New condo fulfils a vision in The Distillery District
A collection of 47 vacant Victorian industrial buildings between Parliament and Cherry Sts. has, over the past 20 years, evolved into The Distillery District — a favourite destination in Toronto. While its shops, galleries, restaurants and the annual Christmas Market have made the area popular with visitors, it has also evolved into a unique residential neighbourhood.
In 2008, the first condo building Pure Spirit was completed. The Goode, a 32-storey mixed-use condo project by Graywood Developments on one of the last parcels of land in The Distillery District, is possibly the last residential tower. As well as 540 suites, it will bring new retail, expand Distillery Lane and create a new “front door” along Parliament St.
In 2001, Cityscape Developments bought the buildings and property of the Gooderham & Worts distillery for $10 million from its British owners. The evolution from abandoned heritage factory site to vibrant neighbourhood was challenging. It was one of the largest historic restoration projects in Canada — at one point 300 woodworkers were employed to replicate original window frames, doors and trimwork and 600,000 bricks were hauled from Cleveland to lend authenticity to the pedestrian-only streets. That initial $10 million investment ballooned to $50 million-plus.
The Distillery District opened to the public in 2003; many of the old buildings were transformed into spaces occupied by coffee shops, restaurants, galleries, artists’ studios, retail stores and offices and the Young Centre for the Performing Arts opened there. Unlike most mixed-use developments, the retail and commercial sector came first.
The residential piece was the last missing piece, says Neil Pattison, senior vice-president, development at Graywood. “It was always a historic destination with arts and culture. The buildings themselves were attractions and people came for coffee at Balzac’s or chocolate at Soma or just to wander and people-watch.” Since the addition of condo buildings, The Distillery has become a 24-hour neighbourhood, he says. And while it was once considered to be an isolated community, now it’s the middle of a rapidly changing east-end landscape.
“You have the best of both worlds,” says Pattison. “You get to be in the centre of The Distillery with its unique character and in the middle of the exciting, once-in-a-generation changes in the downtown east.” Some of those changes include Cadillac Fairview’s East Harbour with housing, job opportunities and a new transit hub, the continuing development of the Port Lands, the naturalization of the Don River and the redevelopment of the Parliament Slip into a recreational destination. The Ontario Line expansion of the subway system will connect residents to 15.6 km of new subway line, including a new stop in Corktown less than a five-minute walk from The Goode.
As potentially the Distillery’s last condo, Pattison says 70 per cent of units sold in the first three weeks after it launched. He says buyers include empty nesters who enjoy having restaurants and cafes on their doorstep, people who work in the Financial District and can walk or bike to work, and families who want to raise their kids there. The Goode’s amenities have been planned to cater to various demographics, with a games room, pool with views of The Distillery, rooftop terrace, co-working area, fitness and yoga studios, pet wash, makers’ table and a room where parents can gather and watch their kids’ play. Residents will have views of the popular Christmas Market happening on the streets below.
Kirk Stratakos has been involved with the Distillery since the company he is managing partner for, Yummi Candles, opened a satellite store there. “On a nice morning, you’ll see an army of mothers pushing strollers, seniors walking around enjoying a coffee and a lot of suits on their way to work stopping into Balzac’s (coffee shop). You’ve got pretty much every demographic here.”
Stratakos enjoys the vibe. “I’m a coffee guy and drink half a dozen a day, and I’ll get Pilot Coffee from Arena (coffee bar) that’s a 20-second walk from our front door. I’ve eaten at all the restaurants and they are all very different,” he says. “I’m happy Scooped by Demetres (artisan ice creamery) opened up next door, but it’s a little dangerous that it’s so close by. On weekends, I’ll bring my young kids and walk the cobblestone streets and I love going into the Case Goods building with the independent artists’ and craftspeople’s studios.”
ArchitectsAlliance designed the first two condos in The Distillery District — Pure Spirit and Clear Spirit — and has designed The Goode, as well. Although The Distillery’s master plan was part of the city’s official plan, before designing Pure Spirit the architecture firm planned out the entire district to see how a substantial amount of density could be inserted.
The Distillery has a unique character with pedestrian lanes and public spaces woven together, with tight proportions between buildings, and is consistent in terms of pedestrian scale and masonry expression, explains Rob Cadeau, senior associate with architectsAlliance. He says it is important that new projects are planned and scaled to be harmonious with the existing structures.
“The end result is a vibrant neighbourhood where many people can live in this unique setting, local businesses can thrive and the vitality of the streets and squares of the district are given new life,” Cadeau says. He notes that the podiums of Distillery condo buildings have a “strong expression” of brick masonry to knit with the existing historical fabric and the glass point towers above minimize the visual impact, since the glass has a lighter appearance, and are also clearly distinguished from the brick buildings below.
Cadeau says The Goode is a further iteration of ideas that have proven successful in The Distillery, incorporating masonry and steel in a contemporary podium that pays homage to the Victorian character of the district. The condo will create new open public spaces along Distillery Lane and a new Mews laneway on its south frontage. The tower’s west face will incorporate a patterned glass façade while the other three sides feature a horizontal sandblasted-glass wraparound balcony design.
For the interior design, DesignAgency also took references from the site’s history with a contemporary spin, with dramatic black-and-white touches complemented with clean, modern materials with neutral palettes and pops of amber drawn from the Distillery’s glass and brick, with fresh yellow accents.
“The Distillery is really one of those rare personal experiences in the city,” says Cadeau. “It’s the interesting mix of new and old, well-proportioned streets, specialty shops and artisan boutiques and its vitality as a highly public place that makes it one of my favourite parts of the city.”
Location: 33 Parliament St., The Distillery District
Developer: Graywood Developments