It’s much less common to take notice when something good happens than something bad, and it’s all too rare that we celebrate a victory. After years of deriding the poetic injustice of a string of art and gallery themed developments in the Queen West neighbourhood springing up and nudging out the community they build their brands on, it’s time to mark a sweet success. Today, the Artscape Triangle Lofts is celebrating its official opening.
The Triangle Lofts represent a new approach to space-making for Artscape, a long-time advocate for, and builder of, affordable working and living spaces for artists. Housed in the same development as the West Side Lofts (located at the south end of Abell Street), the Triangle Lofts is a building within a building—sixty-eight units designated for practising artists and those working in the arts—with its own identity, its own entrance, and features distinct from the rest of the units.
It’s Artscape’s first condominium development, which meant a big learning curve for the not-for-profit organization. We spoke to president Tim Jones about the experience of operating within this new realm. “We had to learn the condo business inside and out. We kind of went to condo school over the last couple of years, and what we’ve learned is that it’s a very, very complicated thing—the layers and layers and layers of legal agreements that need to be put together.”
What Artscape does know, however, is artist spaces, which is why the units in the Triangle Lofts have attributes like opening windows (a surprisingly rare find on many new developments), higher ceilings, unit-controlled mechanical ventilation, and almost no interior walls. “The big lesson that we’ve learned in having talked with various people and built a number of projects over the years is flexibility. We basically are providing a shell of a unit … making it very much up to the tenant what they want to do with the space.”
The Triangle Lofts passed on the big-ticket amenities that the West Side Lofts will have, such as the pool and the security guards. Keeping condo fees to a minimum will likely prove as important to the residents as the design considerations. The sale prices were kept to a minimum as well. Accepted buyers paid seventy-five percent of market value for the units, and the units that were kept as rentals are also offered at discounted rates. To qualify to become a resident of the lofts, potential buyers had to be deemed a professional artist by a peer review panel using the Draft Canadian Artist Code.
According to Jones, it was important to conceive of the Artscape Triangle Lofts as a distinct and separate entity, rather than integrating the units throughout the West Side development. “Part of what attracts creative people to cluster together is because they want to be able to share ideas, work on projects together, be inspired by each other, and that is part of the function of this project,” remarked Jones.
This new community of artists began moving into their homes in September, and when Torontoist visited the lofts earlier this week, we were invited into the unit of designer and photographer Joe Calleja (shown above). While he had clearly settled into his space, Artscape were racing to get other elements finished in time for today’s opening. The event is being held in the Artscape Triangle Gallery, a rental art gallery and event venue on the main floor of the building that should help add a permeability to the walls separating the development from non-residents.
Despite the completion of this undertaking, Artscape’s work in the area continues with their ongoing intervention at the Shaw Street School a few blocks to the east, which will offer work-only spaces (rather than live/work). The success of such projects that convene, preserve, and support an important community are worthy of a moment of recognition.
The Artscape Triangle Gallery opens to the public on Friday, November 19, with an exhibition titled “This Must be the Place,” featuring nine of the residents of the Artscape Triangle Lofts.
Photos by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.