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A developer sees potential in Toronto’s orphaned lots

Adam Ochshorn and Gary Eisen, principals in the Toronto development firm Curated Properties, like thinking small.

The big-league housing providers routinely pass over downtown sites for the kind that interest Curated’s team – orphaned intervals in the urban grid, for instance, obsolete buildings the city wants to see preserved, lots tucked away in laneways. Their dream project, they told me last week, would be, not a skyscraper, but another overhaul of a machine-age factory into a compact townhouse grouping. (They already have one such transformation under way.)

But if Mr. Ochshorn and Mr. Eisen have preferred to work at intimate scales since 2009, when they founded Curated, some of the office’s multi-unit products have attracted outsized attention from this town’s fans and full-time observers of up-tempo architecture. A glance at what the developers have done suggests why.

Take Edition Richmond, for example. This 20-townhouse complex south of Queen Street West features attractively bold, crisp contemporary styling both outside (by Toronto architect Gianpiero A. Pugliese) and inside (by the Toronto-based international interior design firm of Cecconi Simone). The units, quite large enough for families with children, offer sensible but svelte housing options to 30-something, up-sizing graduates of the rabbit-warren towers who want it all – kids, space, chic and downtown living.

Curated Properties

Curated Properties

Curated Properties

They can also find style and family-sized suites, plus off-street quiet, at Curated’s new Lanehouse on Bartlett, which, like Edition Richmond, is on the city’s west side. Here, Gianpiero Pugliese has crafted 16 condos within and on top of a former boiler factory built in the 1880s, conserving (as the city wanted) the fabric and material sense of the old structure.

One of the few alleyway residential developments that Toronto’s planners have okayed recently, Lanehouse is to be cast in a manner Mr. Ochshorn calls “vintage industrial.” This involves, as you might imagine, leaving rough brick interior walls and structural steel exposed, and factoring in dramatically high ceilings and large windows. The price being asked for the larger of two units that remain unsold is just under $900,000.

Curated Properties

Curated Properties

Curated Properties

Curated’s most recent west-side project – called Dovercourt 455, which has not yet been approved by city authorities – is another salvage operation that will spare a decent (if dowdy) old building, this one near the intersection of Dovercourt Road and College Street. Only a few years ago, it would have been knocked down without a second thought. The 18,000-square foot structure, raised in 1958 to house municipal services and now to be leased out as office space, will be the two-storey podium under 12 two-level maisonettes – or “townhouses in the sky,” as Mr. Eisen calls them – fashioned by architect Roland Rom Colthoff, of Raw Design.

For the record: The suites range in area between 1,050 square feet (two bedrooms) up to 1,550 square feet (three bedrooms), and each unit comes furnished with a 75-square-foot balcony and a 250-square-foot roof terrace. Old houses without any architectural distinction and in need of serious renovation are on the market in this neighbourhood for between $800,000 to more than $1-million. For a price between $650,000 and $900,000, home-hunters of a mind to live near College Street can have a spot at Dovercourt 455 without mildew and dank basements – which sounds to me like good news.

Curated Properties

Viewed from the street, the ensemble of new apartments perched on the old platform will surely be less visually engaging than either Edition or Lanehouse. The 1958 lunchbucket-modern building, which I’m glad Curated plans to save, is very plain, and little can be done to spruce up its face. For its part, Mr. Rom Colthoff’s Correct boxy, flat-topped contemporary addition seems to have little (if anything) to do with the base. In renderings, the oblong containing the suites appears to have drifted down from the clouds and come to rest in this particular place for no reason at all.

Things may be sparkier on the inside. The townhouses are being laid out and outfitted by Toronto designers Kevin Chan and Samer Shaath, the sharply focused young duo also responsible for the striking interiors of Lanehouse on Bartlett. I haven’t seen illustrations of what they plan to do at Dovercourt 455, but if their previous work is anything to go on, it should be bright and definitely cool.

Curated Properties

This scheme should be seen as Curated’s latest effort to satisfy the small, niche-sized population of style-conscious young people who want to move up but stay downtown, and don’t want a house.

It isn’t the firm’s most imaginative gesture in this direction to date. But Curated Properties is serving a market that I hope will grow and flourish in the future, as Toronto becomes (as it should become, if only to stop the spread of suburbia) a city of high-density dwellers with big-city kids.

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