Tower Renewal Panel at Innis College

On December 11, 2012, Toronto’s Tower Renewal Office hosted a panel that brought together leading Toronto participants in the Tower Renewal program, including ERA’s Graeme Stewart, with Keynote speaker Dr. Rebecca Leshinsky. A professor of law, Dr. Leshinsky has conducted research on the sustainable retrofit of apartment buildings in Melbourne and the State of Victoria in Australia.

Dr. Leshinsky noted that Toronto and Melbourne share opportunities related to Tower Renewal. Her research relates to the legal and governance mechanisms that present barriers for uptake of retrofits, yet provide avenues for reform. Victoria’s regulations (which are similar to Toronto’s condominium regulations) makes decision-making on building-wide issues a challenge. Dr. Leshinsky recommends better information tools for understanding and communicating retrofit opportunities and legislative reform to empower owners and community members to instigate change.


United Way Toronto: Imagine a City

This autumn, United Way’s Imagine a City blog is hosting a series of guest writers to discuss a number of important programs related to Toronto’s future as a livable city.

ERA’s Graeme Stewart and United Way Toronto CEO Susan McIsaac blogged about their collaborative work on Tower Neighbourhood Renewal; working to build healthier, happier tower neighbourhoods through research; advocacy; policy change and direct investment that can bring new life to these communities.

To read the full blog post, please see the United Way’s Imagine a City.


Toronto Zoning Reform to Empower Apartment Neighbourhoods

As part of ongoing work on Tower Neighbourhood Renewal, the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) has been working with partners United Way Toronto and the City of Toronto to establish a new approach to zoning that will enable Toronto’s hundreds of Apartment Neighbourhoods to emerge as more complete and better-served communities.

This work has recently taken a significant step forward, as Toronto’s Planning and Growth Management Committee has endorsed a new zoning category: the “Apartment Residential Commercial” Zone (RAC), developed by the City of Toronto’s Zoning Division in partnership with CUG+R and United Way Toronto this past summer.


Visualizations: Toward Healthy Apartment Neighbourhoods

As part of the recent reports developed for United Way Toronto and Toronto Public Health, a series of diagrams were developed illustrating the use of various strategies for more healthy and better served communities at the small, intermediate and larger scales.

These reports, Toward Healthy Apartment Neighbourhoods, and A New Approach to Zoning in Apartment Neighbourhoods, discuss thirty-one strategies for healthy and vibrant communities, and the policy and zoning framework for their realization.


New Report from CUG+R and United Way Toronto: Strong Neighbourhoods and Complete Communities: A New Approach to Zoning for Apartment Neighbourhoods

As a follow up to the findings of Poverty by Postal Code 2: Vertical Poverty, the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) and United Way Toronto are pleased to release a new report entitled Strong Neighbourhoods and Complete Communities: A New Approach to Zoning for Apartment Neighbourhoods.

Download the full report.

The aim of this report is to identify existing policy barriers and consider policy alternatives to enable Toronto’s hundreds of apartment neighbourhoods to reach their potential as healthy, vibrant, and more complete communities.


New Report from CUG+R and Toronto Public Health: Toward Healthy Apartment Neighbourhoods

The Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) and Toronto Public Health are pleased to release Toward Healthy Apartment Neighbourhoods: A Healthy Toronto by Design Report.

Download the full report.

As part of the ongoing work related to Tower Neighbourhood Renewal, this report was commissioned by Toronto Public Health in 2011 to examine design tools for improved community health outcomes in Toronto’s hundreds of apartment neighbourhoods.

As has been demonstrated in numerous previous studies, growing poverty is linked to poor health outcomes in Toronto’s inner suburbs, particularly its apartment neighbourhoods. This new study illustrates how public health objectives can be achieved through strategies specific to the unique urban geography and demographics of apartment neighbourhoods.

To assess the opportunities of apartment neighbourhoods, this report utilizes the following themes, developed from the Toronto Public Health report Healthy Toronto by Design (2011), and applies them to the apartment neighbourhood context:

Using these health themes, thirty-one strategies and design opportunities have been developed. Many of these strategies are relatively straightforward, others more complicated. In the hands of a range of stakeholders, from residents and property owners to City staff, they provide strategic direction for the investment and action required to build better served, healthier, and more complete communities moving forward.

The report also assesses the relationship of each strategy to current policies in the Toronto Official Plan and Zoning By-Laws. This assessment clearly shows which strategies can be achieved in the short term and which policy barriers need to be addressed in the long term to achieve a full range of health benefits.

Map: Post-War Apartment Towers + Areas of High Incidence of Diabetes Across Toronto.


