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The Toronto phenomenon known as Queen Street West hatched about 30 years ago. It was at about 1980 that art galleries, boutiques for the stylishly alienated urban young and chic, cheap restaurants and bars began to appear on the old skid row along Queen west of University Avenue. Since that long-past day, of course, the commercial revival of the once-shabby shopping street has swept out to the threshold of Parkdale and beyond.

Residential real estate developers caught up with this surge in the 1990s, and they've been moving with the trend ever since - transforming sturdy warehouses and other industrial buildings into condominium stacks, and putting up new blocks of (mostly) small condos for a (mostly) kid-free, first-time market.

The bulk of this recent activity, however, has occurred far west of the Queen Street renewal's birthplace between University and Spadina avenues. Developers and investors, it appears, have been daunted by high land prices there and, not least, by a vociferous citizens' group mobilized to defend the neighbourhood's dense Victorian fabric down to the last red brick.

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Daunted until now, that is.

With the launch in the next few weeks of the condo project known as 12° - I'll explain how it came by its curious name in a moment - this historic stretch of Queen Street will get its first important glimpse of inventive, high-density architectural modernism since the current Toronto real-estate boom began.

Designed by core architects's Sharp Centre. These precedents called for something out of the ordinary, whenever somebody got around to raising new condominium towers on the vivid stretch of Queen nearby. I'm not happy with what happens at street level but, in most other respects, core architects has met this architectural challenge with vision and verve.

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