Welcome to Urbaneer.com’s October 2019 Home of the Month! This feature provides a snapshot of a property one of our Buyers recently purchased in the City of Toronto.
This month’s tale focuses specifically on the loft conversion located at 200 Clinton Street in Little Italy – located just north of College Street west of Bathurst. As a lover of unique urban spaces – and a career spanning 27 years in the Innovative Space market including the adaptive reuse conversion of several projects – I’ve had a lot of experience in the buying and selling of lofts which fall into two categories: hard and soft.
A Synopsis On The History Of Loft Living In Toronto
Traditionally, the original loft spaces were created by converting existing factory buildings into residential or live/work use. Essentially, the adaptive reuse of a structure – typically one constructed last century for commercial or industrial production, and built of brick and wood beam timbers or poured concrete – represents the historical roots of the loft market. Featuring open spaces with soaring ceilings and large factory windows, sweeping volumes of space provided a lofty quality to the units (hence the name) with more light and air flowing freely. The phenomenon began in New York and Paris, arriving in Toronto in the 1980s with the conversion of a handful of small factory buildings in residential neighbourhoods in the central core of the city. ‘Hard loft‘ spaces like this remain rare today, as there are only around 60 converted buildings, housing anywhere from a handful to several hundred units.
As demand for innovative spaces grew, developers in the 1990s began constructing condominium ‘lofts’. Incorporating high ceilings and large windows – to varying degrees of success – developers eagerly commodified the loft aesthetic, which has resulted in the creation of 60 ‘soft loft‘ condominiums, thus far. Being newly constructed, these buildings do not have the vintage qualities of the original loft conversions, but for those who gravitate toward a clean-lined minimalist aesthetic, they offer their own opportunities for modern living.
The Button Factory
I hold The Button Factory at 200 Clinton Street very close to my heart, as I led the sales & marketing program for this charming condominium of just 13 units back in 1993, prior to its conversion. I also resided in the complex for its first 18 years (my former living space in shown in the photo above!). One of the first factory conversions in the area (The Banquet Hall on Claremont and The Movie House on Euclid would be marketed and sold by me 2 to 3 years later), this Little Italy neighbourhood was only just beginning to transition into one of the City’s hippest spots in the mid 1990s. Cafe culture – including the beloved Bar Italia – was just beginning to be embraced by Torontonians well before Starbucks was on our radar, and the convivial Pool Hall – and its explosion as a popular destination for social engagement – was just taking root. Back then the neighbourhood was a domestic collection of cottages, row, semi-detached and detached houses ranging from working to merchant class in character and quality, and College Street – a street dominated by Italian shoe stores – had zero condominiums.
Originally operating as InduTex – a textile firm which manufactured uniforms – the project’s name came when one of the local resident’s shared with me that – in his youth – he and the neighbourhood kids called it ‘The Button Factory’. Why? Because every day after school – once they finished their homework at the factory lunch tables – their mothers would keep them occupied by each paying them a penny for every ten buttons they picked up off the floor until their workday ended. It’s the perfect namesake, as it honours the spirit of the building’s past and its rich history with the neighbourhood.
The original factory – which consisted of seven sections built over the span of nearly a century – and its driveways and loading docks underwent a significant transformation in its conversion into townhomes. The ribbon of space running down the south side of the building instantly cried out to be a mews walkway, and by slicing the factory vertically, it allowed each unit to have its own private entry, removing the need for common halls. The front driveway to the north was dedicated to onsite parking for the first five units, situated under expansive outdoor decks. An architecturally bland addition spanning the rear of the building on Jersey Avenue was demolished and replaced with a new three-storey addition containing 2 modern lofts over a shared secure garage containing six parking spaces. And on the north west side of the site, a substantial one-storey structure set back from the street that housed the loading docks and the large surface lot that the semi-trailors pulled into for deliveries, were also demolished. In their place, seven exclusive-use outdoor gardens (the original brick walls that wrap the gardens of Units 6, 7 and 8 are this original building’s footprint) and three surface parking spaces (of which the most northern spot is Guest Parking) were installed.