Construction and river valley tour, East Scarborough

Photos: Holly Pagnacco

Progress on the East Scarborough Storefront’s (ESS) soon-to-be grapevine pergola is running on time. We have just completed some 50 trellis modules which will form the roof structure for the grapevines to grow on. The youth spent weeks building these modules and have become confident measuring and cutting wood, along with many other skills.

As part of this ongoing learning process, our youth landscapers recently presented on the transformations the community could expect at ESS, including the pergola and deck, which the team has been working on since early July. Participants were surprised and inspired to see the impressive projects community youth are working on.


Construction begins at the Storefront

Over the past couple of years, ERA has been working with The East Scarborough Storefront (ESS) on the Community Design Initiative (CDI), where Scarborough youth are educated in architecture and design by mentors from ERA, Sustainable.TO, and ArchiTEXT. In the current phase, we are working to bring more shade and plant life to the site. This will include several garden and landscape features, a pergola structure for grapevines, and a green-roof pavilion known as the Sky-o-swale.

Beginning earlier in July, five youth from the Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park community, who have cumulatively dedicated hundreds of hours to the CDI program, were hired by the ESS for a five-week period to physically build an exterior deck for public use (located under the Sky-o-swale), as well as 50 trellis modules that will form the roof structure for the grapevine pergola.


United Way AGM: Graeme Stewart’s Keynote Address

On Thursday, June 21, ERA’s Graeme Stewart addresses a crowd of 400 community leaders as keynote speaker at the United Way’s 2012 AGM. In 2010, ERA and CUG+R published Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which looks at a broad range of historical trends, planning issues, sustainability concerns, social needs, and opportunity for…


Miles Glendinning, Tower Blocks and Toronto

In May 2012, ERA hosted Miles Glendinning of the University of Edinburgh for a research tour of Toronto’s modern tower blocks and a public lecture at the Arts and Letters Club entitled “Hundred Year’s War: A Century of Mass Housing ‘Campaigns’ Around the World.”

Miles is director of the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies and chair of Docomomo International Committee on Urbanism. He is the author of several books including Architecture’s Evil Empire (Reaktion, 2010), a concise history of modern architecture from the late 19th century onwards and a candid look at the development of architectural practice at the turn of the 21st Century. He is also the co-author of Tower Block (Yale University Press, 1994), a definitive text on post-war mass housing in the UK, and continues to research, catalogue and advocate for the preservation of tower blocks globally, from Rio, to Tallinn, to Singapore.


East Scarborough Storefront: Update

As we have mentioned previously on this blog, ERA Architects is collaborating with ArchiTEXT and Sustainable.TO on the exciting Community.Design.Initiative at the East Scarborough Storefront. The East Scarborough Storefront is a key community agency hub and service agency in an Apartment Neighbourhood in East Scarborough.  Over the course of an intensive 19-week mentorship semester we worked with community youth on the design new features as part of the Storefront’s ongoing renewal, including a kitchen garden and patio, a unique green-roof pavilion, a bee and butterfly garden, and a small orchard. Summer and fall 2012 will see further collaboration with the community as we move toward construction of this dynamic new environment.


Apartment Infill in Toronto: A Ten Year Review

Map displaying location of infill development within Apartment Tower properties (red); additional Apartment Tower properties (blue); existing and planned rapid transit; and CMHC rent zones (shades of grey).

In March 2012, the City of Toronto released the report Apartment Infill in Toronto: A Ten Year Review.

This study examines Apartment Tower sites where new residential and mixed-use development has taken place, or is planned to take place, within their properties.

The report has found 39 such examples across the city.  These cases were cataloged by their location, number of built or proposed units, tenure (condo or rental), and finally whether infill projects were developed as private market housing, private affordable housing, or Toronto Community Public Housing.


Metro Morning on Tower Renewal

Matt Galloway with Priti from the NBF’s HIGHRISE, Image Courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada This week the CBC’s Metro Morning has made its way up to the Kipling Towers Neighbourhood, north of Finch, to talk Tower Renewal on location. On Wednesday February 15th, ERA’s Graeme Stewart will appear for an interview on…


Concrete Ideas: Material to Shape a City

The book Concrete Ideas: Material to Shape a City was launched in January, 2012. Edited by Pina Petricone, the book considers new approaches to concrete architecture by exploring a variety of new technologies and possibilities for the material. First introduced by Pina’s article in Concrete Toronto, the book is a compilation of ideas, articles and…


One Millionth Tower Launch, Azure Best of 2011, and Invading the TTC

It’s been a busy month for the One Millionth Tower.

