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Aroma spreads across the Greater Toronto Area and beyond

It seemed an unlikely addition to the mix at the time, but Aroma is quickly finding its place in Toronto’s evolving coffee ecosystem.

It started out in 2007 with a single shop on the northwest corner of Bloor an Albany, an intersection already populated by both a Second Cup and a Starbucks, with a Tim Hortons a block away and one of the city’s most established independent cafes just two blocks east.

In the early months, you were as likely to hear Hebrew as English at the tables, but soon people started coming who didn’t know it from trips to Israel, where Aroma is the No. 1 chain, with about 150 locations, and the unlikely addition survived.

"When you do have other coffee shops in the area, it does mean the market exist," says operating partner Anat Davidzon, explaining the company’s lion’s-den strategy, "and the question becomes whether or not you can shift people’s purchasing behaviour."

With their breakfast and lunch menu, along with bread baked on site, and confections new to the Toronto scene like the dulce de leche cookies called alfajores, people's behaviour did shift sufficiently to prompt a second opening about two years later. And now, seven years in, a new one is popping up every couple of months, for a current total of 18 Aromas in Toronto, two in Vaughan, and plans for 10 more across the Golden Horseshoe – an area roughly the size of Israel – by the end of 2014. Their first Little Italy location just opened, and the next on in the pipeline is at the MaRS building at College and University.

Though you might have expected the chain to open in an area with strong connections to Israel – some place like Lawrence and Bathurst, for instance – Davidzon says the business plan was ambitious, and with a relatively small Israeli and Jewish population in the city, if the first shop couldn’t survive in a more typical part of town, it wouldn’t survive in the long run at all.

A franchise operation, each of the 20 locations has an owner-operator, working under the master franchiser, which bought the Canadian rights but is otherwise wholly separate from the Israeli company.

Canada has the second highest number of locations after Israel, and ahead of the US. Aroma also operates in Kazakhstan, Romania and Ukraine.

After MaRS, the company – with its head office in Forest Hill – has plans to open four more locations in Toronto this year, and another six across the GTA and as far as Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Daniel Davidzon, Anat Davidzon

A sense of play: Two Pittsburgh toy startups draw attention at national convention

It’s not easy to make a splash amid the more than 1,000 exhibitors at the American International Toy Fair, the giant trade show that ran earlier this month in New York City.
But two Pittsburgh startups, both launching highly innovative products marrying technology with play -- and both with connections to Carnegie Mellon and the AlphaLab accelerator -- drew a lot of buzz.

"This is definitely a David and Goliath story of startups grabbing attention from Hasbro, Disney, Leap Frog, etc.," says Terri Glueck of Pittsburgh's Innovation Works
PieceMaker Technologies is developing self-service, 3-D printing kiosks for toy stores. The "factory in a store" allows customers to personalize about 100 designs for toys, jewelry and other small gifts. Once they’ve designed their item, an employee produces it at the 3-D printing station in about 20 minutes. Suggested retail will range from $5 to $10.
Founded in 2013 by Carnegie Mellon engineering graduate students Arden Rosenblatt and Alejandro Sklar, Piecemaker is getting ready to test the concept at two Pittsburgh locations of S.W. Randall Toyes & Giftes this spring and plans an expanded, 10-store pilot for the holiday season.
The prototype on display at the toy fair drew press, including stories on CNBC and in Make magazine, "tons of signups" and interest from Disney for Disneyland locations, reports Rosenfeld.
Rosenfeld and Sklar build the kiosks in their quarters at AlphaLab Gear; they are among the first cohort of companies at the hardware and robotics accelerator.
Meanwhile, Digital Dream Labs has developed a system that allows children to control videogames by rearranging puzzle pieces. They are ramping up to start production this summer.
As grad students at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center, Peter Kinney, Justin Sabo and Matt Stewart collaborated on an interactive exhibit for the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. The dreamTableTop is still in use in Pittsburgh, and the company has since produced three more for other children’s museums.
When they launched their company in 2012 and pitched to AlphaLab, the advice they received was that they needed to broaden their market. Drawing on the museum exhibit, Digital Dream Labs created its Ludos system -- a plastic tray that connects to a computer or device, 22 toy blocks and game software.
When Ludos starts shipping in late summer, it will be bundled with "Cork the Volcano," a game aimed at children six-and-older that teaches logic and sequencing. Other games for kids as young as four are in development.
Stewart says the company has a healthy number of pre-orders and several promising large contracts thanks to the toy show. The company currently employs four people (the three co-founders and artist Aaron Clark, a recent graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh) and Stewart says the goal is to quadruple in-house staff by the end of 2015. Digital Dream Labs has outgrown its digs at AlphaLab and is looking for expanded space in Pittsburgh.

