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The View From the Top of Canada’s Tallest Condo

Canderel yesterday marked the big reveal of 80-storey Aura at College Park, a monumental decade-long development that vaulted TO into the super-tall tower realm and triggered a Yonge Street rebirth.

The View From the Top of Canada’s Tallest Condo

We snapped a dapper Canderel VP Riz Dhanji in Aura’s largest penthouse—a $3.7M, 3,055 SF space with 12.5-foot ceilings—where the developer hosted a media event on Wednesday to celebrate the completion of work on this mammoth marvel, a 273-metre tower that's a respectable No. 20 among the world’s tallest. “It was a major undertaking for us,” Riz tells us, noting that Aura, in addition to the Residences of College Park condo towers previously built by Canderel, has infused new life into a historic area of the city that had fallen into disrepair. “No one in Canada has built something this big before.”

The View From the Top of Canada’s Tallest Condo

Aura can claim many firsts, including being Toronto's first condo building to feature large-format retail on upper levels of its podium. Aura's five-storey base, with a 60k SF floor plate (which would be outlawed by the city's current tall building guidelines) accommodates US retailers Bed Bath & Beyond and Marshalls. Madonna set off a media frenzy when she came to town last year to launch a Hard Candy Fitness centre, also in the podium. And the 75 storeys above house 995 condos. In all this 1.65M SF behemoth cost $645M to build. “Everything at Aura was supersized," points out project architect Barry Graziani.

The View From the Top of Canada’s Tallest Condo

Here’s a shot of Aura’s recently illuminated crown, which employs 1.2 km of LED strip-lighting to “recall the form of the tower you see by day at night,” Barry explains. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” adds Riz. “It’s really put this project and Toronto on the map.” Indeed, Aura has generated so much buzz that Barry tells us his firm, Graziani + Corazza Architects, has been getting calls to do similar super-structure work in other cities. “It’s been a springboard,” he says, noting his team is currently in the midst of designing the tallest buildings in Boston and Ottawa.

The View From the Top of Canada’s Tallest Condo

At Aura's base, three restaurants along Gerrard Street (Dukes Refresher, Scaddabush, and Reds Midtown Tavern) are improving the public realm of a once-dodgy intersection. All eateries have patios lining a newly widened sidewalk. Canderel's also revamping the neighbouring 777 Bay office complex, adding retailers such as Sobeys and LCBO. And it’s spending $3M to renovate the three-acre green space that's surrounded by all buildings at College Park. “This used to be an area where you didn’t want to be,” says Riz. “Now it’s one of the most bustling parts of the city. And we’re seeing other developers follow suit up and down Yonge.”

The View From the Top of Canada’s Tallest Condo

Canderel itself is following suit with YC Condos, a 66-storey tower under construction at Yonge and Grenville. But the company’s main focus at the moment is in its hometown, Montreal, where with partners Cadillac Fairview and Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ it's just launched Tour des Canadiens 2 (above). The first phase was the fastest-selling condo in Montreal history. The buildings are part of Quad Windsor, a $2B mixed-use project with 5M SF of residential, retail and office space, including the newly opened Tour Deloitte. Just like Aura’s done in Toronto, says Riz, “this will spur a rejuvenation of downtown Montreal.”