Feb. 25th, 2017

rfmcdonald: (cats)
Thursday, when I was walking west along College, I passed by TOT Cat Café (298 College Street, Toronto's only cat café. I had long been curious about the place, following the different fundraising efforts aiming to set up a cat café in Toronto starting a couple of years ago and then hearing last spring about the scandal when the Toronto Humane Society stopped supplying this cafe with cats for adoption (CBC, Toronto Star, Reddit). The sign outside showed that the cafe was still in operation, and promised. I needed some coffee and could enjoy something sweet, so why not go inside?

Art for sale


The cafe is organized as a sort of double enclosure, the cafe space surrounding the inner double-doored chamber open to the street where the cats reside.

Looking in

After I finished my enjoyable coffee and cheesecake, and being briefed on the rules, I passed inside. There were thirteen cats, I was told, most hiding in the carpeted cubby holes at the far end, but some spilling into bowls and on top of ladders in plain view. The cats--apparently sourced by Scarborough Bluffs Cat Relief, part of the effort to retrieve cats and other pets dumped at the Scarborough Bluffs--were available for adoption at a cost of $C 150 per cat. Posters listing the cats' names, ages, and availability were on the west wall, but the other people there were not paying close attention to those. They were looking at the cats.

Asleep


Looking


Catcave


Resting


Top of the ladder


Ensconced


Curled


Catbowl


Looking out


As far as I could tell, the cats seemed to be in good shape. The staff was clear in laying out the rules--no feeding, no poking, and so on--and the people in the cat enclosure with me obeyed these. The cats, for their parts, seemed both healthy and relaxed, comfortable enough with their environment to sleep and contented with being gazed at from afar. I left not feeling as if I had exploited the cats in an situation unsuited for them--the whole institution seemed to be working out.

Me and cat cafe #toronto #me #selfie #totthecatcafe #collegestreet #harbordvillage #kensingtonmarket
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  • Centauri Dreams looks at the SPECULOOS red dwarf observation program.

  • The Crux examines VX nerve agent, the chemical apparently used to assassinate the half-brother of North Korea's ruler.

  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of the inhabitants of the Tokyo night, like gangsters and prostitutes and drag queens.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money examines Donald Trump's tepid and belated denunciation of anti-Semitism.

  • Language Log looks at the story of the Wenzhounese, a Chinese group notable for its diaspora in Italy.

  • The LRB Blog looks at the by-elections in the British ridings of Stoke and Copeland and notes the problems of labour.

  • The Map Room Blog shares a post-Brexit map of the European Union with an independent Scotland.

  • Marginal Revolution reports that a border tax would be a poor idea for the United States and Mexico.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at the art of the medieval Tibetan kingdom of Guge.

  • Otto Pohl notes the 73rd anniversary of Stalin's deportation of the Chechens and the Ingush.

  • Supernova Condensate points out that Venus is actually the most Earth-like planet we know of. Why do we not explore it more?

  • Towleroad notes Depeche Mode's denunciation of the alt-right and Richard Spencer.

  • Whatever's John Scalzi considers the question of feeling empathy for horrible people.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the thousands of Russian citizens involved with ISIS and examines the militarization of Kaliningrad.

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Urban Toronto's Greg Lipinski reports that, on the northwest corner of Church and Wellesley, a tall tower will rise. How tall? The developers do not know. Right now, they are concentrated on the question of how to design the streetfront podium, the very base of the tower.

When One Properties purchased buildings at the northwest corner of Church and Wellesley, the very heart of Toronto's gay community, Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong Tam was ready to hear about another overly tall, dense, boxy development with very little regard to how it will be a benefit to the established community. When she asked One Properties to host a consultation meeting prior to them making a re-zoning application, she was shocked to learn that the developers did not want to proceed with only one meeting, but host three different "pre-app" meetings. This would allow members of the Church & Wellesley community to voice their thoughts and suggestions on how a project here could reach its full potential.