This piece originally appeared in our sister publication, Keystone Edge on Feb. 27.

DreamIt Health seeks applications for its sophomore class of startups

DreamIt Health Philadelphia, the region's first healthcare accelerator, is accepting applications for its sophomore class.
They will accept applications through May 16 from startups worldwide in the healthcare sector, and expect to select up to 10 companies by June 16, based on the strength of the teams, market potential and traction to date. During the four-month bootcamp (starting July 18), the teams will work at DreamIt Ventures' headquarters in West Philadelphia.
Each participating team will receive a stipend of $50,000, in-depth coaching from successful entrepreneurs, and access to other critical healthcare-specific resources to rapidly develop and test its product, validate its business model, and launch the product. The program will culminate in a "Demo Day" -- participating companies will present their progress and future plans to an audience of leading investors and industry figures.
Last year's inaugural class brought six promising healthcare startups from across the country to Philadelphia to work alongside four Philadelphia-born companies on a wide range of significant healthcare problems, including hospital readmissions, cost transparency, healthcare payments, clinical communications, and mobile diagnostics. All ten companies, eight of which are still in the region, are continuing to achieve key business milestones.
"Many of healthcare's most challenging problems are at the intersection between the doctor or hospital and the health insurer," says Elliot Menschik, DreamIt Venture's managing partner for healthcare. "Startups don’t typically have early access to the customers and users they need to fully grasp the problems, craft meaningful solutions and then rapidly implement and test them in real-world environments. What makes DreamIt Health unlike any other accelerator is the depth and intensity of collaboration among the DreamIt teams and our strategic partners to more rapidly develop and deliver enterprise-grade products that create real value for customers and the foundation for scalable businesses."

As reported last week in Keystone Edge, Independence Blue Cross, a partner in the accelerator along with Penn Medicine, will invest up to $50 million in health related venture funds and early stage companies in the coming years. 
Source: DreamIt Ventures
Writer: Elise Vider

City of Cleveland selects lakefront developer to create true mixed-use neighborhood

The City of Cleveland announced that it has selected Dick Pace of Cumberland Development along with national developer Trammel Crow to redevelop the city's lakefront. Their proposal would erect 250 apartments, 80,000 square feet of office space and 30-40,000 square feet of retail in Phase I, which clusters around North Coast Habor. Phase II would add 750 apartments north of Browns Stadium.

At the heart of the proposal is something the city sorely lacks: a truly mixed-use neighborhood along the lakefront, complete with amenities for residents and visitors, with opportunities for people to live, work and play on Lake Erie.

"I started on the waterfront 30 years ago," says Pace, an architect and developer who designed what was then called the "inner harbor," so it's fitting that at this point in his career he'd work on the next phase of lakefront development. Pace has also developed property on the HealthTech Corridor and the 5th Street Arcades.

Perhaps the most unusual feature of Pace's development is his plan to create a school. He believes that creating a high-quality downtown school is essential to furthering the growth of the area and attracting families. No decision has been made about whether it would be a district or charter school, but it will be geared to the neighborhood. Just imagine kids walking to school on East 9th Street.

"This is all part of creating a neighborhood," he says. "It will give us a market that's untapped in the city of Cleveland -- the city has lost a lot of young families."

The lakefront development is also closely linked with plans to better connect the lakefront with the rest of downtown. The City of Cleveland is planning to build a pedestrian bridge from the mall to North Coast Harbor, and residents and visitors that use it would find themselves right in the midst of new shops and amenities.

Pace originally planned about 80,000 square feet of office space with smaller, 5,000-10,000 square foot users in mind, but he's already been contacted by a few bigger players. He says that the city could end up with a few bigger companies, including some that are currently located in the suburbs, along the lakefront.

The apartments will be market-rate, with higher prices for premier units on the waterfront or on upper floors. However, Pace hopes that some units will be affordable enough that teachers at the school can afford to live here.

The retail is the most defined piece of the project. Just like harbor districts in other cities, Cleveland could soon have a seasonal concession vendor, kayak rental facility and waterfront seafood restaurant. There would also be an indoor retail area linked to the pedestrian bridge, Science Center and Rock Hall, allowing people to hop between amenities without going outdoors on a winter day.

