truly unique point of view from which to witness the evolution of the Toronto real estate market. I have a multi-disciplinary education in housing, and over the duration of my decades-long career, I've had the opportunity to witness and participate actively in the fashion and trends of real estate development, while honing my expertise to specialize in niche areas of the market- in particular, the evolution of the Innovative Space market including the adaptive reuse of non-residential buildings into loft conversions.
In the 1990s and 00's, my business included re-purposing industrial and factory spaces into airy loft shells which could be purchased as-is or custom-designed into personal spaces for residential use. They were born from the desire for live-work spaces, which is trending again now that the COVID-19 pandemic is re-shaping how we live and work. Have you read my recent post The Need And Demand For Live/Work Properties In Toronto? In my real estate development day, lofts were generally sought after by artists and creative professionals who wanted studio space at home with adequate light and good proportions to support their creative spirit; a loft's soaring ceilings, large factory windows, and open space plan accomplished just that!
The loft movement began in New York and Paris, eventually coming to Toronto in the 1980s, when 20 small non-residential buildings located in downtown neighbourhoods were converted by a handful of developers into loft condominiums.
Do you know what the difference is between a hard loft and a soft loft? Truly authentic hard lofts are few and far between in Toronto, simply because the factories that housed the transformation of those spaces are few. In addition to high ceilings and ample natural light, they traditionally display a fusion of industrial grit in the décor, with things like exposed brick, exposed ductwork, as well as the liberal use of wood and beams.
*Tip Top Tailors Building Circa 1980 prior to its conversion.
Soft lofts are a housing type that first emerged in Toronto in the late 1990s. These typically concrete and glass spaces with higher ceilings were developed to meet the growing demand of young upwardly mobile professionals working in the central core who desired spaces that had a lofty aesthetic. Developers began offering newly constructed complexes that replicated the features that make loft living so appealing, including high ceilings, extra-large windows and an industrial feeling such as concrete columns and ceilings or floors. While they look a lot like the hard loft, these design elements are fabricated, rather than a product of the origins of the building.
I was on the front lines of the loft trend in the 1990s, as part of my graduate research in Housing & Identity, I conducted research with residents of the first 20 loft condominium conversions in Toronto in pursuit of learning about how this housing type was uniquely positioned to promote self-expression at home and reflected their personalities.
It’s an interesting concept, in part because loft living has an inherent creative vibe, where the housing is simultaneously the muse and the canvas for self-expression! For more background about the differences between soft and hard lofts, some more insight into my graduate research and a more in-depth description of some of the fundamental design features, check out these past posts: Dear Urbaneer: What Is The Difference Between A Hard Loft And A Soft Loft? and A Short History Of Toronto’s Fashion District And Art Deco Architecture
Here's a brief tour of the eight largest loft conversions in Toronto. If you were looking for specifics on some of the most well-known loft condominiums in Toronto - whether out of curiosity or your intention to purchase a lofty space - this is a great introduction to what's available. But do keep in mind there are several much smaller more boutique loft conversions in the city. Just pop me a note if you'd like more information!
> Buildings Having Predominantly Original Architecture <
Merchandise Lofts At 155 Dalhousie Street Near Church South Of Gerrard Opposite Ryerson University
Originally a warehouse for retailers Simpsons and Sears, this circa 1910 building - characterized as a classic example of 20th Century Industrial Style, which marries its traditional architectural façade with contemporary industrial interiors - was redeveloped in the 1990s as this landmark loft conversion. Developed by Cresford Developments, the project - which comprises five phases - is one of the largest warehouse loft conversions in Toronto. Upon its completion in 2000, this notable building won a number of awards, including accolades from Heritage Toronto and the Greater Toronto Home Builders Association.
Rising to 13 storeys, The Merchandise Lofts house 526 units, each ranging between approximately 450 square feet up to 2600 square feet, and boast common features such as either concrete or hardwood flooring, open concept living spaces and kitchens, exposed ductwork, and 12-foot ceilings. Even more special are the early 20th-century industrial elements, which include mushroom columns and 8-foot wide sliding barn doors.
In addition to having a sweeping four storey interior lobby and indoor half-basketball court, there are a host of amenities that will quickly elevate the quality of life for the lucky tenant, including a fully equipped gym, a meeting room, games room, sauna, and spa. The rooftop offers a swimming pool, a party room, an expansive patio with a BBQ area featuring a stunning 'bright-lights big-city' vista, and even an area for you to walk your dog!
Did the Merchandise Lofts catch your eye? Here is a chic penthouse loft currently for sale in the building: Yes To A Concrete N Cool Loft In Toronto’s Iconic Merchandise Building, offered for sale at $899,999!
