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TIFF’s Festival Street Initiative Ennobles King Street in September

It’s happening again this September.  The 43rd annual Toronto International Film Festival is the fifth time the popular entertainment event will take its festivities to King Street.

TIFF at King Street and Peter Street - King Blue Condos

This year the street looks a little different; the media center at King and Peter now lies in the shadow of the nearly completed King Blue condos building at 355 King St W.  The forty-three story condominium  tower looms over the street, and this is just the beginning for what the future has in-store for King St, the noblest street in the downtown core.

TIFF media center at King and Peter Street

In partnership with the City of Toronto, TIFF once again hosted their Festival Street initiative on King Street West, and Premier Matrix photographers were there to capture the excitement on Opening Morning, Thursday 07 September 2018.

Festival Street at TIFF on King Street in Sept 2018

At the beginning and end of the walk, TIFF volunteers will gladly take pedestrian’s phones and make lovely selfies that are picture-perfect sharable moments for their social media channels.

Months ago, the city announced that once again King Street West between Spadina and University avenues will be closed from 5 a.m. Thursday Sept 7th, to 5 am on Monday September 10th.  All the shops and especially the restaurants on the street offered specials to draw in celebrities and movie lovers from across the city and province.

TIFF on King Street with King Blue condos in the background, La Fenice

In a press release sent out by the city, Coun. Michael Thompson (Ward 37 Scarborough Centre) shared the City’s growing appreciation for King street when he penned that, “As the leading public film festival in the world, TIFF has helped establish Toronto as an international film capital while Festival Street now attracts more than 150,000 annual visitors, resulting in a significant increase in visitor spending in the Entertainment District.

Condominium projects on Wellington Street to the south of King, and more towers on Richmond and Adelaide to the north of King confirm these streets have bright futures too. 543 Richmond Street is a very exciting project nestled between the conflicting cultures of King and Queen Stree and sales in this project will definitely be affected by its proximity to this pedestrian friendly Festival setting.

Air France ambassadors on King St W at Simcoe St. 07 Sept 2018

Visitors are also welcome to grab a drink at one of the extended patios, and there’s plenty of free things to line-up for all along the promenade. Below is a solid installation opposite Roy Thompson Hall in which Lorielle was giving away lipstick. The attraction also asked for each participant’s name and email address in connection with a prize giveaway of free TIFF movie tickets.  In this manner, the marketing attraction collected the contact information for thousands of would-be consumers living and working in the downtown core.

free makeup and SWAG at TIFF 2018 on King Street in downtown Toronto

There were also gourmet food trucks, and food giveaways at Simcoe St and University Ave.  Sabra Dipping Company LLC had people lining up down Simcoe Street to taste their Middle Eastern-style and other food products, including hummus, tzatziki dip, guacamole, and Mediterranean salsa.

lining up for free Humas at TIFF

TIFF is a popular film screening festival that engages more than 450,000 film lovers annually.Festival Street saw 150,000 visitors over its four day span, and was a driving force behind increased revenue for many local bars and restaurants.  This is a great way to cement the success of the King Street Pedestrian Pilot Project which is a new initiative to close the road to private automobiles.

Now the TTC had to close the thoroughfare to streetcars too, and the road closure affects streetcar service on the 504 King, 514 Cherry and 304 King night services. During the five-day festivities, Simcoe and John streets between King and Wellington streets will be closed as well.

Toronto Film Festival opening day on King Street 07 Sept 2018

But the TTC is actually a proud supporter of 2018 TIFF

Through their partnership, TIFF and the TTC help film loving riders get access to free TIFF movie tickets.  Street teams are set to distribute free Festival and TIFF Bell Lightbox tickets, culminating in a special TTC Free Screening at Roy Thomson Hall on Sunday September 9th 2018. The Festival event was open to all TTC riders; anyone with a valid Metropass or PRESTO card could get free entry into the spacious Roy Thompson Hall main screening room.