Pace says the complex project, which will be built without public subsidy, should start in 2015 and wrap up 5-7 years later. Phase I would open much sooner -- Clevelanders could start enjoying these lakefront amenities by 2018.

Next steps include negotiating a land lease with the city, refining conceptual architectural plans, holding community meetings, and pursuing financing. These are Herculean tasks, to be sure, but Pace says this long-awaited project will happen.

"This is a great time," he says. "The finanicng is starting to become available, and there's momentum for downtown housing. This piece of property has always been premier, and now is the time when the pieces are starting to come together."

Source: Dick Pace
Writer: Lee Chilcote

Nine condos replacing rowhomes on Newton Place NW

A nine-unit condo building is coming to Park View, at the corner of Newton Place NW and Georgia Avenue, just south of the Petworth Metro station.

The project replaces three hundred-year-old rowhomes-703, 705, and 707 Newton Place NW, which Lock 7 Development purchased in October-with a three-story, 8,000-square-foot, modern structure.

The company's website shows floor plans for all nine units, a mix of one- and two-bedrooms, with roof decks for the top three units and balconies for the lower ones. Square 134 Architects is designing the project.

A letter from the District Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) dated Dec. 30 confirms that the project conforms to D.C. zoning regulations, without need for any special exceptions or zoning relief, so the construction process may be relatively rapid.

"We'll start construction in the first quarter," David Gorman, principal, Lock 7 Development, says. "We're aiming to deliver for the fall market, [but] there's a lot that has to happen to get from here to there." The company has filed for a raze permit to tear down the existing rowhomes, which had been used as rental properties but, Gorman says, "were really run down." 

The new design tries to "incorporate elements we'd seen in the neighborhood," Gorman adds.

The project is estimated to deliver in October 2014.

Prices weren't available at press time, but similar units in the area are going for the high-$300s and up, according to Trulia.com.

This story has been updated with comment from David Gorman, principal, Lock 7.

Giant Eagle looks to open grocery store in downtown Pittsburgh

On the heels of developer Ralph Falbo’s plan to open a boutique food market and wine bar in Market Square, Giant Eagle is exploring the notion of opening a full-service grocery somewhere in Downtown Pittsburgh.

While Giant Eagle hasn’t yet chosen a site for a Downtown location, there are several it is considering.

“We have been collaborating with Giant Eagle on a feasibility study to see if Downtown is a location that would be suitable for them, and the indicators are positive,” says Leigh White of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “They’re looking at a number of sites but haven’t settled on anything.”

Downtown Pittsburgh hasn’t had a full-service grocery store since Rosebud Fine Food Market and Deli, which was located at the corner of Seventh Street and Fort Duquesne Boulevard, closed in 2010 after just two years of operation. Prior to Rosebud, Downtown’s last grocery store was The Market on Market Square, which occupied the former G.C. Murphy building on Forbes Avenue and closed its doors in 1994.

Demand for a grocery store in Downtown Pittsburgh has steadily grown over the last several years as the area’s residential population has increased. According to a report the PDP released earlier this year, about 8,000 people live in the Greater Downtown area. The same report stated that in answering an open-ended question about retail needed in Downtown, 33 percent of residents identified a grocery store as their top priority.

Meals on Wheels provider turns unused kitchen into incubator for local women-owned food companies

Senior Services of Northern Kentucky, located on Madison Avenue in Covington, had a challenge. A switch in the way they operated their Meals on Wheels program left them with an industrial-size kitchen that was hardly being used. So they set about searching for a tenant who would not only be interested in the space, but also in making a difference in the community.
Enter Rachel DesRochers, the founder of Grateful Grahams, a successful food manufacturer dedicated to high-quality vegan products and to supporting fellow women food-based entrepreneurs.

"We went through a process of vetting each other out," said Ken Rechtin, Interim Executive Director of Senior Services. "She liked the space and we liked her, but she couldn't single-handedly take on the cost of the kitchen."
DesRochers then had the idea to bring in multiple vendors to share the kitchen, which would not only offset cost for Senior Services, but would also help others achieve their culinary dreams.
Part of DesRochers' mission is to help empower women business owners; to that end she has already attracted many to join the collective kitchen incubator including companies Love and Fluff marshmallows makers, Delish Dish caterers, vegan Zucchini bread bakers Evergreen Holistic Learning Center, and Piebird Sweet and Savory Specialties.
"The space is being used almost seven days a week; it's really neat to see all of that activity down there," Rechtin says. "It's really a win-win-win and has opened us up to some other thoughts of how our organizations can collaborate further. We've talked about sending a Grateful Graham out with every Thanksgiving meal as a way to give back, and we've got several more ideas we're still working out."
In addition to the kitchen, the Senior Services location has additional space still available in the building. Rechtin estimates that there is somewhere around 7,000 square feet of available office space.