Initially offered as a custom design/build program, the 13 spacious 2 and 3 storey condominium loft townhouses, ranging in size from 1380 square feet to nearly 2500 square feet of interior living space, were offered as base shells, with the opportunity for buyers to custom upgrade their loft as part of the development program. Sold pre-construction while InduTex was still in operation, to instill a sense of community the first buyers collectively designed the mews walkway, choosing the lighting and paving stones (under the tutelage of designer Dan Nuttall) and deciding residents could have their own unique front door. This development program – implemented when the Toronto real estate market was still recovering from the 1989 crash – was geared to appeal to the three buyer profiles who were attracted to loft living. The first were Artists engaged in photography, sculpture, and painting, who gravitated to these spaces for their affordability, utility, light and ceiling height; the second were creative professionals operating in the fields of media, design, and fashion who desired live/work incubators for progressive, liberated self-expression; while the third were white collar professionals mostly in the fields of health care, finance, and technology who appreciated high-design, innovative architecture, and a commitment to living mise-en-scene. These groups – rejecting the status quo of the suburbs, the conformity of traditional housing, and the constrictions of standard materials and design – gravitated to loft living for its freedom from convention and as places for reinvention.
Because of the original design/build program – and the 23 years which have since passed – no two units are alike. They range in size, condition and quality, each tailored by successive residents to reflect their own self-expression, personal success, and aesthetic preferences. As a result, they’re incomparable, both to each other and to other Toronto loft properties, representing a unique custom point-of-view specific to each discerning resident.
I love The Button Factory’s mews walkway – which spans a length of 275 feet from Clinton Street to Jersey Avenue. Gated and secured by passcode for security, Loft 6 has the rare and enviable benefit of being situated mid-block. It is from this private vantage point one can witness nature bloom, and hear some pretty bird song, devoid of traffic. From the second level, this unique aspect provides an unobstructed south-facing sun-drenched vista over the neighbouring Little Italy courtyards and gardens with their abundance of flowers and vegetable plantings, laundry lines and quirky sheds. And on the north-west side, floor-to-ceiling doors and glazing open to a private lush landscaped brick-walled courtyard, surrounded by neighbouring gardens, mature trees, the scent of barbecues and the laughter of children.
Consisting of two floor plates totaling around 1694 square feet with a private lush landscaped garden of nearly 200 square feet, this exemplary loft with secure exclusive-use garage and storage bay (with coded door and remote) has had a series of custom-designed built-ins and betterments that elevate this factory loft into a luxe – yet understated – zen den of urban living. On the first level, from the mews walkway one enters into a collection of articulated well-proportioned ‘zones for living’ accommodating specific yet flexible uses, while being aesthetically cohesive and visually arresting.
The well-proportioned open concept Entertainment Level is grounded by the vibrant hues of burnt orange and clay red found in the exposed rough brick walls and rustic wood-beam ceilings (2″x8″s on their sides) that rise eleven feet high. Anchoring each end of the space, the dining and lounge areas flank a gourmet kitchen with Kohler sink, quality stainless steel appliances including gas cooking, custom maple cabinetry, under-counter haolgen lighting, marble counters and a generous island topped in butcher block. Beside the kitchen is the two-storey stairwell topped by a custom 4-skylight pitched aperture. With ceiling heights soaring over 20 feet, this sun-drenched space offers excellent air circulation, as two of the remote-controlled rain-sensor skylights are operable (and all have built-in blinds). Thoughtfully designed, rustic plank floors, exposed metal ductwork, generous track lighting in metal conduit (all on dimmer switches) and modern ceiling fans imbue the loft aesthetic with modern convenience. Century-old vintage doors from Muskoka – one accessing a luxe powder room with custom vanity and Kohler sink – keep this loft firmly grounded with history without appearing contrived, while the expansive open plan nods to its factory past. With plenty of space for a grand piano, this artful environment breathes freely and unrestrained.