TIFF street festival on King St at University, 07 September 2018

There’s something for everyone on Festival Street.  Attendees can see vintage TIFF movies playing at screens along the way, or they can also listen to great music from Kayla Diamond and other up-and-coming talents on the Slaight Music Stage.  This is just the beginning for TIFF, Toronto and King Street.

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How New Condominiums on Queen Street Can Help it Stay Hip

Toronto today is starkly different from the sleepy, mid-sized city that existed just a few decades ago.  Affordable bungalows that were built on the edge of town in the nineteen seventies are now sitting on centrally located properties worth millions.  Subway and streetcar lines that used to serve the city adequately, are now congested and overcrowded with an expanding mass of commuters.

But the biggest difference can be seen looking out at Toronto’s skyline. Everywhere you look, from the lake shore all the way up to North York, luxury condominium towers have popped up on nearly every available plot of land, and some surprising developments are re purposing older buildings and using existing historic facades. See below, Waterworks at 505 Richmond St W (at Augusta Ave).

Waterworks condominium building on Richmond St at Augusta Ave

Situated perfectly between the pedestrian friendly King St and the culturally rich Queen St there are several interesting projects. Above we see Waterworks, but just 1/2 block west is 543 Richmond and 520 Richmond is happening across the street. These projects have a lot of interest because of their location.

The rapid increase in condominiums along Queen Street makes perfect sense; Toronto’s population has increased dramatically in the last decade and now more people then ever before need better places to live. As a result, condominium towers have become a staple of Toronto’s architecture.

While the thought of living in certain neighbourhoods in Toronto has always been more aspiration than practical for the average resident (hello Yorkville and Rosedale), Queen St blends rich and poor folks together, business people with the artists, students, and every one in between.

But this has left some people wondering, what happens when the urbanization of Queen St is complete?  And more importantly, what can we do to ensure that the culture, the residents, and the architecture that makes Queen street has today, that very thing that makes it cool, doesn’t fade away?

The architecture of the old buildings on Queen St. in Toronto

Grafhitti Alley in Toronto

A huge part of what makes Queen so cool is the atmosphere. While the diversity of the people walking and working and living on Queen certainly contributes to the laid-back vibe of the street, another one of the main factors is the architecture.  Graffiti Alley runs behind Queen St W and ends at Portland St.

Queen St culture creates economic boom in west central Toronto

Graffiti Alley is a good example of how Queen street is a mix of old and new.  There is now about a kilometer’s worth of wickedly independent art on the walls of varying quality. CBC Comedian Rick Mercer used the alley as backdrop for his famous weekly TV Rant (and other alleys farther along) for many years. The alley is still frequently being repainted, but of course each artist must now present a portfolio of previous works when they ask the permission of the building owners.

Queen Street is still pretty low-rise and low key. While the eOne building soars high above the rest of the neighbourhood at Queen and Peter, the quiet presence of the historic Campbell House and venerated music halls like the Rex and the Horseshoe Tavern used to anchor and foster the culture that manifests on the rest of the street.  And the cycle is complete with fancy shops.

Queen and Strachan - Starbucks is goneSee above the corner of Queen and Strachan is now so hip that even the Starbucks coffee shop on the corner wasn’t cool enough – its a Bailey Nelson retail store now.  These are super-fancy shops. While there’s certainly room to build more condominiums on the street, it’s important for Toronto to maintain the careful balancing act that exists between increasing the amount of living space available to residents while still protecting the cultural hipness of the venues, shops, and restaurants that make Queen St so unique in the first place.

Trinity Bellwoods park in TorontoTrinity Bellwoods Park extends the fancy shops and high value real estate right up to Shaw St which has become a north south bicycle thoroughfare and one which motorists are now beginning to avoid as the route is frustratingly slower due to the cyclists. The coolness remains on Queen St west past Ossington.Drake Hotel and Death and TaxesMoving farther west, The Drake Hotel, Death & Taxes bar on Beaconsfield, and The Gladstone Hotel on Gladstone Ave are all venues with good vibrations.  But this is a really sensitive area as many new condominiums have been built on the south side of this block, on Abell St.

new condos at Queen and Abel St in Toronto

The fact of the matter is, Toronto is more populated than ever. People need places to live and those places need to be centrally located. But there’s a way to create more living spaces for people without tearing down older buildings and replacing them with condo buildings that clutter up the skyline.