"We're very happy to host the kitchen incubator in our space and would love to have more people with new ideas come in to use our facility," Rechtin says. 

By Mike Sarason

3601 market to break ground, bring a big residential boost to University City

On November 1, construction is set to begin on 3601 Market, a project that will help transform the streetscape of University City. Located on the Science Center's campus, it will be the first residential project in that organization's history. 

"We changed the plan a bit," explains Dustin Downey with developer Southern Land. "We decided to add two more floors as penthouse two-bedroom units, which actually drove the number of units down, back to 362. In 28 total floors. We were approved for zoning about three weeks ago."

The neighborhood has been very supportive of the project. The height is not too dissimilar from other buildings on west Market Street and there is a high demand for residential units in the area. During the zoning process, neighbors did request some minor site changes, including a pick-up/drop-off space for residents.

The building is hoping to draw graduate students and young professionals by featuring affordable, stylish, efficient spaces.

"There was some concern about some of our studios being down in the 420 to 450 square foot range," says Downey. "We feel strongly that, across the country, smaller, nicer units are becoming much more popular -- especially as prices in the rental markets continue to rise. I'm also seeing a lot of younger people wanting to live out on their own and not have a roommate."

To mitigate the small size, the designers are including in-wall storage, murphy beds and eat-in kitchens. Plus, all units will feature an entire wall of windows, making them feel less cramped.

On the ground floor, the developers hope to attract either a quality restaurant or a small-to-medium sized prepared foods and grocery store.

"We're hoping that it brings a 24-hour element and improves the overall feel of Market Street, by putting people on the street and adding activity to the sidewalks," explains Downey. "We're looking for retail tenants that will also do that. With the success of Domus only a couple blocks away, we feel we can continue to pull young professionals and grad students to live in University City, and pull them out of other living situations either in Center City or further out."

The first units will be completed in 18 months; the leasing office should be open in May 2015. In 24 months, the last units come online.

"There are so many jobs right there in West Philly and no places for people to live," says Downey. "We feel by that by adding 364 residents, you attract more residential services to the area: dry cleaners, grocery stores. We feel like it will hopefully start a cycle to make the area more residential."

Writer: Lee Stabert
Source: Dustin Downey, Southern Lands

Cleveland-based "Good Greens" goes national

When Good Greens launched in 2011, the founders were confident their wellness bars would be popular. They’re packed with protein, completely natural and provide 100 percent of daily fruit and vegetable requirements. 

Within four months, the Good Greens bars were the top nutrition bar sold at Heinen’s stores, and they also landed shelf space at Dave’s Markets and Marc’s stores.
Two years later, the LaunchHouse portfolio company continues to be a best seller at Heinen’s. The company sold close to 480,000 bars with Heinen’s last year. They’re good for kids with allergies and people have supposedly lost 25 pounds eating Good Greens bars.
Good Greens are so popular, in fact, that Good Greens struggled to keep up with demand. Heinen’s wanted more and more bars, and the company lost accounts because it couldn't keep up with demand.
 The company hired a national distributor and is now in 200 Chicago stores, 150 Iowa stores and 100 Wisconsin stores. Good Greens also is the top selling bar on Ohio college campuses, including Ohio State.
Good Greens has grown from three employees in 2011 to 10 full-time and 22 part-time employees. John Huff recently joined as COO/CFO. The company is growing so fast that Shaker Heights invested $100,000 in renovations to the second floor of LaunchHouse's building and offered Good Greens a two-year lease in the four-office space.
Today, Good Greens sells 10 varieties, six of which are vegan and dairy free. Good Green’s new soy Greek yogurt line includes four flavors, and the company plans to introduce two more flavors by the end of the year. Coming soon is a superfood brownie.
Source: John Huff
Writer: Karin Connelly

