Bringing the bloom to an urban setting

Content from Luxury Real Estate Report

Torontonians like their trees.

So, when Brandy Lane Homes started developing The Davies, at Avenue Road and Cottingham Street – adjacent to a park formerly called Balfour – it spent considerable time, energy and money protecting trees and sprucing up the green space.

“It was good for business, good for future condo purchasers and good for the community,” says Brandy Lane Homes CEO David Hirsh, a major advocate for green space. “Every building I’ve done has some kind of roof garden and terracing. We’re outside for only a few months of every year so we should enjoy it.”

The nine-storey project sits at 35 to 38 suites between 1,163 to over 2,000 square feet in size, depending on how future purchasers customize their units. It’s in a leafy residential neighbourhood far enough from the towers of Yonge and Eglinton, but surrounded by upscale restaurants, grocery stores and specialty shops.

In its long-range urban intensification vision, the city encourages the building of mid-rise buildings like The Davies because they make good transition points between high-rise and low-rise.

Parks and green space play a major part of that urban vision as well. Parks, Mr. Hirsh explains, have the ability to change a city. “Look at Paris’s Luxembourg Garden and how it contributes to the vibrancy of the city.”

The park and condo are named for author Robertson Davies, who lived in the neighbourhood


When a park isn’t animated, as with nearby Balfour Park, it doesn’t get used. “People need a reason to go to a park,” Mr. Hirsh says. “It needs to be more visually appealing, with trees, benches to sit on, privacy trellises, places for kids to swing and slide and ride their bikes.”

And it doesn’t take all that much money to do it, Mr. Hirsh adds. Part of Brandy Lane’s development agreement with the city was a requirement to improve the park next to the condo site. The proposed changes include new entrance steps, a pergola, fresh plants and trees.

As soon as Brandy Lane took possession of the site, arborists were hired to assess and protect some of the existing trees. Landscape architects were recruited to design a setting appropriate to help blend the building with the neighbourhood.

The park has been renamed for award-winning author Robertson Davies, who attended Upper Canada College up the street and lived in the neighbourhood until his death in 1985. Mr. Davies was the author of 18 novels and plays, as well as a University of Toronto professor, literary critic, editor and publisher.

Green space at The Davies doesn’t stop with the park. The condo features an expansive rooftop garden geared to summertime. While it doesn’t quite replace a backyard, it certainly enhances condo life, according to Mr. Hirsh.  He’s made rooftop gardens or courtyards a key component in all of his condo projects to ensure residents can get outside.


“Most of our purchasers are coming from large family homes with big backyards, and they entertain all summer long,” Mr. Hirsh says. “I have friends with beautiful apartments but no outdoor space. It’s kind of sad at a party to see everyone, drinks and nibbles in hand, lined up in front of the windows looking out. We long to be outside, connected to green space. So I make it a point to accommodate that.”

Most people want the essentials – a place to lounge, read and soak up the sun, or to dine al fresco. That means tables and chairs, barbecues, wet bars and really comfortable lounge chairs.

While bushes, shrubs, and flowers enhance the setting, just as important, if not more, is the elevator, which is essential in transporting food and drinks. “You do not want to be hauling stuff up the stairs,” Mr. Hirsh warns. “That’s why my little building of 35 or 38 units has five elevators, with one going right to the roof.”

Meanwhile, Brandy Lane has not neglected residents who prefer their own private terraces. To sweeten the deal, balcony packages include concrete floors in stylish solid colours or patterns.

And just about everywhere you turn, there’s some kind of outdoor spot at The Davies – the balcony, the rooftop and the park next door. “It’s the best of both worlds,” Mr. Hirsh says, “a private roof and a public park where you can lay on a blanket and smell the grass.”

The Globe and Mail

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