The ultimate vision of the development is to have a 4-storey, 18-metre-high podium, animated with fine grain retail at grade, and reflective of existing retailers in the Village. The podium would also be set-back from the street, allowing more room for pedestrians on the sidewalk, in addition to allowing for more sunlight. A boutique hotel would be on the third and fourth levels of the podium, while the second level would be dedicated to the community. A rental apartment tower would rise from the western side of the site; height scale and massing still to be determined.

A handful of notable firms are involved in this project. Renowned planner Ken Greenberg of Greenberg Consultants is acting as the facilitator for these meetings, while SvN Architects + Planners have been leading roundtable discussions. Claude Cormier & Associés have been chosen as the landscape design firm, with projects in Toronto including the new Berczy Park restoration, the parkette at the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville, and several more. Bousfields is tackling planning work, while Copenhagen's 3XN Architects has been chosen to lead the overall design.
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Urban Toronto's Stefan Novakovic describes plans to build a tower 98 storeys tall (!) on the southeast corner of Yonge and Gerrard.

Rising to an incredible 98 storeys, Toronto's—and Canada's—tallest building could be coming to the southeast corner of Yonge and Gerrard. Designed by New York's Kohn Pedersen Fox for Cresford Developments, the super-tall tower would feature a mix of retail, office uses, and residential space. The height? 343.9 metres.

With the developers now putting forward a submission to the City of Toronto, further details of the project are expected to be revealed in the coming weeks. Cresford announced a year ago now that a new building—YSL Residences—would be a new landmark development in Downtown Toronto. Now released, renderings depict a sleek, faintly sculptural form with a smooth, glassy exterior, free of balconies. Fronting the corner, the existing three-storey heritage building at Yonge and Gerrard would be maintained, with a small, angular podium volume rising above.

[. . .]

Located kitty-corner from the 78-storey Aura at College Park, which—for now—remains the country's tallest residential building, the development would add a declarative height peak to what could become one of Toronto's tallest communities. Immediately across Yonge Street, the Delta Hotel site is currently subject to another massive redevelopment plan, with Great Eagle Holdings' 'Chelsea Green' proposal calling for three architectsAlliance-designed high-rises, including two 88-storey towers, and a 49-storey building.


The architect's renderings are amazing.
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In The Globe and Mail, Marcus Gee writes about the import of the St. Lawrence Market, present on its current location for two centuries and hopefully here for a long while to come.

St. Lawrence Market is one of the two sites in Toronto (the other is nearby St. James Cathedral) that has been used for the same purpose since the city’s earliest days.

Generations of farmers, butchers and vegetable mongers have come down to lay out their wares. Generations of shoppers have come to fill their grocery bags. In a constantly changing city, that kind of continuity is rare and precious.

So when city hall decided to tear down and rebuild the newish market building on the north side of Front Street and replace it with something better, archeologists got a twinkle in their eyes. Here was a chance to explore the buried remnants of Toronto’s past, layer upon layer. At least five market structures have stood on the site. What traces would remain of all those years of busy commerce?

By luck, the site had never suffered a huge excavation. The ground was covered only by a layer of concrete, the floor of the modern, 1968 market building. After that structure was torn down last fall, crews got digging.

They haven’t found any priceless artifacts. They didn’t expect to. This was a market, not a pharaoh’s tomb. Instead, they found butchered bones, iron meat hooks, painted ceramics, a soda bottle and an 1852 Bank of Upper Canada half-penny token. More important, they found the remains of the various buildings of evolving style and size that stood there, each a marker of the city’s growth.
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blogTO's Derek Flack notes that 205 Yonge Street has been put up on the market for the initial asking price of $C 1.

One of Toronto's most beautiful buildings has hit the market for the grand sum of $1. Just don't expect the former Bank of Toronto at 205 Yonge St., to sell for anywhere near that price.

Designed by landmark Toronto architect E.J. Lennox in 1905, the bank was built in the neo-classical style with a remarkable domed roof, terrazzo floors, marble walls, and striking Corinthian columns that face Yonge Street.

It's one of two glorious old bank buildings that'll be injected with new life as the Massey Tower rises above them. Nearby 197 Yonge St. is also one of Toronto's iconic historical structures.

