One thing we all can acknowledge is the importance of cool new architecture in the city. We applaud those who push the limits on condo towers, not only in the Greater Toronto Area, but anywhere in Ontario.
With that in mind, we searched out the man behind the latest Ontario Design Competition, Jack Pong of City Core Developments. As we reported last week, City Core is in the midst of a very cool competition, one the gives the people of Barrie an opportunity to shape the future of their city.
Jack has reached out to RAW Design, Core Architecture, Hariri Pontarini and Diamond Schmitt Architects—all big-name players in the Toronto architecture scene—to participate in the competition.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Jack to talk about why he chose this route, and what he hopes happens at the site.
NewInHomes (NIH): Let’s start out with the obvious—why a design competition?
Jack Pong (JP): This area happens to be the prime focal point in the waterfront of Barrie. I just looked around at the architecture of the buildings around it, and I said to myself, ‘This area needs something’. This town needs some pizzazz, it needs some excitement. So we decided that the architect competition would be a good way to get the town and the community excited. We want their involvement in this whole project. We have them out voting already. Since the launch of our website a few days ago, we have already received hundreds of votes. The response has been unbelievable thus far.
NIH: Did you guys approach the four separate architects?
JP: We decided to go to those four architects based on their scope of work. We wanted to make sure they had the experience to deliver on a project like this. This is a huge project. There will be between one and 1.3 million square feet of space on this site, so we wanted to make sure there would be architects who have experience with a development of this size.
NIH: Why did you choose those four specific architects?
JP: Those architects were selected specifically based on design. Their design talents and qualities make them some of the best in Toronto, so we chose them for that reason. Their capabilities in building projects of this size, their history in design and the scope of their work are all reasons we chose them.
Our whole feeling was that if we are going to open this up to judging, and we weren’t going to have full control over the final outcome, I wanted to make sure every firm we approached would deliver a product we would be comfortable with, regardless of the final outcome. Every one of those firms, in my eye, brings quality and design. Any of them are ones I would be happy to represent us, and represent the future of Harmony Village.
NIH: What guidelines, if any, were given to the architects?
JP: We had an extensive book of guidelines we sent out to all the architects. We had specific sizing we asked them to work with. We are approved for up to 25 storeys, and we want to keep it within that range. There were other specifics we asked for. We have talked with planners and the mayor in Barrie; everyone is excited about what we are bringing to the city.
NIH: What excites you about this project?
JP: In Harmony Village – Lake Simcoe, we see it as being a real resort-style seniors’ community that has a lot more going on than what your normal seniors’ community would provide. What we have there is an opportunity to build an entire village. The area is lacking in infrastructure. One of the things I identified right away when I purchased the site was that the area was lacking in retail development.
How you engage the community and get them involved with the project is also part of what you put into the development. If you create the community and bring in the infrastructure and build it right, it becomes a read village. We are trying to engage people in order to build a true community.
NIH: What kind of feedback have you received from the locals in Barrie?
JP: The locals in Barrie seem to really thrive on having the opportunity to be engaged by a developer. The voting is very important, and I find that people really respected us for doing that, and they are coming out to vote. Right now, we are developing a building that is on the site for the architectural designs, and we will engage the public to come down, see the designs and vote. From that voting, we will see a lot of positive feedback.
The public does have a say. The public votes will be counted as one aspect of the voting process. We have engaged their vote to act as a tiebreaker. Depending on how the vote goes, they may have a big say in the final product.
NIH: Who else is on the panel?
JP: Christopher Hume from the Toronto Star; Lisa Rochon from The Globe and Mail; Paul Goldberger, the architectural critic with Vanity Fair; Ian Chodikoff, who is the editor of Canadian Architecture; and finally, Ian McBurnie, a professor of architecture at Ryerson University. So we have some quality judges who have a keen eye for design. It should be a great panel.
NIH: What specific things will those judges be looking at?
JP: The key is quality timeless design and a focus on sustainability, because this is going to be designed as a gold LEED project. We also want clear views of the lakefront for majority of the suites, and we needed to include a design for a 25,000-sq.-ft. community centre, which will be home to all the seniors’ services, and be the focus point for senior services of Barrie. We also want to ensure they tie in all the historic feelings of the downtown core. We’re trying to bring life to this part of downtown Barrie. That’s what we have asked our judges to focus on when picking a winner.
NIH: So, what are next steps?
JP: Next steps for us are to finish the design competition, which will climax at an award ceremony on Sept. 21t, hopefully on site. On Sept. 21, we award a multi-million dollar contract, and then we roll up our sleeves and go to work. Part of what we are doing is information gathering. We know there is demand for the multitude of services we are offering. There is a huge interest in living on the lakefront among families and retirees. The marina across the lake is also beneficial—people can live here and have their boat across the street. We expect the feeling of this community will create a real resort-style community for both seniors and families.
We invite people to head to our website, vote, register and allow them to find out more.
The Toronto Star’s NewInHomes.com wants to thank Jack for his time. To be part of the voting process for Harmony Village – Lake Simcoe, check out its website at HarmonyVillage.ca.
Keep an eye on NewInHomes.com, we hope to announce the winner of the competition on Sept. 21.Google+