Hume: The past is the future at Queen and Broadview

Published December 7th, 2012 by The Toronto Star

Mention Queen and Broadview and for most Torontonians what comes to mind would probably be Jilly’s, the venerable strip club and neighbourhood time warp.

Though it hasn’t changed in decades, everything else in the area has. Not so slowly but very surely, this east-end neighbourhood has undergone a top to bottom remake that, though incomplete, has already changed the dynamic of this long avoided part of town.

Interestingly, despite having endured many decades of indifference, the corner’s potential is enormous. Let’s face it, that’s because compared to 19th-century Torontonians, our city-building skills leave much to be desired.

The Ninety, 90 Broadview Ave.: This recently completed loft conversion on Broadview Ave. south of Queen St. E. continues a process of revitalization well underway in this part of the city.

Starting with an older masonry warehouse, the project’s architects had much of their work done for them before they started. Their job was to add to the structure and turn it into a place where people live. But the face of the building – its public aspect – was already there. Though the original building was no architectural wonder; it possessed an inherent sense of civic awareness.

The lowrise heap was lightened by horizontal rows of windows and a successful but unselfconscious relationship to the larger city. To this, architects have added a balcony-lined glass box lined with balconies. Much of the new construction is hidden behind the old building, thus minimizing the impact.

All things considered, the conversion demonstrates great restraint and obvious respect for its surroundings. It accepts a certain grittiness and doesn’t try to compensate with unnecessary glitz. Indeed, one can only be thankful that the project leaves the best elements of the building intact while improving the neighbourhood and bringing new life to a long neglected precinct.

At the same time, the advent of the Ninety will increase the pressure on the eyesores at the southwest corner of Queen and Broadview and the car dealership next door. They are blights on the landscape, but much of the 19th-century city still stands and will help keep Toronto from destroying itself as it hands itself over to developers without asking anything in return.

Grade: A

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