Berkeley Playing Fields

The Berkeley Playing Fields

City planners have nixed the Berkeley Playing Fields, a sustainable design meets Toronto condo development project. The striking and imaginative design would have offered a modern counterpoint to the historic Berkeley Church, which was to remain standing (and protected!) under the new building.

"Make no little plans," celebrated Chicago architect and planner Daniel Burnham once remarked, "they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized."

Apparently the opposite is true in Toronto, where un-magical condo after condo goes up - I can hardly tell one from another - and a stunning project like this only stirs the ire of city planners.

The project, which would have greatly improved Toronto's

Berkeley Playing Fields

LEED building status, will now have to go back to the drawing board. The city deems it too tall for the neighbourhood, disrespectful to the historic Wesleyan Methodist Church, and otherwise a blight on the quaint section of Queen East.

For me, the combination of stunning street appeal and ultra green architecture made this a project that both intrigued and excited me. It would have instantly made its stretch of Queen East a destination for Torontonians and tourists alike. Done right, the project would probably have been a model for North American, maybe even world, eco-minded housing developments.

And while that might be overstating the potential impact of a condo building that never got past development and planning, I find myself hugely disappointed that we won't see the sustainable residences, jazz club, putting green, pool, aviary, store or boutique hotel anytime soon.

The developer, Doug Wheler, said he was willing to work with the city to tweak his design, but not compromise the blending of the old (the church) and the new (sustainable condo). Now Wheler will focus on his events business at the church. "The Playing Fields is not a project I want to rush" the 70 year old Wheler said, "It'll be complete before I die."

I certainly hope so; this project stirs my blood.


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