In a city full of skyward-reaching condos, Yonge & Gerrard’s Aura towers over them all.
Go to Yonge and Gerrard and look up. Look way, way up. The condo tower you’re looking at hasn’t even reached its final height, but at 50 storeys, it already looms high above everything else at the intersection. The tower is called Aura, and upon completion it will be the tallest and largest residential building in North America at a monolithic 78 storeys.
The super-tall skyscraper will soon permanently alter Toronto’s skyline. Built by Canderel Stoneridge, Aura is the third phase of College Park’s condos project, and was originally proposed as a two-tower structure. But after considering the effects of shadowing created by two towers, designers G+C Architects decided to opt for a single tower.
Buzz over the Aura’s expansive views was so strong that 95 per cent of the units sold before contractors even put shovels in the ground.
“Because College Park (Phase) One and Two were so successful, and the values there appreciated way more than anything in the neighbourhood, everyone was betting on Aura doing the same,” says Larissa Doherty, a real estate broker selling suites in the tower. “A few years later it looks like the condo market is quieting down a little bit, however, I think anyone who bought in 2008-2009 will still see some good appreciation.”
Aura’s cheapest units are the tower suites, which occupy the 5th to 58th floors, and started in the high $300,000s for a small bachelor pad. Today, one of few units left is the top-floor penthouse suite, a lavish unit with an $18 million price tag. Some of the upper floor penthouses are proving most difficult to sell, and may be divided into smaller units to make them more appealing to a wider base.
Here’s everything you need to know about Toronto’s tallest condo:
It offers a whole life indoors
The Aura condo is a mixed-use building: it will not only be a place to live, but also a place to shop. Included in the building’s plan are three floors of retail space, a gym spanning the entire 4th floor, and a subway-level food court connected to College station. Passersby can already shop at the Bed, Bath and Beyond outlet, and BMO has both a street-level branch and an ATM machine in the building. Much of the retail space has yet to be leased, but the Aura will soon have stores of all stripes. Marshalls, Canyon Creek, and Alice Fazooli’s will be within a short elevator ride. The basement retail level has mostly boutique-style space suitable to small service providers and take-out spots. With all these conveniences so close by, residents of the Aura can lead a reasonably varied life without ever having to leave the building, if they were so inclined.
It’s got a palace for a penthouse
The Aura’s crown jewel is an 11,375-square-foot penthouse suite with five bedrooms and six bathrooms. The buyer of this extravagant space will be able to step off the controlled-access elevator and take in a dramatic, 360-degree view of the city, thanks to the glass walls covering all sides. The penthouse was designed for marketing purposes, according to architect Barry Graziani, but whoever buys it will of course redesign the interior to suit their own tastes. It will, essentially, be a customized house on top of the city’s tallest building. In case you’re wondering what an $18 million penthouse looks like, you can check out the floor plan here.
It’s got massive terraces
One of condo life’s disadvantages is the lack of personal outdoor space. To solve that problem, some of the Aura’s 5th and 12th floor suites have terraces large enough to hold a hot tub, patio furniture, and enough space left over to play fetch with the dog. Ranging from 600 to 1,000 square feet, these private terraces are larger than some people’s apartments. The building’s five-storey podium, which holds retail space and a gym component, will have a green roof available to all residents.
It’s bringing a local park back to life
Toronto’s Barbara Ann Scott Park lies in the shadow of the Aura, and it may be the least-trafficked green space in the downtown core. But the Aura will breathe new life into it.
“The park became a very integral part of the whole design concept,” said Graziani. “Between the north face of our tower and the existing College Park building to the north, that’s going to become the entrance, 26 metres wide, fronting onto the park.”
With structures flanking it on all sides, the park remains hidden from pedestrians on Yonge or College. Canderel and G+C Architects are taking part in the future revitalization of the three-acre park, and a plan has already been put forth. Approval is due in May and construction is planned to finish in 2015.
It’s Toronto’s tallest condo, but for how long?
We live in an age where designers and engineers are obsessed with building bigger and higher than the next guy. Our beloved CN Tower, once known as the world’s tallest free-standing structure, was dethroned in 2007 by the Burj Khalifa, and yet even it wasn’t the tallest for long. Currently in its planning phase, The Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia is set to surpass the Burj at a mindboggling 1,000 meters (almost double the CN Tower’s height) in 2018.
And indeed, Aura’s title as Toronto’s tallest condo may fall just a few years down the road. David Mirvish and Frank Gehry’s proposed King Street condo megaplex includes three towers over 80 storeys tall.
Though engineers say we aren’t even close to the limit of how high we can go, builders will face increased financial and logistical challenges as they attempt to reach new heights. All that cement has to get up there somehow.
The Higher They Rise: Aura condominium by the numbers
2010 construction began
2014 construction will finish
985 condo units
272 metres tall
40 foot high glass walls in the lobby
123 retail units in the basement concourse
9 controlled-access elevators
85,000 square metres of marble slabs
4,000 square metres of poured concrete
10,000 metric tons of rebar reinforcing rods
CORRECTION, JAN 22, 2012: An earlier version of this story stated the Kingdom Tower had already surpassed the height of the Burj Khalifa. It is not scheduled to be completed until 2018. As well, the story incorrectly stated that Aura will be taller than First Canadian Place and Scotia Plaza. Also, the name of the building’s architecture firm has been updated.