Mixed-Use Development The Plant Raises Sustainability Bar and Takes on Urban Agriculture

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By Mario Toneguzzi

A unique mixed-use project in Toronto’s Queen Street West neighbourhood is raising the bar on sustainability and taking urban agriculture to a new level.

The Plant, a joint development between Windmill Development Group and Curated Properties, will be a 10-storey building with street front retail, second floor office space and eight residential condo floors. Construction will begin next week and completion is expected in the fall 2019.

“Windmill has been particularly known for its focus on sustainability. We’ve done probably the most sustainable buildings and communities in Canada, if not North America,” says Alex Speigel, partner with Windmill Development Group.

“The site has an interesting food history and also the area has a strong employment history. When we started the project we didn’t want to simply make another residential building but we really liked the idea of first of all being a mixed-use building and of it having some non-residential component. That’s the retail and the office. And second of all in addition to the sustainability features that we always build into our projects, we wanted to kind of the raise the bar even further on sustainability with an urban agriculture focus. Urban agriculture is a big part of the building.”

Speigel says the area was once an employment node with jobs in factories. But over time it became gentrified and turned into a much more residential neighbourhood.

The site also has a strong historical connection with food, having housed in the past Dufflet Bakeries and Real Food for Real Kids.

“We’re really focused on the theme of healthy living because the whole building is very sustainable, very healthy, focused on urban agriculture. So we’d really like to curate the tenants so they support and turn the whole building into kind of a vertical village. It epitomizes how you can live in a healthy way in an urban environment,” says Speigel.

The eight storeys of residential above the retail and office floors are set back from the podium. The third level has a large outdoor terrace with a community garden, amenities and a greenhouse.

The retail space is about 9,000 square feet and there is about 11,500 square feet for office space.

A total of 74 condo units were all sold very quickly after the sales launch in the Spring. Speigel says most of the units are two bedrooms with some three and four bedroom units. They have very large outdoor balconies which are designed so people can have gardens and plants where they can grow food.

The goal of the retail and office space is to support and enhance the rest of the building. Ideally for retail, Speigel says the developers are looking for independent brands focused on healthy living. The ideal mix would include a small food market with a bakery, cheese store and cafe; a bike store; a plant store; and a small restaurant.

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The building will also have a large communal kitchen where people can host dinners, do vegetable canning or have guests chefs for a party.

“It’s partially so people can grow food to feed themselves but  . . . it’s really a way of building community within the building because it gives people a chance to meet their neighbours. Urban agriculture is about community building. It’s about education as well as about growing food,” says Speigel of the concept.

To become a part of The Plant business community, register at theplantqueenwest.com or e-mail info@theplantqueenwest.com.

*Included in this article are photos from The Plant's retail and office launch party which took place Sept. 27. Photo credit: William Suarez. 

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Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com

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Mario Toneguzzi

Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com.