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[Fairfield] The Zen condos (1121 Fort St.) | 4 storey condo | Built - completed in October 2011

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#1 Rob Randall

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 12:36 PM

This caught be by surprise. I'll try to describe it. It's between the Fort Building and an old mansion/rooming house. The Fort Building is the one-story complex that houses the B&E corner store on Fort and Cook as well as Kilshaw's and the Cherry Bank presentation centre. Currently, 1121 is a 1909 house with three apartments in good condition and a one-storey commercial extension to the sidewalk which brings it in line with the neighbouring streetwall. It was offered for sale recently for $1.1 million (see sales brochure and photos here [.pdf]).

The developer wants to demolish the house and commercial frontage and build a four storey condo.

Apparently, the zoning for the site means no public hearing or Design Panel is needed. Unfortunately, the building is right up to the lot line to the east so it presents a huge four storey blank wall facing the century-old houses beside it. I don't think this is a great place for a streetwall. And I'm on the record for supporting 1137 Meares just a block away which is a similar no-setback condo.

"[Randall's] aesthetic poll was more accurate than his political acumen"

-Tom Hawthorne, Toronto Globe and Mail


#2 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 12:45 PM

Did you look on the PDF/brochure at the map -- and notice how extremely narrow the lot is? It's even narrower than its immediate neighbours to the east (which also have older houses, mostly suite & business conversions, on them).

With a lot that narrow, it's going to be really tricky to build what the owners want without creating an ugly no-windows wall facing east. Any setting back or notching to create any kind of interest means losing half the site's width, it seems...
When you buy a game, you buy the rules. Play happens in the space between the rules.

#3 Kapten Kapsell

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 01:38 PM

Wow... I know two residents of 1121 Fort. I think that tenants in apartment buildings undergoing a conversion to condos are given an initial right to purchase condos in the new development under a 'first right of refusal'. Would a similar situation apply if the house is torn down to make way for condos?

#4 Holden West

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 01:45 PM

I'm sure the developer would welcome the tenants back but who can wait two years while your home is being replaced. By the look of the photos in that pdf handout those apartments look like new. This is hardly a case of demolishing a slum house. In fact, if that commercial add-on were removed you could restore the exterior of that house and have a real architectural gem. Why target this place when there are so many true slum lots?
"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
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#5 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 04:54 PM

Any designs available to look at for this? Is there an architect associated with it?
When you buy a game, you buy the rules. Play happens in the space between the rules.

#6 Rob Randall

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 08:36 PM

Yes, I took a photo of the site today and tried to match it up with a screenshot I took this morning from the presentation at this morning's CotW meeting:

Today:



Proposed condo:



I looked over the photocopied blueprints but couldn't see an architect's name on them.

"[Randall's] aesthetic poll was more accurate than his political acumen"

-Tom Hawthorne, Toronto Globe and Mail


#7 G-Man

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 08:38 PM

I actually kind of like it.

#8 Nparker

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 08:42 PM

I've got a name for this one: The Generica.

#9 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 08:54 PM

@NParker: "The Generica" ... good one...

@Rob: thanks for the visual aid -- very helpful.

I looked over the photocopied blueprints but couldn't see an architect's name on them.

Hmm, some architectural / design savvy would help this one out, I think.

The older houses that continue up Fort on that side do have a lot of character. In terms of business viability, some of them are like those older houses on Amelia St.: occupied by lawyers offices, and some kind of alternative health thing (I think at least 2 of the ones on that side of Fort have lawyers' offices -- and the business occupancy pattern repeats across the street).

IOW, those old houses might well stay put for decades to come.

And in that case, it makes sense for this new development to present a much friendlier face eastward, toward those houses. As the proposal stands now, the abrupt and rebuffing east-face of the new (proposed) building is saying, "you're next!" to the old houses next door.

A good architect/ designer should do better...
When you buy a game, you buy the rules. Play happens in the space between the rules.

#10 Holden West

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 10:01 PM

But you can't have windows on a lot line, right?
"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009

#11 G-Man

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 06:32 AM

Correct Fire wall only.

#12 Zimquats

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 07:57 AM

Not exactly. If they spend the money, they can have windows with fire shutters concealed in the header. These shutters are then tied into the Fire Alarm system, so in the event of emergency these shutters automatically close, giving the wall it's required fire rating. This is certainly not inexpensive however.

#13 Baro

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 09:52 AM

Yep, the windows must be absolutely fail-safe. Many actually use a thin bit of metal with a low melting point that holds in place the shutters. If it gets too hot, the metal melts and the shutters come down.

Of course these are EXTREMELY expensive to include on such a wall. In addition neighbours will complain bitterly about the windows looking at their house as a privacy issue.

If the building has side windows people will complain about privacy and code issues. If it doesn't they will complain it's a boring ugly face.

It's very tough to design buildings like this on narrow lots at the edge between uses/densities. Normally a building like this would be fine as the city would have a clear vision that one day the whole street will have a lovely european styled wall to wall buildings forming a delightful streetwall. But in a case like this who knows if those buildings will go one day or not. If you put windows or a presentable face it's going to seem silly if a building then goes up next door, but if you put up a blank wall and nothing ever goes up it will look silly.

#14 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 09:55 AM

What if there were some staggered corners, so that narrow windows would face Fort?

I guess that would reduce the square footage, though -- and with the lot being so narrow already (only 40 feet, acc. to the PDF), they can't really afford to lose even an inch...?
When you buy a game, you buy the rules. Play happens in the space between the rules.

#15 Rob Randall

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 02:39 PM

Passed CotW this morning. Madoff was one of the minority voting against, saying there should be a generous setback from the sidewalk to respect the form of the neighbouring houses with their front yards. The developer says that would break the project.

"[Randall's] aesthetic poll was more accurate than his political acumen"

-Tom Hawthorne, Toronto Globe and Mail


#16 gumgum

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 03:29 PM

Don't the proponents of setbacks understand that they aren't good for anyone?

#17 aastra

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 03:54 PM

...there should be a generous setback from the sidewalk to respect the form of the neighbouring houses with their front yards


That's very interesting. Why is it that whenever we talk about setbacks, the folks who want big setbacks always claim the moral high ground?

Just look at this picture. There's no setback whatsoever from Cook Street all the way up to the eastern edge of the lot. Yes, the houses further up the street do indeed have setbacks. But why should their format necessarily triumph? Why are so many Victorians so willing to toss away the urban character of our downtown?

(That said, I don't really know if I'm much of a fan of this project.)



#18 Baro

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 04:21 PM

I think this is a situation where a green wall could really come in handy. Even just some climbing plants or bloody ivy.
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#19 Zimquats

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 09:48 PM

The dude in the blue car has NO idea how to parallell park.

#20 Rob Randall

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 11:14 PM

It's an awkward interface between two distinct forms, urban and residential (even if the residential is actually commercial).

I liked what Pam Madoff said today, that integrating urban form into a mainly residential neighbourhood with a lot of SFD-type housing calls for smart design and that merely covering the building in bricks or hardi-plank does not make it fit into neighbourhoods. She singled out the two newish North Park condos as good examples because they use modern materials and design (The Soho on Mason Street and The Urban on Quadra).

"[Randall's] aesthetic poll was more accurate than his political acumen"

-Tom Hawthorne, Toronto Globe and Mail


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