First launched in Toronto at the Kipling Towers in early December, the project premiered to the City at large at a packed Gladstone Hotel later that week.  Following presentations of the films and panel discussion, the evening highlight was a solo performance by Kipling resident and 1MT performer Jamal. An article on the event by Marcus Gee in the Globe and Mail can be found here.

In late December AZURE magazine named the One Millionth Tower one of their seven favourite things of 2011.

Images courtesy of The National Film Board of Canada

And in January 2012 the One Millionth Tower will be flooding the TTC, with billboards and video clips found at a platform near you. For more images and information, visit the NFB HIGHRISE Blog here.

Congratulations to everyone once again for their phenomenal work on the 1MT.

For more about the One Millionth Tower, visit the NFB’s HIGHRISE at

More images of the Gladstone launch below:

Photograph courtesy of The National Film Board of Canada


NFB’s One Millionth Tower

Above images by ERA and NFB with top right photograph by Jaime Hogge, courtesy of The National Film Board of Canada

For over a year, ERA and the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal (CUG+R) have been working with the NFB on their remarkable HIGHRISE documentary series directed by Kat Cizek.

The series examines the current conditions and future potential of post-war high-rise living around the world. Features have included the One Thousandth Tower, Out My Window, and most recently the One Millionth Tower.

F0r the One Millionth Tower, the team worked with residents of the Kipling Towers Neighbourhood in North West Toronto, to understand the opportunities and challenges of the neighbourhood, and to dream big about the neighbourhood’s future. These ideas were then interpreted and brought to life by animators, web designers and the residents themselves.

The  project includes a series of  documentaries including the main feature – an experimental interactive documentary, as well as “Imagine“, documenting the collaborative production process, and “Living Proof“, showcasing international examples of Tower Renewal that ERA and CUG+R have toured over the years. These docs can be viewed below:




Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in APT International

An article examining the development and progress of Tower Renewal can be found in the summer edition of the International Journal for the Association for Preservation Technology (APT). From the introduction: In 2008 the City of Toronto initiated its Tower Neighborhood Renewal program. The program looks at the significant impact of post–World War II construction…


North York Modern in the Standard

The Toronto Standard discusses North York’s emergence as a ‘modernist heritage hub.’ To view the full article click here.

Take a look at our previous post + full publication of ‘North York’s Modernist Architecture Revisited’ by ERA here.

East Scarborough Storefront

Community Design – Image courtesy of Expect Theatre / Spark Productions

The East Scarborough Storefront is a community agency offering multiple services in a tower neighbourhood in East Scarborough.  Containing a community kitchen and garden, market, resource centre and access point to over 50 different agencies such as job search support and literacy service, the East Scarbourough Storefront is a significant asset to Toronto. To expand its reach, the Storefront is currently undergoing a long term community lead expansion and revitalization strategy.

Over the past several years, ERA has been aiding the Storefront in this process,  in collaboration with  Sustainable.TO, ArchiTEXT, LoCALe, the Tower Renewal Office at the City of Toronto, and a group of vibrant and active community youth.

A recent article in the Summer 2011 issue of Sustainable Builder Magazine showcasing this ongoing work can be found here, or downloaded in PDF format here.


Kipling Community Build

In July, ERA got into the building spirit as part of the Tower Renewal project at the Kipling Towers in North Etobicoke.

Kipling Towers is one of the City’s great apartment neighbourhoods, with a cluster of nineteen towers perched along the western bank of the Humber River. Previous posts with more information about the neighbourhood can be found here.

ERA has been involved in the neighborhood since 2007 in partnership with the City of Toronto, Jane’s Walk , the National Film Board and the United Way; working with residents to plan a vision for the future.

During this period, several workshops have been held with the community, hosted by ERA, the City of Toronto, Jane’s Walk and an ongoing collaborative process with the National Film Board as part of their remarkable HIGHRISE documentary initiative. A recently published report of one such workshop hosted by the City and DIAC in late 2010 can be downloaded here.


Tower Neighbourhood Renewal Symposium 2011

The second Tower Neighbourhood Renewal symposium, presented by ERA Architects, the University of Toronto Cities Centre, and the Tower Renewal Office, was held in May 2011, in conjunction with the annual Toronto the Good party.

The symposium featured a broad range of international and local speakers, a panel discussion and a poster expo that continued into the party. The following post outlines the day’s events, and provides links to download much of the presented material.

