With half the world’s population currently living in cities, pressure is mounting to maintain residential housing supply, while also reconnecting urban centres with nature. In Toronto, this pressure has manifested itself in a call to create more downtown greenspace and uncover important opportunities for urban food production. The City of Toronto has long identified residential condo development as a key opportunity for its urban agriculture initiatives.
Curated Properties‘ established history of development in the Queen West neighbourhood and Windmill Developments’ track record on sustainability come together to ensure societal and city development interests align at the former Dufflet Bakery site on Dovercourt.
While community gardens and rooftop gardens are not new to Toronto’s multi-residential communities, Jonathan Westeinde, CEO of Windmill, says there’s another layer of integration that can ensure the city’s ongoing condo boom ends up more green than grey.
“Being able to grow your own food where you live has always been how humans lived. It’s a recent North American phenomenon to identify food growth as something that takes place outside of the city centre,” says Westeinde. “As developers, our opportunity to address this misconception ultimately rests with the land we own and the projects we introduce.”
Windmill has teamed with Curated Properties on The Plant, a mixed-used community at Dovercourt and Sudbury. Rooted in sustainability and residential agriculture, the project will be developed on the original site of the Dufflet Bakery, one of Toronto’s popular food production brands. The new building is designed according to the same One Planet Living principles guiding Windmill’s Zibi project in Ottawa, with an extra emphasis on residential, urban agriculture.
Known for an ethos of density without disruption, The Plant is Curated Properties third project on Dovercourt. The firm specializes in sensitive, design-conscious development in some of Toronto’s most discerning neighbourhoods. With The Plant, Curated extends their ethos to embrace Windmill’s sophisticated approach to sustainability and social responsibility.
“The choices we make as developers dictate the lifestyle available to the people that live in our buildings. Urban living used to mean choosing between being a cool neighbourhood full of amenities or having enough land to cultivate a robust garden,” says Adam Ochshorn, partner at Curated Properties. “When you consider two-thirds of all humans will soon be city-dwellers, having to choose between an urban residence or the ability to comfortably grow your herbs and vegetables no longer makes sense.”
“It might seem extreme, but we oriented this entire project around our connection to food. It’s our guiding principle and the result is a building that lives and breathes and offers a better quality of life to the people who will live and work here,” adds Curated Properties partner Gary Eisen. “The Plant is a community that fits with the foodie culture that has come to define Queen West.”
The Plant will be a true, mixed-used community with ground floor retail and office spaces on the second floor. The intention is to recruit like-minded businesses and office tenants that will amplify The Plant’s dedication to sustainability and reinforce a project-wide lifestyle. One and two-story residential homes are dispersed throughout the building, with three and even four bedroom suites available.
Food-focused amenities include an internal greenhouse to cultivate seeds and act as a nursery for starting up plants. An industrial style kitchen designed to accommodate seasonal preparations of food products can also host social events.
Inside each suite, custom micro-garden beds for fresh herbs will be built into sidecars in the kitchen. Suites themselves are wide and shallow as opposed to the typical shoe box, maximizing sun exposure. Each unit will come with a terrace or balcony with ample space for plants, furniture and a barbeque. Outdoor space is optimized through an angular construction enabling sunlight to flow unimpeded into the suites.
“The balconies and terraces at The Plant are really more like an 8-storey porch,” explains Westeinde. “They have their own structure, with railings and lattices, as well as a thermal break. So not only are they large and spacious, but they’re orientated to work with the sun and encourage plant life to take hold.”
In keeping with the project’s local inspirations, interiors will be handled by +tongtong, who has also collaborated with Queen West staple The Drake. “We wanted to design the suites and common areas to incubate a community around food, agriculture and local ingredients. With The Plant we have accomplished terrace-to-table food production, and that’s just the start of it,” says lead designer John Tong.