Three families have been given the keys to three brand new homes on the University of Toronto’s St. George campus – two of which can be easy to miss.
The two hard-to-spot houses are built on a laneway and were designed to animate a quiet alley near Robarts Library, providing a model for future residential development in a city where space is at a premium. The third home is an adjacent infill on Huron Street.
Two student families with children and a faculty member and their family will be the first to live in the modern, eco-friendly residences.
“We have been working hard to enhance the university’s contribution to a broader city-building agenda,” said U of T President Meric Gertler during a tour of the homes before the holiday break.
“I can’t think of a more appropriate way to do this than through a project like this one. In a sense, we are city ‘re-building,’ and doing so in a way that is creative, and shows real leadership and innovation.”
President Gertler was joined on the tour by Professor Scott Mabury, vice-president, operations and real estate partnerships.
At the infill home directly opposite Robarts – a three-storey house with three bedrooms – the two senior administrators took in the view of the CN Tower and glass-fronted Robarts Commons from a third-floor balcony.
The two laneway homes, meantime, are located across a shared yard with a lawn. One is three storeys and 890 square feet while the other is two-storeys and 759 square feet. A wooden fence separates the yard from the university-run Campus Community Cooperative Daycare Centre. As part of the project, the university relocated and built a new playground directly adjacent to the daycare.
“My first impression is that these are beautifully designed and beautifully built,” said President Gertler, who is also a professor of geography and planning. “I think any member of our community, whether faculty or student families, would jump at the chance to live here.”
In one of the fastest growing cities in North America, the idea of building homes in often under-used alleys is rapidly gaining ground. Toronto has an estimated 2,400 public laneways that could be converted into homes just a stone’s throw away from where people work or study.
The U of T homes are equipped with bike storage and a shared backyard. They have brightly lit interiors and open-concept kitchen-living rooms.
The first two laneway homes are a pilot project to test the waters for further expansion of the same type of housing in the neighbourhood, where the university owns enough property to build up to 40 more laneway houses.