Candy Factory At 993 Queen West & Shaw Near Trinity Bellwoods Park
The Candy Factory lofts were completed in 1999 by MetroOntario Group making it one of the earlier conversions in the city. Home to 121 lofts, this building features extra-wide hallways, a concierge, fitness centre, communal roof deck, and visitor parking. The one and two-bedroom hard lofts range from approximately 780 square feet to 3,800 square feet. I love how the contemporary design elements play perfectly off the exposed century-old Douglas Fir beams. This century factory was once home to the Ce De Candy Company’s manufacturing plant and was the location where Red Rocket candies were made. How sweet is that?
Check out this dreamy sundrenched loft we call Sweet Surrender At The Candy Factory Lofts On West Queen West, offered for $1,350,000!
Brewery Lofts At 90 Sumach Street In Corktown
Originally constructed in 1956, this former CBC warehouse (respected artists such as Glenn Gould, Jim Henson, and Lorne Michaels once worked within these walls) is located in the heart of Corktown, one of the city's rising stars of up-and-coming neighbourhoods. Situated in proximity to the revamped River City, the redeveloping West Don Lands, the magical historic Distillery District, and revitalizing Regent Park, this conversion is just a short stroll to Leslieville, or the St. Lawrence Market, not to forget it's just a quick streetcar ride to the financial district and subway lines. And for those with a car, it's zoom-zoom easy to get on the Don Valley Parkway or Gardiner Expressway! Without question, this formerly fringe locale will soon be in the centre-of-it-all!
The Sorbara Group converted the historic building into 100 residential lofts in 1998 and, while no longer a brewery or props warehouse, Sorbara took great pains to maintain the hard-loft concept that is coveted within the city. The building has attracted many creative owners who, not afraid to take on a project within an up and coming neighbourhood, have made some incredible improvements within their lofts. While many new developments have been completed within recent years, the Brewery Lofts stands as one of the only original hard loft conversions in the area. The building amenities include a rooftop garden, gym, media room, party room, and visitor parking.
> Lofts Incorporating New Additions With Existing Architecture <
Tip Top Lofts At 637 Lake Shore Boulevard West & Bathurst
Ranked one of the top builds in Toronto of the past 15 years, no other lakeside condominium marries the best of the best like Tip Top Lofts on the central west side of Queens Quay. Perfectly positioned next to water and green space, the building is nestled on the edge of the former railway and industrial lands which are in the throes of one of the country’s most substantial residential redevelopments. This adaptive reuse conversion of the former Tip Top Tailors factory is renowned for its soaring ceilings and concrete columns with massive conical capitals and is celebrated for it’s proximity to phenomenal cultural amenities, grocers, shops, and transit. For those who drive, it’s just 2 mins to Gardiner/Lake Shore and 7 mins to the DVP! And if your goal is to escape the city for a while, the neighbouring Porter Island airport is extremely convenient!
This landmark heritage edifice to industry, originally constructed in 1929, is most-recognized for its vertical corner towers decorated with bas-relief and capped with pyramidal copper roofs. By fusing the strong horizontal framework and rhythmic vertical vernacular of the original building with a new six-storey glass mass tower addition that gently echoes the original, the result is a visually-arresting marriage of the past and the present into a spectacular united whole. Having all the signature elements of the Art Deco genre, including a symmetrical facade, strong vertical lines, multiple wall planes at the corners, and an elegant two-storey front entrance with vintage brass doors, this stately building is renowned as one of the city’s most breath-taking examples of industrial architecture. A considerate and discreet residential conversion in 2006 by Context Developments, the design team at ArchitectsAlliance was able to add and enhance without compromising the grand appearance of the former menswear company headquarters. They even kept the famous rooftop neon sign! Now the building houses 256 units over 11 storeys (5 original floors, 6 additional floors), ranging in size from 600 to nearly 2600 square feet. The penthouse units are mostly bi-level while the others are single-floor layouts.
The Toy Factory At 43 Hanna Avenue In Liberty Village
The Toy Factory Lofts reside within what was once the Irwin Toy Factory. Originally built in 1910, this seven-storey conversion was completed in 2008. Redeveloped and converted by Lanterra Developments and designed by the highly acclaimed Quadrangle Architects, a lot of the original structure’s most impressive characteristics were left intact including the thick brick walls, steel ceiling beams, and Douglas fir posts. The building is a genuine mixed-use, live-work complex containing 215 original and newly constructed lofts with over 20,000 square feet of commercial space. The development gets tons of bragging rights as in 2005, the Toy Factory won the coveted Project of the Year award from the Greater Toronto Homebuilder’s Association and won in total an unprecedented 7 awards.
