Downtown at 508 Wellington West is an 11-storey infill condominium project that looks beyond current marketability and sales to the future life of the building, its community and its inhabitants. It incorporates innovations in flexibility that will allow the building to change over time, responding to the needs of its current and future owners. Beyond design, the zoning was amended and the condo legal documents were developed to allow for flexibility in use—commercial or residential—as well as flexibility in space configuration over the life of the building. The structural design, using a column system instead of the usual shear-walls, together with a raised floor system for plumbing, underpins the flexibility of the building to meet the future uses and space requirements of the building’s owners.
Client: Parallax Investments
Size: 11 storeys; 70,000 s.f.
Our Role: Architecture, Urban Design, Planning
Expertise: Flexible unit sizes, Stacked parking
Charcoal brick and sleek glass rise up 11-storeys above Wellington Street West. This residential condominium is home to all those with a “downtown” state of mind. In 89 units with flexible modern space and design, people are sleeping, eating, working, entertaining and socializing—feeding their appetite for the “downtown” life. Sunken principal areas create multi-level suites while floor-to-ceiling windows allow sweeping views of the city and a local park. French balconies blur the lines between outdoor and indoor space, and attention to small details, like sleek integrated cabinetry, plays off a decidedly downtown vibe.
A well-designed landscaped entrance creates a smooth transition from the tree-lined street. Within the building, an intimate lobby provides a unique point of entry and exit, as well as a spot for the friendly concierge, who takes care of day-to-day business. An outdoor terrace with barbeque becomes a social spot for dining al fresco. When the weather turns cold, residents move inside to the party room, equipped with a lounge, dining area, cocktail bar and flat screen TV.
Located at the heart of downtown Toronto and the trendy neighbourhood of King West Village, Downtown Condominium faces Victoria Memorial Park and has the view of the city’s downtown and Lake Ontario. The ground floor suites facing Wellington Street enjoy direct outdoor access. A deep band of landscaping in front brings tranquillity to the entry sequence while reinforcing the tree-lined promenade on Wellington Street West. On the exterior, a brick base creates a modern interpretation of the material history of the neighbourhood while the glass above provides a visually light backdrop. This strong base relates to the neighbours such as Bar Wellington, a local pub, eatery and heritage destination at the corner of Portland and Wellington streets. Parking is provided via parking stackers accessed from a rear lane on the ground floor.
Building sustainable neighbourhoods, the concept for this project provides a significantly better urban life opportunity as the project is a “machine for living” that can easily and very cost effectively be transformed to meet the occupant’s needs over time.
A buyer can purchase units of space, “legal condominium units”, and use them in a number of ways:
For example, the purchaser may own three units of space and have three independent suites: one to live in and two to rent; have two combined to form one larger suite to occupy and a smaller one to rent. Rental income allows the owner to buy two or three and grow into the additional suites over time as needed: start a family, take more space; kids leave, consolidate into a smaller space. Furthermore, as an owner builds equity in the property, they can earn income through the rental of suite(s) while remaining as occupants in a smaller portion should they not need as much space over time. Even if one can only afford one unit, there is the opportunity for them to buy one of the adjacent units in the future—remove the demising wall or simply add a door and live in the two units.
All this is possible by design. This building has no concrete shear walls, and, therefore, no concrete demising walls. All the loads/slabs are carried on concrete columns and exterior walls leaving open, flexible space. A significant portion of the area of the units/suites has a modular reconfigurable raised floor system which is 10” above the concrete slab. This allows owners to reconfigure the suite(s) in the future (including the plumbing) without penetrating the slab and suite below. Drains, traps, and plumbing are all in the raised floor. Access is accommodated to strategically-located plumbing risers—the occupants are able to move the shower, kitchen, etc. The raised floor area is only on the corridor/entry side of the suite, and therefore, the unit steps down into a sunken living area—kitchen, dining, living room, and bedrooms—with high ceilings.
This flexibility not only allows the owners/occupants to respond easily and cost effectively to real needs, but as importantly enables the owners to minimize risk relative to their investment. Demand for size and type of suite can change considerably over time. The units can be configured to respond to current market demand, and thereby minimize risk and maximize value.
Condominiums are typically designed to meet a unit mix established by realtors, responding to current market demands. Having flexibility in the unit types and sizes allows the building to respond to not only the current owner’s needs, but future changes in the neighbourhood as it matures and evolves. Furthermore, many condominiums are the result of developments that cater to a young and mobile community. Over time, these residents start a family or start a business that would necessitate more space. This could mean leaving the neighbourhood in search of more suitable accommodation. With a truly flexible condominium, building ghettoization is kept at bay. Unprecedented in Canada, Downtown Condominiums offers a viable alternative to the single-family home, minimizing car dependency, establishing a sense of pride and permanence in the community, and allowing all to enjoy a cost effective life in the City.
The flexibility of space requires particular design strategies. We employed state-of-the-art building technology platforms that are often used in office buildings and incorporated them in this residential development to ensure ultimate flexibility. The first element, borrowed from office buildings, is the structure. The floor plate of the condominium is supported on columns rather than via shear walls between units. This provides flexibility for removing or adding demising walls. The issue of reconfiguring plumbing is addressed through the addition of raised flooring. Ultimately all mechanical systems could be located in a raised floor system. The raised floor, together with strategically located plumbing risers allows the units to be reconfigured without impacting the ceiling space of the suite below.