One of the best ways to do this is to regulate which condo proposals are approved by the city.  New housing developments approved by the city shouldn’t just blend in with the existing infrastructure, they should stand out and be works-of-art and unique in their own right.  Someday years in the future there should be activists eager to protect the building from the wrecking ball.

Unique architecture and a style of décor that’s visually appealing and offers something to engage the eye is just the beginning. From rooftop gardens to restaurants and cafes, the new condos on Queen should incorporate other experiences and culturally relevant ideas into their blueprints that are accessible to the public and that mesh well with the rest of the city.

Candy Factory Lofts and The Drake Hotel launched cool on Queen Street

In the year 1999, the Candy Factory Lofts project along with the relaunch of the Drake Hotel marked the beginning of the modern age of cool on Queen Street.  Both projects were difficult to accomplish and started the trend of making condos on Queen.  The white brick facade of the Candy Factory made it especially appealing to renovators and it stood out among numerous other rustic older buildings that are full of charm and character that could easily be converted into new living spaces. Right beside the Candy Factory, which is a legitimate Heritage building, is the Chocolate Factory which is a faux old building. The Chocolate Factory Lofts is a purpose-build five story condominium complex that borrows some design from its neighbour.

Chocolate Factory Lofts, Candy Factory on Queen St. W Toronto

Regardless of old or new buildings, an author could make the argument that these two condominiums really helped change the entire neighborhood for the better, and they helped transform what was perceived by the public as seedy and made it sensational.Candy Factory Lofts at Queen and Shaw in Toronto

CeDe Canady Company at 993 Queen Street West in Toronto in 1973The Candy Factory lofts at 993 Queen Street West are now considered one of the ideal living spaces in the city, epitomizing the lifestyle of West Queen West.  But back in 1999, it was difficult to get anyone on board with the redevelopment.

Although it was named after the candy factory that last occupied the space from 1963-1988 (Ce De Candy Co. – the makers of Rockets, a trick-or-treating staple every Halloween), the building’s history begins over a hundred years ago. The structure was originally erected in 1907 as a garment factory.

Ce De Candy Co. occupied the building for a quarter century before finding a new location in Mississauga in 1988. The building remained empty until the mid-1990s when a developer discovered the site and had the idea of converting the vacant space into a series of lofts inspired by the Tribeca neighbourhood in New York City.

inside lobby of 993 Queen Street West - Candy Factory LoftsBut without a solid plan in place, it seemed like the condo conversion would never happen.  This was a big building with over a dozen spacious units on each of the six floors. Issues ranging from financing woes to strife and acrimony among the partners plagued the project, but the building project was eventually completed in the year 2000.

The next major issue developers would face? Attracting investors and tenants. While potential buyers found the rich history, the character, and the overall aesthetic of the lofts incredibly appealing, they were hesitant to come to an agreement because the general vibe of the neighbourhood hadn’t quite caught up to the appeal of the building. West Queen West was still rather rundown and a little unsafe back in the early 2000s.

So, while the average buyer was wary of putting down the money to live in what used to be a dodgy neighbourhood, the psychologists, doctors, and other mental health professionals working at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) right down the street were quicker to see the benefits of living so close to work. Once they had purchased units, other buyers began putting in offers as well. But it still wasn’t enough.

What finally tipped the scales in the Candy Factory Lofts’ favour was police officers. In addition to the doctors and psychologists from CAMH purchasing property, local cops were another early adopter of the Candy Factory Lofts because they saw the appeal of the uniquely renovated industrial spaces and weren’t concerned about how shady the neighbourhood was. Any other potential buyers holding out were assuaged by the sight of police cars regularly parked out front and no longer felt concerned about their safety.  And now two decades later there are dozens of new restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops and thousands more residents.