As for the listing price, it's basically an auction. Real estate agent Shawn Abramovitz argues that this pricing strategy also hints at the difficulty of putting a value on such a unique property.
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Torontoist's Stephanie DePetrillo describes a recent meeting about making Yonge Street more pedestrian-friendly.

It’s finally time for a “big, bold, and beautiful” plan for Yonge Street that would allocate large parts strictly for pedestrians.

At the Yonge Love meet-up Wednesday night, some big ideas were presented to a packed atrium at the Ryerson City Building Institute. The goal is to attract people back to the area with space for foot traffic, street-level shops, and a focus on making side streets and laneways more vibrant.

“Evolving cities need to go through this kind of a process,” said Jennifer Keesmaat, the chief planner for the City of Toronto. “Yonge Street is going to function in a very different way in the future than how it has functioned in the past and, as a result, the alignment of the street needs to shift and change.”

During the discussion, panellists weighed in on some tricky issues like safety and transportation, a potential pilot project along King Street, and failed attempts in the past to make Yonge Street pedestrian friendly. Even autonomous vehicles were brought up by a member of the crowd to add to the list of things to consider for a project this bold.

“It really feels like déjà vu all over again,” said urban designer Ken Greenberg, referring to the previous Yonge Street project that was kiboshed by City Council.
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The Globe and Mail's Alex Bozikovic really quite likes the proposed redevelopment of the area of Honest Ed's and Mirvish Village.

Mirvish Village is dead. Long live Mirvish Village. In the area near Honest Ed’s this week, workers had put up fences around a string of Victorian houses on Markham Street, preparing to gut them, while creatives assembled an “Art Maze” inside the old Honest Ed’s store for a festival and sendoff, An Honest Farewell, this weekend.

It’s the end of an age at Bloor and Bathurst Streets: the loveable shambles of Honest Ed’s is gone forever. But as this weekend’s events suggest, the past will continue to have a presence on the site.

The new development at Mirvish Village, after two years of conversation between developers Westbank, locals and the city, is inching closer to approval, with a new proposal submitted in January to the city. Westbank paid $72-million for the site, a big number, and yet the result is as good as private development gets in Toronto. It features meaningful preservation of heritage buildings, a serious sustainability agenda, and affordable housing – not to mention an architectural and leasing strategy geared at making the place as lively as possible, even a bit weird.

That’s all because the developers have been ready to engage in meaningful discussion: The city and the community have made this proposal better through talking and listening.

When the first Westbank proposal emerged in early 2015, “I think [the City of Toronto] were surprised by how much we were offering,” the main architect, Vancouver’s Gregory Henriquez, told me last week. “That’s how we deal in Vancouver: We come with our best offer.”
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Doug Alexander and Katia Dmitrieva write for Bloomberg about the statement by the Royal Bank of Canada's chief executive officer that Toronto's housing market needs to be slowed down like Vancouver's

Toronto may require measures to cool its red-hot housing market similar to moves taken in Vancouver if interest rates don’t increase, said Royal Bank of Canada Chief Executive Officer David McKay.

The head of Canada’s largest lender said Toronto housing is “running hot” and is fueled by a "concerning mix of drivers" that include lack of supply, continued low rates, rising foreign money and speculative activity. Similar circumstances in Vancouver prompted British Columbia’s government last year to impose a 15 percent tax on foreign buyers.

“In the absence of being able to use higher rates to reduce that, I do think we’re going to at some point have to consider similar measures to slow down the housing price growth," McKay said Friday in a telephone interview.

The comments from the bank CEO come as frustration grows over the unaffordability of properties in Canada’s biggest city. The average home price in Toronto jumped 22 percent in January from the previous year, the fifth straight month of gains topping 20 percent. Listings have dropped off, down by half from last year, squeezing prices further.

The CEOs of Canada’s other big banks last year called on the government to increase housing regulation amid skyrocketing prices in Vancouver and Toronto. National Bank of Canada CEO Louis Vachon said that minimum downpayments should return to 10 percent from 5 percent, while Bank of Nova Scotia head Brian Porter suggested his company was pulling back on mortgage lending due to concern about high home prices in those two cities.

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