September 30, 2022

Condo living: Raising the roofs

6 min read
Condo living: Raising the roofs

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When it comes to finding the right condo, what’s on top can be almost as important as what’s inside.

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“The condo roof used to be relegated to mechanical and electrical services,” says Matt Brown, director of product development at Minto. “Today, every square inch of rooftop space is being put to use.”

As residents spend more time at home, condo developers in the GTA are finding creative ways to make rooftops active, liveable spaces that connect residents with the outdoors. Dog runs, community gardens, fire pits, yoga lawns and fully wired outdoor office spaces will all be sharing real estate across several towers currently planned for Toronto.

“It’s a trend we’ve been seeing for four or five years,” Brown says, “but it was certainly accelerated by the pandemic.”

One of Minto’s latest projects is 123 Portland, a 14-storey 117-suite development where the rooftop will include an outdoor fitness space surrounded by gardens, a communal cooking zone where residents can mix, as well as more separate outdoor rooms that can be booked for summer parties or outdoor dining. The building’s wi-fi extends to the terrace, where work-from-homers can plug into power sources at shaded tables in secluded areas bordered by planters. Pergolas abound.

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“We’re creating so many potential uses in the same space,” says Brown. “The idea is that people will be more likely to come into contact with their neighbours.”

Two rooftop spaces at 908 St. Clair are designed for separate uses: being social around communal fire pits and barbecues, or stargazing.
Two rooftop spaces at 908 St. Clair are designed for separate uses: being social around communal fire pits and barbecues, or stargazing. Photo by COURTESY OF AD HOC

With that goal in mind, Minto is planning a rooftop lawn with projection equipment for outdoor summer film screenings at one of their Etobicoke project that’s still to be named, as well as a rooftop community garden at their Oakvillage project in Oakville.

The developer also has a plan in the works to partner with community organizations to offer programming like fitness or gardening classes on condo roofs and in other communal parts of their buildings.

At DUO, a 26-storey, 349-unit tower development at 245 Steeles in Brampton, rooftop amenities sit atop the building’s wide podium on the eighth floor, a choice that minimizes wind and allows the upper storeys to provide shade.

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“We wanted a luxurious rooftop that encompasses a range of key amenities while remaining connected to what’s going on inside,” says Jason Pantalone. He’s the president and managing partner of National Homes, which is partnering with Brixton Developments on the Brampton project.

The terrace offerings at M2M SQUARED include a third-floor deck with playground, climbing walls and a mini putting green, a serene sixth-floor rooftop featuring a tea garden, and another on the tenth floor, with an outdoor swimming pool, sundeck and sauna.
The terrace offerings at M2M SQUARED include a third-floor deck with playground, climbing walls and a mini putting green, a serene sixth-floor rooftop featuring a tea garden, and another on the tenth floor, with an outdoor swimming pool, sundeck and sauna. Photo by COURTESY OF AOYUAN INTERNATIONAL

An indoor fitness and yoga studio is adjacent to the terrace and is separated from an outdoor AstroTurfed area by an accordion-style window system that can be fully retracted to create an indoor-outdoor fitness area. The building’s coworking space occupies another part of the same floor and also abuts the terrace, providing an outdoor area where residents can plug in and work.

There is also a communal fire pit surrounded by soft furniture, a space Pantalone says is intended for intermingling. Pergolas, of course, shade seating near an open-air tanning area, while landscaping features divide a series of semi-private dining areas, each with a barbecue, sink and food prep area plus dining table and chairs for eight.

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Pantalone says that in pre-development working groups, local residents named fitness as a top priority and were enthusiastic about the idea of a rooftop running and cycling track. It’s a feature that’s being considered for phase two of DUO’s development.

At the M2M SQUARED at 5915 Yonge Street, a 26,000-square-foot “vertical park” is spread out over multiple levels of the 40-storey building, to be occupied in late 2026.

“We considered what residents from each generation might want and then incorporated those amenities across various levels,” says lead project manager Sunny Bao.

The third-floor terraces are kid-friendly and designed with physical activity in mind: a fitness centre overlooks a playground, climbing walls, mini putting green and a row of rope hammocks installed on permanent supporting beams.

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At the 26-storey DUO, rooftop amenities sit on the building’s wide podium on the eighth floor, minimizing wind and providing shade from the upper floors.
At the 26-storey DUO, rooftop amenities sit on the building’s wide podium on the eighth floor, minimizing wind and providing shade from the upper floors. Photo by COURTESY OF NATIONAL HOMES AND BRIXEN

Bao describes the sixth-floor rooftop, in contrast, as a more peaceful zone that older residents might enjoy. Its main feature is a tea garden with benches and extensive greenery overlooking a public park below. The building’s coworking spaces are also strategically placed on the sixth floor so that working residents have a lush view and can pop out for a stroll on breaks.

“We still want segregation between work and leisure, but we want them connected,” says Bao.

The 10th floor, meanwhile, is for entertaining, with an outdoor swimming pool, large BBQ area, sundeck, sauna and wading pool. For those needing a smattering of shade: more pergolas.

Dog runs have also become a popular feature on the rooftops of pet-friendly condos. The M2M Squared has one on the sixth floor, strategically placed away from the edges for safety. (Google “Kansas rooftop dog run” to see how not to design a dog park in the sky.)

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At 908 St. Clair, a new 12-storey project by Canderel in the St. Clair-Oakwood neighbourhood, two rooftop spaces divide residents by mood: social or serene. On the fifth floor, residents can gather around the fire pit lounge to socialize or cook and dine in a variety of interconnected barbecue areas. Up on the 10th floor, the rooftop is reserved for an original purpose: stargazing.

“We wanted to provide residents with a tranquil oasis, a space that is calming,” says interior designer Katherine Chow, who worked on the project. The terrace is finished in white with soft cream and wicker furniture designed for reclining near the patio’s elongated fireplace. And because it’s designed for use in the dark, there isn’t a pergola in sight.

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