While there is no parade or street festival for Queen Street West, it has just as much culture as College and Dundas St.  More importantly, it has undeniable national-level fashion credentials and that makes it a destination for Millennials inside the City of Toronto.  The stretch of fancy shops from Bathurst to Trinity Bellwoods park gives the street a new economic importance at City Hall.  Everyday and with every permit issued, urban planners and property developers foster this excitement for tourists who make their way east and west, while ensuring that the street still meets the needs of the locals.

Theatre Company on Queen StIn a city that’s rapidly becoming inaccessible for the average person to afford, Queen Street West is one of the rare neighbourhoods that houses people of every age, background, and income bracket. The diversity of occupants living and working on Queen Street provides the foundation for what makes it so cool, and that’s why it’s so vital to ensure there’s affordably priced housing for everyone.  See above the Summer Works Theatre Company which is pay-what-you-can but yet somehow has the funding to distribute an expensive program for free.

A little farther down the street however and we encounter the knife’s edge. At Queen and Dufferin there was once a business called the West End Food Coop but now, as of August 14th 2018 that is gone.

West End Food Coop closes on Queen St W at DufferinAbove is the Grand Closing of West End Food Coop at Queen and Dufferin. Not many photographers are around to capture the moment that the proprietor closes her shop forever.  The rent has gone up (doubled) and the business is being forced out by the landlord who has other plans for the space.

Gentrification is often the beginning of the end when it comes to taking formerly ‘cool’ neighbourhoods and stripping them of everything that makes them unique. While condos aren’t solely responsible for gentrification, they are a symptom of a bigger problem. Cultural homogeneity is the biggest threat to Queen Street’s cool factor, and we can already see it playing out in various neighbourhoods across Toronto from Parkdale and the Junction in the West to Regent Park and Leslieville in the East.

Dollarama is the end of cool on Queen Street.

the cool stops at Dollarama on Queen St condominiums

Queen street in particular has always been known for its high concentration of artists, musicians, performers, and other creative types; it’s no surprise, of course, that most of those struggling creators and ‘starving artists’ are not pulling in the kind of income needed to afford mortgage payments on a condo. Residents who used to be able to afford housing are being priced out to make way for those who can afford to spend thousands of dollars a month buying or renting a condo.

Parkdale in particular has been under a microscope lately as residents are being evicted from their homes but can’t afford to live anywhere else in the city; as a result, many of them are forced to relocate to cities in the suburbs surrounding Toronto.

City Hall needs to protect and foster the diversity of residents on Queen street because it’s that diversity that makes Queen so cool. Without an eclectic mixture of residents, Queen street will lose the catalyst responsible for its growth and its culture and it will risk stagnation and eventual decay.

Yes. Queen can absolutely still be cool with condos on every corner. The key is to ensure there’s a balancing act in place that respects the existing architecture, and the lower income residents and especially the artists who inspire and who are inspired by the Queen Street community.  Multi-purpose condo buildings and other visually appealing housing options can be used amplify and energize makes Queen Street West so unique.

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Elevator Advertising – Ad Networks Compete for Toronto Condos

Elevator advertising is not new, but today there’s a strong push to sign-up more buildings and secure new territory because of the increased value of the ad networks.  These unique media networks, which would probably prefer to be considered message delivery systems, are growing at exponential rates by offering property managers discount screens and free installation. Why?

How can these companies afford to practically give away their merchandise?

Visio Media in Toronto condo tower is captive audience - Tenant TV systemThe 18 inch flat screens now playing ads in thousands of elevators across Canada’s biggest urban centers represent just a fraction of an increasingly valuable closed-circuit broadcast TV network.  The system is emerging and getting lots of attention because it works!  The biggest players in the field are using programmatic messaging, allowing social media interaction and even using facial detection technology for measurement and dynamic ad delivery. That means that every unit is intelligent and responsive to its own immediate audience in real time. Visio Media flat screen ad network delivery system in condo tower elevator

Its a win / win for property managers and tenants as the ad network also carries other valuable information that makes ignoring the screen difficult.  When deployed in bank towers downtown, the system provides advertisers access to executive eyeballs, and even in condominium towers across the city it finds highly desirable and difficult-to-reach audience of affluent and influential urban consumers.

