palace arms

New design for condo replacing Palace Arms may be even worse than the first

Toronto residents have not been happy about the condo tower slated to replace the Palace Arms, a 130-year-old heritage building at the corner of King and Strachan Streets, which was initially to be turned into a modern, 16-storey, sailboat-looking structure awkwardly lodged behind the rooming house's original facade.

After some community feedback, the development proposal has thankfully just been revamped to include an all-new design, but the response so far is still not exactly positive.

The new exterior, care of Toronto's Sweeny&Co Architects and Enterprise Architects, is more congruent with the architecture of the original building, with less glass, a ton of red brick, and a more fitting standard quadrangle shape.

A few floors have also been knocked off, leaving the mixed-use condo at 13 storeys with 193 units rather than the original plan of 217, 33 of them bachelors, 119 of them one-bedrooms, 25 of them two-bedrooms, 10 three-bedrooms, three townhouses and three "live-work" spaces, with retail at grade and parking underground.

And though some may find the new renderings much better than the first round, others still take issue with them, and many find them even uglier for their half-assed attempt to harken to the building's history without fully committing.

Social media users have called the new design, which was only just publicized on Thursday, ambiguous and indecisive, among other things.

For some, the previous iteration's commitment to a modern design was better than this approach to accommodate the historic building by mixing and melding eras and styles in the new addition.

The original Romanesque Revival building at 950 King St. W. has long served as a rooming house for some of the city's most vulnerable men after its original tenure as a hotel and tavern.

It was put up for sale in 2014, and acquired in 2017 by Intentional Capital, which put a development application in for a condo complex on the 14,500 square-foot preserved historical property in spring 2018.

"While affordable to those of limited means, the dwelling rooms within the existing building do not provide a high-quality living environment," the application, which provides no solution for the building's late tenants, reads.

"Replacement of dwelling rooms with new dwelling rooms within a new condominium building would not result in a good living environment, as rooming houses require management with specialized experience in housing marginalized populations."

There is no timeline yet for the construction project, but given that it's yet another example of a Toronto landmark being converted into condos with little respect for its history, it is reasonable to expect that locals will never be happy with it, regardless of its final appearance.

Lead photo by

Sweeny&Co Architects

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