On the north exposure – which is flooded with afternoon sun until sunset – tall glass doors open to a private garden courtyard with stone pavers, brick walls, a cedar arbour and lush plantings. Beautifully lit with fairy lights (and a built-in water feature that could be revived), this garden oasis is stunning by day or by night, with an abundance of trees in the gardens beyond, nature sounds, and exquisite floral scents from neighbouring yards, including a mature flavourful cherry tree. This is where the superlative ‘Country Living In The City’ can truly be bestowed!
Up the wood stairs, the sun-filled landing – with office nook (alternatively the location for a future stair to a potential roof terrace) – splits the upper level of the loft into two zones of domestic bliss. This landing contains both laundry and utility closets with custom counters and/or shelving, located on either side of an exceptional Spa washroom. Luxuriously appointed – with features you may never have known you desired – including a generous rectangular sink with double faucets, Toto toilet, and heated stone floors – the oversized steam shower with built-in stone bench boasts an indulgent rain shower (the unit has excellent water pressure), aromatherapy diffusers and remote. Filtered with natural light through an expansive sliding frosted glass door, this sumptuous bathing oasis is ethereal, magical, and calming.
The second bedroom, currently used as a study, features a wall of exposed brick, a large south-facing ‘factory’ window overlooking the courtyard and neighbouring gardens and, as found across this level, the patina of original maple factory floors. Separated from the landing by movable acid etched panels, this private zone features a wall of custom walnut built-ins with European hardware and recessed halogen lighting, in addition to a second wall of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Flooded with natural light, this tranquil respite is perfect for kids, guests or your own home office.
On the north side, the master bedroom sanctuary – also separated by sliding panels of acid etched glass – offers escape from the ravages and stress of everyday living. Featuring generous proportions and pretty garden views – the space contains a collection of well-executed custom built-ins including a king-sized platform bed with walnut and metal art rail, two generous night tables each with 6 drawers topped in Calacatta marble, and a full wall of custom walnut wardrobes with double and single-hang bars and drawers. A deep Japanese-style Kohler soaking tub with bespoke plumbing, custom bevelled mirrors in solid walnut frames, hidden lighting and operable skylight (with remote and sunshade) offer a quiet place for contemplation and solitude.
Honouring the architectural integrity of the original factory while celebrating contemporary urban living in a coveted neighbourhood setting, this dual-level unique urban space exhibits all the character of a vintage factory loft, including exposed brick walls, soaring wood beamed ceilings and columns, plus original factory floors on the second level. The ultimate custom respite – I love the lush garden views, the deep soaking tub, and quality custom built-ins that unify the space, keeping it minimal, understated, with just the right amount of luxe.
See for yourself!
Don’t you love?!
Offered for $1,699,000, we represented both the sellers and buyers in Multiple Representation.
This property sold with a 1% discount on commission for $1,680,000!
Are you interested in Toronto Lofts?
Here are some of the lofts my team and I have recently sold:
Heaven Sent In Dufferin Grove’s Hepbourne Hall (Offered For $979,000, Sold $979,000)
A Heavenly Sanctuary In A Converted Riverdale Church (Offered For $949,000, Sold $921,000)
A Fresh Factory Redux In The Historic Art Deco Forest Hill Lofts (Offered For $599,000, Sold $781,000)
July 2019 – Home of the Month – Century Lofts In Moss Park (Offered For $563,000, Sold $535,000)
Concrete ‘N Cool In River City, Corktown (Offered For $439,000, Sold $446,000)
Here are some of my posts on the Toronto Loft Market:
Are you, or someone you love, considering a Toronto real estate purchase?
Here’s a step by step summary of how I analyze listings of merit for my clients, including the preparation and delivery of our comprehensive due diligence packages for every property our Buyers identify as a possibility:
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Thanks for reading!
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-8000
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