If you are sharing your elevator with a small screen, then it probably belongs to one of these four expanding elevator-media networks:

 

Captivate Network is among the oldest and most established elevator broadcasters; founded in 1997, Captivate now has a digital media company with a network of 12,000 high-resolution, flat-panel elevator and lobby displays in 1,800 premier office buildings across North America

Their marketing ascertains that Captivate’s in-office media provides entertaining content to 10+ million professionals during the workday from best-in-class providers. Captivate uses an intelligent ad delivery system that is very aware of local demographics, time of day and season when showing their advertisements to elevator occupants.

Here is their video wherein they outline their pitch to property managers.

 

VISIO Media

Visio Media has a nationwide network with buildings in Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.  This is what the company did with the money they received from an accelerator Accelerate Fund Invests in Visio Media in October 2017, and unlike Captivate which targets commercial properties, this Edmonton based startup is more focused on urban residential towers.

Visio Media’s Elev8 system strives to help businesses impact ready-to-spend urban residents with their advertisements, while enabling property managers’ communication with their residents.  Visio Media has the most technologically advanced elevator flat screen display network in the marketplace.  Each 18-inch screen mounted in the top corner, above the door in the car, has a tiny camera and software that scans shapes of faces and bodies of occupants to perceive certain determining factors. The data collected can include height, facial hair and face shape and these factors combined with others are used to determine gender and age. That information along with time of day and season are used to determine the best ads to display.  This ‘patented anonymous detection system’ is considered non-invasive photo recognition technology because none of the media is recorded; there is no record of the passengers in the car other than ridership stats. Below is the video from their website.

 

Pattison Onestop

Perhaps the most visible player in this space is Pattison OneStop and that’s because they have the deal to put 15″ elevator screens and 46″ lobby screens (the largest in the industry) above the subway platforms in three of Canada’s busiest cities.  Given this very auspicious and exclusive media broadcast space, they have evolved unique content which is a blend of real-time news, weather and entertainment programs that mirrors CP24 in some respects.  They focus on helping commuters and so traffic information and especially public transit delays are priority messaging on their screens. Their network has an estimated reach of 1.1 million across the country, and is available in seven urban markets: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.

When it comes to business towers and residential towers, Pattison systems are not found inside the building elevators like the first two competitors listed above, but rather they focus on the high traffic areas in front of the elevators.  They have partnerships with several high profile property management companies across the province; firms like Minto, Oxford and Homestead, plus their own sales force have grown their Ontario Residential Network to 680+ buildings. Here is their video,

 

MaxTV logo

MaxTV Media is the smallest and hungriest player on the scene; this local enterprise was born here in Toronto and is rapidly expanding by offering discount hardware and service in Brampton, Mississauga, North York, Vaughan, and Markham area condominiums.  MaxTV is building an ad network by promising to ‘evolve’ the old school tenants’ Interactive Digital Notice Boards.  What is that you might wonder?  If you lived in large condominium buildings in the 2000s you would have seen flat screen TVs used as message boards with line after line of updates posted by residents and staff.   MaxTV Media has evolved, or is evolving a better system of delivering notices. Their website boasts that their 1,089+ installations now reach 167,845 + Residents and have delivered 23,055+ Notices.  You can watch the MAX TV  video presentation online here.

Elevator Advertising is an ‘up and down’ business model.

Elevators are socially awkward environments where even the most confident and self-assured individuals tend to look at their feet and fidget with their keys.  Elevator advertisements give peoples’ eyes a welcome place to rest; riders can now intake visually rich and relevant information such as headlines and appealing images from the day’s news, stock quotes, and weather and clever advertisements.  For residents and business executives who can put their minutes in the elevator to better use, the screens are easily ignored, since they are small and often don’t emit any sound. But for most riders, the screens are highly effective instruments for information delivery.  Connecting these TVs together makes an effective ad messaging network, and that is the big prize that drives these companies forward and why they are offering Toronto area property managers such great deals today.

