Thursday, February 25, 2010

BenchMark: Breakbench and The Toy Factory Lofts

BenchMark Blogs: the Art Benches of Liberty Village

If you have missed the previous posts explaining the Liberty Village Benchmark program and the art benches we have located in our village go here to fetch them all and read the earlier posts. . This is the 13th post in the series to feature each of our 19 art benches.

The bench I am featuring today is located on Hanna Street at the corner of Liberty St by the parking lot.  It is bench number 5 on the Benchmark Map which can be accessed here. Titled "Break Bench", it was created by Pam Lostracco, Christine Stephens and Craig Wing King and is sponsored by the TOY FACTORY LOFTS/ LANTERRA DEVELOPMENTS.  Lanterra Developments is one of Toronto's major builders of Condos, particularly in the downtown area.  The Toy Lofts Condo Building is a project of theirs.  On their site they have a wonderful flash presentation which gives a capsule summary of the historical highlights of Liberty Village since 1the mid 19th century to the present.

This bench was one of the first ones I noticed when I moved into Liberty Village in 2007.  I was at that point unaware of the BenchMark project and did a second take when I saw what looked like a red Persian carpet sitting on the corner with the park bench, as if it were in a living room.  At that time, there was also a small round side table in front of the bench with a book on it.  What a grand idea for a bench!

When I went back last summer to take photos, I noticed that some sod had made off with the table and book.  The carpet is all that remains to suggest the relaxed setting of a living room for a break from the stress of the day - and even it is looking pretty sad.   Perhaps this bench will be refurbished next summer as I know the LVBIA do a certain number each year.  Hopefully they can re-construct the missing bits and nail them down really well because there are idiots about, for sure. 

The Irwin Toy Building and Toy Factory Lofts

View from the South West
The Toy Factory Lofts are in the refurbished Irwin Toy Factory Building.  Originally the home of Canada's largest paper manufacturer Hinde and Dauche, the building was bought by the Irwin Family in the mid 20th century who earned the hearts of Canadian children for over 50 years.   Irwin Toys remained a family business and despite being well known and respected name in Toys, it fell on hard times and the company was sold to outsiders in 2000.   There is a happy ending though, 18 months later, when the company collapsed in bankruptcy his two sons bought back the name and 15 toy lines and has seen the company revive with a new line of i-toys.   Samuel "Mac" Irwin, son of the company founder, died at age 76 in 2003 knowing that his grandchildren were working with their fathers in the family business.  

The Toy Factory building had new owners at that point and was a Toy Factory no more.  But even better, it was destined to become The Toy Factory Lofts, which has been under "evolution" since that time. 

In 2004 the Toy Factory lofts project by Lanterrra sought to retain the architectural authenticity of the original building. It was and still is a mix of commercial residential space so as one news article put it (see here for a fascinating explanation of the difficulties and history of the project)
...sharing the corridors and green spaces will be slipper-clad artists taking Rover for walkies and office workers seeking a caffeine fix at Balzac's or a photon fix near the Jacuzzi....

There is a fabulous sketch on flickr here.  It shows the building as seen in prior to the renovation, in the period before the Liberty Village gentrification began, when it was a run down industrial area.  It was probably sketched from a view very near to where I shot the picture below.
View from the East

The other noteworthy addition to the Toy Lofts complex, and kitty corners to the "Break Bench" is the Balzac Coffee Roasters Cafe. It is the 3rd Cafe opened by this purveyor of premium coffees. According to Toronto Life:
Balzac’s romances condo dwellers with all the requisite touches: broad chalkboards, cane-backed bistro chairs and potent espresso...

View from the North East

I wonder what will go into this portion of the building, it is a large complex and while most of it is complete, this part is as yet untouched.

1 comment:

  1. I would have done a double take, too, seeing what resembles a living room sitting in the middle of a sidewalk. I hope it gets refurbished in the summer.


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