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25 Leonard Avenue

25 Leonard Avenue

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25 Leonard Avenue

Condo and homebuilders join forces to help house the homeless

(CNW) — As the weather turns cold for Toronto’s homeless population, the city’s Kensington Market neighbourhood is seeing construction begin on Toronto’s first purpose-built homes for homeless people in more than 10 years.

An excavator broke ground earlier this week in preparation for spring construction on the small strip of land beside St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society’s existing building at 25 Leonard Avenue, just east of Bathurst Street. This unique three-storey, 22-unit project was backed by neighbours and made possible with government and private sector support.

St. Clare’s construction partners — including home and condo builders, unions and construction associations — are stepping up to the plate in a $1 million fundraising effort.

The corporate donors are Aspen Ridge, Brown Group, Great Gulf, Greenpark, Heavy Construction Association of Toronto, Laurier Homes, Liberty Development, Lindvest, LiUNA Local 183, LiUNA Ontario Provincial District Council, Mattamy Homes, Menkes, Ontario Formwork Association, Silvercore, Tridel and Yorkwood.

Through its Open Door Program, Toronto is assisting the project with a $500,000 capital grant and waiving municipal fees and development charges.

“This was a must-do project for St. Clare’s. We are relieved to finally be through a two-year planning process and are grateful for the support of RESCON, Toronto Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, Councillor Joe Cressy and our very supportive neighbours, said Andrea Adam, St. Clare’s operations manager.

“I applaud the hard work and vision of St. Clare’s to make this innovative project a reality,” said Bailão, chairwoman of Toronto’s affordable housing committee. “St. Clare’s is a model that works. Their partnership-based approach has created new opportunities for those seeking a safe, clean, affordable place to call home.”

“Ensuring access to safe and affordable housing for all our friends and neighbours is critical,” Cressy added. “We have a housing crisis in our city, and the new affordable homes at 25 Leonard Avenue are a crucial and welcome addition to our community.”

According to Michele McMaster, affordable housing consultant of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, “CMHC has investigated St. Clare’s operating model and found it to be replicable and scalable. We are delighted that St. Clare’s is inspiring private developers, and we hope to encourage more in the future.”

“We chose to support this project because we believe the construction industry should give back. St. Clare,s is a caring and effective organization that we respect, and we know that they have the right leadership to steer this project to success, said RESCON chairman emeritus Phil Rubinoff.

This latest intensification of the site follows the award-winning 2006 addition of 26 apartments to the roof of the building at 25 Leonard.

St. Claire’s is a charitable foundation and landlord responsible for 413 rental units in five buildings across Toronto to help get the homeless and hard-to-house into their own home to give them privacy and dignity.

RESCON is the non-profit association that represents more than 200 of Ontario’s residential builders. Its members build highrise, midrise and lowrise homes, including rental apartments and social housing.



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Menkes unveils installation attributed to Banksy

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Menkes unveils installation attributed to Banksy

Menkes Developments, unveiled a public art installation in downtown Toronto on February 13, featuring a stencil attributed to the anonymous British artist Banksy, referred to as “Guard with Balloon Dog.”
Designed in the stenciled approach to graffiti art associated with works by Banksy, the piece was originally applied to the rear facade of the vacant building previously situated at 90 Harbour Street in May 2010, when Banksy visited Toronto following the release of his film, Exit Through the Gift Shop. The same weekend in May, six other works attributed to the artist appeared throughout the city.

In 2011, the Harbour Street property was purchased by Menkes for redevelopment and demolition of the building commenced. Aware of the Banksy work on the building’s facade, demolition crews were instructed to protect the panels of limestone on which the art was applied.  Subsequently, Menkes had the slabs removed, preserved and professionally restored in anticipation of finding a new home for the piece in the public realm.
“Banksy’s visit to Toronto was well documented, so we were aware of the presence of ‘Guard with Balloon Dog’ on the building when we began the process of purchasing the 90 Harbour property,” says Jared Menkes, vice president of the highrise residential division of Menkes. “As soon as we were able to do so, we took steps to protect the piece and were able to preserve and remove the slabs from the building during the demolition process.”

Art conservator Alexander Gabov of CSMO restores the Banksy piece, removing graffiti that was painted on it after the original Banksy was created. (Photo by Paul Casselman)

The 90 Harbour Street site was redeveloped into a mixed-use project encompassing two million square feet of residential and commercial space. The project features a 66- and 70-storey condominium tower, known as Harbour Plaza, and a 35-storey AAA commercial office building called One York, all situated on top of a four-storey retail podium directly connected to the PATH system.
Menkes sought to place the Banksy piece in a public space and eventually selected a location in the PATH network adjoining One York. The PATH is downtown Toronto’s pedestrian walkway network that spans 30 kilometres and features approximately 1,200 shops and services, as well as connections to all the major office towers in the financial core, major tourist and entertainment attractions, six subway stations and the Union Station railway terminal. The network is primarily underground but south of Union Station it moves above grade. As it crosses One York, the PATH is on the second floor on the north side of the project and this is where the Banksy installation is situated.

Restoration experts work to reassemble the Banksy piece following its removal from the building at 90 Harbour Street prior to its demolition. From left, forklift operator George Dickson, Matt Meagher of Museum Pros and structural engineer Ira Idzkowski of Torcon Canada. (Photo by Paul Casselman).

“This Banksy piece represents an exciting contribution to the public art landscape in Toronto and we wanted to reintroduce it to the public in a manner that was respectful to its origins,” Menkes said. “In 2015, we commissioned a limited design competition seeking ideas for its installation, and ultimately selected the concept proposed by Toronto-based designer Johnson Chou.”
Named “Speculum” (the Latin word meaning “an instrument to behold”), Chou’s proposal met the original objectives of both protecting the Banksy piece while displaying it in a publicly accessible way. It also included the creation of a companion piece, which would, according to the designer, serve as “a critique of the act of viewing art, that of an apparition of the original.”

Assistant conservator of CSMO Emily Ricketts applies finishing touches to the Banksy installa-tion in the PATH system at One York Street. (Photo by Paul Casselman)

“As an apparatus for viewing, “Speculum” is created to evoke the past, define views and movement and create an immersive and interpretive installation,” added Chou, noting that “as one walks west along the PATH, one sees “Speculum,” a mirrored, polished stainless steel cantilevered form that not only guides one past the underside of the escalator, but reflects what is to come around the corner.”
Around the corner, in the recess, sit the three limestone slabs containing the Banksy work in its raw form, extracted from the original building’s facade.
“The slabs are set off from the marble-clad wall that not only evokes the lobby and horizontality of the original building,” said Chou, “but draws passersby around to the back of the work, creating a space away from the flow of pedestrian traffic. This allows one to view an interpretative panel on the history of the building, at one’s leisure.”

Watching the curtain drop, from left designer Johnson Chou, Alan Menkes, Peter Menkes and Jared Menkes. (Photo by Paul Casselman)

The restoration of the Banksy, its re-installation, and the fabrication and installation are all part of a $2 million public art package included by Menkes in the Harbour Plaza/One York project.


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