A new condominium plan forgoes the usual party room amenity for a industrial-style, shared-space kitchen and large balconies for planting personal gardens.
In Toronto, where generic condos are sprouting like weeds, offering a unique and desirable lifestyle to attract urbanites requires ingenuity. One such mixed-use development may be on to something. The Plant, a 10-storey building near trendy Queen Street West, replaces the standard party room and pool amenities with an industrial kitchen for hosting ambitious dinner parties.
The communal kitchen, along with an adjacent 150-square-metre terrace, was conceived around the idea of micro-agriculture, which refers to farming on five acres or less. (Much less, in this case.) The idea isn’t new, but weaving vegetable growing and restaurant-grade cooking facilities right into a development plan is something that hasn’t been seen before. The overarching goal, says developer Alex Speigel, is for owners to participate in urban agriculture by taking a “terrace-to-table” approach. For container gardening, each of the 74 units has a larger-than-average balcony, wedge shaped to prevent upper balconies from casting a shadow on those below. In the shared kitchen, south-facing glazing provides light for shelving that will house potted herbs or seedlings. Outside, the terrace will have planters, which residents can claim for allotment gardening.
“Micro-agriculture really needs a number of things to support it,” says John Tong, whose design studio +tongtong is working on the plan along with Kohn Shnier Architects and SMV Architects. “So we are including a greenhouse and spaces for hydroponic terrace planters.”
Tong took cues from restaurants and cooking schools – places that are about coming together to learn and create something, as he puts it. He imagines the kitchen will be used for all kinds of food-related activities like cooking classes, canning, or potting plants with your neighbours.
What hasn’t been fully realized yet is how the space will actually be run; that will depend on the residents themselves. The project, which is slated for completion in 2019, is intended to encourage a sense of community, a notion that runs counter to the usual condo-living experience. The collaborative focus is more than a feel-good thought; it’s part of the Plant’s larger sustainability plan. Windmill Developments and Curated Properties are adopting a holistic approach to sustainability using the principles of One Planet Living as a guide. Similar to LEED certification, One Planet Living is an environmental initiative that goes beyond energy savings to touch on other areas of green living, including health, happiness, culture, community and local food.