The aim of the symposium was to showcase the wide range of research and initiatives currently taking place, and create a forum for the communication of ideas between the groups as the initiative moves forward.  The symposium was a rousing success, attracting the attention of not just professionals from the field, but the public at large, with the event filled to capacity, and over 100 people listening from outside – our apologies.

The Speakers:

…“Toronto[‘s] Tower Renewal Programme is one of the leading city retrofit and regeneration projects in the world. The objective, to relieve urban poverty through improved accessibility, job creation and improved local quality of life whilst reducing greenhouse gas emissions, is an inspirational model”…

_Peter Head
Director of  Global Planing, Arup | Chairman, Institute for Sustainability


Design Research: Mixed-Use Growth – Update

This Option Studio focused on a site at Sheppard and Don Mills, typical of Toronto’s inner suburbs, with its distinctive clusters of high-rise residential buildings erected in the period of the 1950’s through the 1970’s. The goal of this studio was to investigate the potential of apartment tower sites to emerge as more liveable and sustainable communities, with a specific emphasis on built form. For more information on the site please see our previous post on the studio.

The studio operated under the assumption that existing buildings on site would be retrofit in accordance with previous tower renewal propositions. As such the focus of the studio shifted to re-conceptualizations of site planning, and to the design of new buildings erected on site, thereby increasing both the population density and availability of services and amenities.

The project brief was ambitious in calling for the addition of over 1000 new housing units, as well as increased community services, shops and family amenities within the existing property boundaries.

Scheme proposed by Brendan Whitsitt.

Scheme proposed by Stephen Ng.


Learning from Europe

Over the past several years, the Tower Renewal team at ERA and CUG+R have conducted a series of study tours throughout the European Union, visiting numerous cities and neighbourhoods, and meeting with local experts to learn about best practices in tower refurbishment and neighbourhood revitalization. Many of these findings have been compiled in the report Tower Neighbourhood Renewal in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, and its accompanying International Best Practice Research Highlight.

This past weekend, The Toronto Star featured highlights of this research as part of an ongoing series looking into the future opportunities of Toronto Community Housing. Featured in the article are selected best practices found throughout the EU related to social housing. These include:


Toronto the Good & Tower Renewal Symposium

Cities Centre, ERA Architects and the City of Toronto Tower Renewal Office are hosting the second Tower Neighbourhood Renewal Symposium on May 12, 2011 from 1- 5pm at U of T’s Hart House. The Symposium is being held in conjunction with the annual Toronto the Good Party, which will begin immediately following the symposium.

The second symposium will consist of a plenary session with international and local speakers, a panel discussion and a poster expo in the Great Hall showcasing regional Tower Renewal projects and research.  The aim of the symposium is to showcase the wide range of research and initiatives related to Tower Renewal in a visual format, and provide a venue for those engaged in these initiatives to network, compare notes, and collaborate.

International speakers will include Peter Head, Chairmen of Global Planning for Arup, and Prof. Frank Wassenberg, a Senior Researcher with TU Delft and the Hague’s Nicis Institute in the Netherlands. Headquartered in London, Peter Head leads regional sustainability projects throughout the world, and has lent his expertise to Toronto’s Tower Renewal Project.  Prof. Wassenberg is an expert in urban renewal and governance, with specific expertise in the large Tower Renewal initiative in Amsterdam’s Bijlmermeer Neighbourhood.


Toronto Standard Q&A

The Toronto Standard launched this week with a Q&A with ERA’s Graeme Stewart, covering the Tower Neighbourhood Renewal initiative, Concrete Toronto, and the city in general. The article can be found here. The Toronto Standard is a daily digital briefing on the life of the city, covering urban affairs, business, technology, culture and design —…


How Many Towers in Your Ward?

Towers x Wards. Ward number (blue), Number of Towers 5 – 50 storeys (in red box).

The Greater Toronto Region contains 1,925 post-war Apartment Towers of eight to fifty storeys, as well as an additional 1,155 post-war apartments five to seven storeys, totalling 3,080 high-rise apartments built in the post-war boom.

This remarkable number of buildings in the region is divided among its various municipalities. The majority, roughly 60%, are located in the City of Toronto, with other large clusters in Peel and Hamilton, and to a lesser degree, Kitchener – Waterloo, Oakville, Guelph, Burlington, and other municipalities throughout the region.

In Toronto, this large number is subject to another layer of division, not of municipal boundary, but rather Ward boundaries.

To better understand the relationship of Ward boundaries to Toronto’s post-war towers, a series of maps were created. These maps look at Wards by the number of towers eight to fifty storeys, five to fifty storeys, as well as examining the relationship between large groupings of towers, known as tower clusters, and Ward boundaries.