The suites range in size from under 700 square feet to over 2000 square feet, with finishes ranging from fairly basic to multi-million-dollar cool. The building offers great amenities including a concierge, shared outdoor terrace with hot tub, fitness centre, business zone, and guest suits. The lobby’s been hooked up with Wi-Fi where freelancing tenants have been known to congregate to make working from home more social. For all the amazing amenities, the maintenance fees are surprisingly reasonable. In fact, the fees were greatly reduced in 2012 thanks to some energy efficiency initiatives.
Robert Watson Lofts At 363 & 369 Sorauren Avenue In Roncesvalles Village
Like the area that surrounds it, the Robert Watson Lofts building at 363/369 Sorauren Avenue is the embodiment of the stylish transition from industrial grit to housing chic that has come to define much of Roncesvalles. Originally a candy factory dating back to the early 1900s, this commercial use building was converted to hard lofts in 2007. More recently a soft loft addition was incorporated at the back of the building that shines with concrete and glass.
The five stories of hard lofts in the original conversion have authentic loft features, like exposed brick and soaring wood ceilings. The soft loft addition, which extends up to six stories, is chock-full of contemporary n' crunchy cool, with poured concrete and curtain walls of glass. Altogether - with the mix of hard and soft lofts - there are 153 units housed in the Robert Watson Lofts. Anchoring the two buildings is greenery, in the form of a lovely courtyard and green roof garden. The two buildings also share parking, storage lockers, and a fantastic gym and party room.
The Garment Factory At 233 Carlaw In Leslieville
Located just north of Queen Street East on Carlaw Avenue, the Garment Factory Lofts are located in the heart of hip Leslieville. Now the destination of choice for the high-styled but down-to-earth buyer, Leslieville is considered one of the city’s most vibrant ‘hoods for design, food, and fun.
Completed in November of 2008, the Garment Factory Lofts is an eight-floor live/work industrial conversion designed and converted in partnership by award-winning Core Architects Inc. and family-owned Atria Developments. Boasting 150 units, the Garment Factory Lofts marries the authentic warehouse aesthetic with modern architectural detailing. Some units are situated in the original factory, and others are located in a newly constructed podium tower extension, but all offer an opportunity to display one’s personal style in this one-of-a-kind conversion. With flared concrete columns, soaring ceilings up to nearly 12 feet, and floor-to-ceiling windows, this heart-grabbing building has become one of the premier loft addresses in Leslieville. The building, which boasts a sterling reputation for being well-managed, offers around ten visitor parking spaces, a hobby room, a small gym, and the benefit of late afternoon/evening security on-site in the stylish lobby. Predominantly owner-occupied - with enormous pride of ownership and community spirit - this complex is also pet-friendly!
Argyle Lofts At 183 Dovercourt In West Queen West
The Argyle Lofts - home to 86 hard loft units spread over 6 floors - acknowledges its industrial roots in the architecture and associated vibe. It fuses the contemporary with the past, with its roots stretching back to 1873. First home to a bakery and grocery store owned by the well-known baker family, the Dempsters, this building morphed through uses over the years, including the Ideal Bread Factory, and its final conversion into contemporary loft living (completed in 2007). The building casts an elegant all brick exterior and contains one and two-bedrooms lofts, ranging in size from 520 to over 590 square feet, and from 730 to about 1,000 square feet, respectively. The units are characterized by clean lines, open, spacious floor plans that pull in natural light from all angles with wide, long windows.
The seven, two-storey penthouses offer beautiful spectacular city views through walls of windows and from the private roof decks. Being newly constructed, they are set back from the façade (and not immediately visible from the street) so as not to detract from the existing architecture.
The market segments and the framework for the original 'loft lifestyle' - underscore how individual a property search can be today, and how the same space can afford not only different purposes but different meanings to each individual.
I’m proud to say that being on the cusp of the Innovative Space movement has been a fascinating product to plant my real estate flag. Not only has it been riveting watching it evolve, but my education and the timing of my experience also make me uniquely qualified to guide my clients through this fashionable niche space.
May I, and my team, offer you our assistance?
Want to read more about Toronto loft living? Try these past posts that range from historical to architectural to styling examples of lofty listings!!
We're Urbaneer.com! We love living and working in Toronto, and exploring its dozens of dynamic neighbourhoods!
Can my team and I become your realtors of choice, and guide you to the best of the best Toronto real estate?
With a multi-disciplinary education in housing - and 28 years of experience in the property market - I believe the search for a Home requires engagement on sensory, intellectual, and emotional levels. In fact, it's how I've become a top producing realtor.
With decades of experience navigating the highs and lows of our market, and our commitment to remain acutely aware of shifts and trends, we are here to help without pressure or hassle.
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Thanks for reading!
-The Urbaneer Team
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage - (416) 322-8000
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