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CanEggs Protein Powder Photo Shoot in Luxury Toronto Condo

Last week we helped food and beauty professionals create health & wellness and luxury lifestyle stories to benefit all society simply by giving them access to one of our premium suites at King and Dufferin.  The condominium unit located at 38 Joe Shuster Way faces south and has a wide balcony with a fantastic view of Lake Ontario on the horizon and Lamport Stadium twenty stories below.

Lamport Stadium adds to the Walk Score of King and Dufferin

On the day these people gathered in the unit there just happened to be a historic rugby game being played in this open-air sports venue which has just recently been re-sodded and now appears a brilliant emerald green.  The Toronto Wolfpack rugby team pounced on the London Broncos and destroyed them with a clear and easy victory at home.  A tech company sponsor pegged the attendance at 7300+ people in the bleachers, but we know there were dozens more watching from balconies across the street. EmagTO’s article about the day focused primarily on CanEggs photo shoot and the people at our job site.

CanEggs condo photo shoot in Toronto, luxury lifestyle

Some of the guests at the photo shoot included Martin Dasko from Studenomics, a student finance blogger with a vast readership here Toronto and in colleges and universities south of the border.  Christina Paruag is the editor of FemEvolve health and wellness magazine.

Martin Dasko with Christina Paruag of FemEvolve magazine

The man seen below operating the blender is Sam Dhutia, founder and CEO of CanEggs Ltd which processes poultry eggs into a clean source of protein. The powder is made locally by spraying freshly cracked, mechanically separated chicken egg whites through a fine nozzle and then evaporating the moisture from the mist in midair using high efficiency drying ovens.

Sam Dhutia makes smoothies with egg white powder in luxury condo in Toronto

Let’s be clear there is nothing new about powdered eggs, and nobody ever claimed that dehydrated foods were healthier than fresh fare, but everything has its advantages.  Today, egg white powder is primarily used for baking pastries on an industrial scale. Fifty years ago, when the process was first perfected, powdered eggs only real demand were by the armed forces. Both Canadian and American WWII armed forces served powdered eggs, sometimes daily, to troops serving overseas and the meal was even more popular during the Korean conflict.  (There are over a dozen episodes of M.A.S.H. which show the kitchen-workers making and serving powdered eggs.)

What’s new? The industrial baking ingredient is now available online in 1kg and 2kg boxes online, and is finding new markets among muscle-builders and  and make-up artists alike.  Here’s Jennifer Turner of Modern Makeup who made a recipe for egg white powder face masks or beauty masks on her blog. She is applying the face mask to Alice Li – 2018 Miss World Ontario.
Jennifer Turner masks a beauty mask on Alice Li

At 4pm, timed to be hot & ready at the start of the rugby game, Amico’s Pizza delivered an Italian themed feast that included two different salads, six dozen BBQ chicken wings and two huge deluxe pizzas.  You can read all about the luxury condo photo shoot on Amico’s Pizza blog.  Here’s a great shot of Anna Belani the media producer getting a second slice.

Producer eats pizzaThe afternoon ended with the models wearing beauty masks and drinking egg white powder infused fruit smoothies on the balcony which was staged with Velago outdoor furniture for the occasion.  Below you can see Alice Li and her sister Kat Li are relaxing on their Ronco outdoor sofa which retails for approx $400 in their showroom.

Kat and Alice Li in Ronco outdoor sofa by Velago Patio Furniture

The idea was to show attractive young people enjoying the best things in life, twenty stories above the crowd.  The platform was perfect for people watching and the traffic snarls on King Street after the game ended reinforced the idea of escaping the commute by living in the core.

Trish and Jason and Alice Li with Sunbeam 6cup blenders

The afternoon ended with all participants getting a Sunbean 6-cup blender and one kg of CanEggs egg white powder with which they might experiment making smoothies and beauty masks themselves, in the comfort of their own homes.