Thirteen school buildings added to historic register in Cincinnati

Thirteen buildings in Over-the-Rhine will soon be added to the National Register of Historic Places, in part because of a grant provided to the organization by the Ohio Development Services Agency. The $8,000 will allow the Over-the-Rhine Foundation to hire a third party to do the research and prepare the applications for the Register.
The grant is a fairly new state initiative—only three awards have been given, and the first was to the Kirby Road School in Northside. The OTR Foundation is the third organization to receive the grant.
“As far as we know, we’re the only state that has a program like this,” says Thea Walsh, deputy chief for the Office of Redevelopment. “This is a great new opportunity that the state is coming into with the Ohio Historic Tax Credit program. It will help build more opportunities for communities to attract investors.”
Made possible through a partnership with the Ohio Historic Preservation Office, the grant will make the buildings eligible for both the state and federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit programs. The grant will support expanding the historic district in OTR to include the buildings, which are mainly situated along Reading Raod and Central Avenue. These buildings were left out for one reason or another when OTR was named a historic district back in the 1980s, Walsh says.
The total cost of the project is about $13,000—the Foundation will work with property owners to raise the private funds needed for the remainder of the project, says Nathaniel Kaelin, program manager for the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit program.
“Tens of millions of dollars have already been invested in Over-the-Rhine, and this will only help drive revitalization efforts,” Kaelin says.
Two of the buildings are already targeted for redevelopment, and several investors are interested in the future of the buildings.

By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter

An ambitious church-to-residential redevelopment in Grand Rapids

In what will be its sixth residential project in the city of Grand Rapids, 616 Development will be undertaking the conversion of the historic Bethlehem Lutheran Church at 253 Prospect in Heritage Hill into market rate apartments called 616 Lofts on Prospect. Only a handful of such church conversion redevelopments have taken place in historic districts in the U.S.

According to the developers, the repurposed church will house 22 market rate apartments which will include 1 studio, 11 one-bedroom units, and 10 two-bedroom units. A fitness room and a community room will be available for all 616 Lofts on Prospect residents. Approximately 26 on-site parking spaces will also be available to residents and guests.

Residents nearby had raised concerns in the past about lack of parking in the area, with pressure building from the development on Michigan Street to the North. But Derek Coppess of 616 says that they have been working closely with the community, the City, and the Historic Preservation Commision to create a project that enhances the area. Certain variances were sought to allow some stained glass exterior windows to be removed to allow for operable windows as well as other minor alterations.

"We're very excited about the project. We have our eyes on some other larger projects that will have a huge impact on the city, but smaller infill projects like Lofts on Prospect are also part of our DNA," said Coppess during a tour of the building, currently undergoing demolition.

Many of the upper floor units will include the large timbers that support the church's roof, as well as the original arched window frames and stained glass.

The church has been vacant since 2007, when the congregation sold the building to developers and moved to a smaller space to help serve the Heartside community. A similar project to redevelop the church launched in 2009 called Renatus on the Hill would have included up to 16 individual condominiums, but stalled during the downturn in the housing market and tightened lending requirements for condo projects.

Lott3Metz is the architect on the project. More info can be found at 616 Lofts on Prospect.

Source: Monica Clark, Derek Coppess, 616 Development
Writer: Jeff Hill, Publisher at Rapid Growth Media.

Photos by Jeff Hill

New bike lanes in Cincinnati's East End open soon

For three years, residents of the East End met with the Department of Transportation and City Council to come up with a plan for a safer, more pleasant neighborhood. And by the end of the month, the orange barrels throughout the East End will be gone, and the longest, flattest bicycle route in the city will be open.
Construction has been done in stages, and everything from Delta Avenue to downtown has been redone as part of the plan. The length of bicycle lanes between Congress Avenue and St. Andrews was opened last year, and this year, the lanes between St. Andrews and downtown will be completed, says East End resident Jackie Weist.
The bicycle lanes are, in part, an effort to reduce the noise coming from US-50 and US-52. There are now engine brake signs along the highways, but that hasn’t eliminated the noise. Residents hope the bicycle lanes will force drivers to slow down and reduce the amount of traffic through the neighborhood.
The East End bicycle facility was part of the 2010 Bicycle Transportation Plan. The area is ideal because it’s flat, it connects to the Ohio River Trail where the East End ends, and it goes by Lunken Airport and along Riverside Drive.
“We hope the new bicycle lanes will bring more bicyclists to the area and bring awareness to what’s going on down here,” says Weist.
There’s a lot of history in the East End—a steamboat captain’s home has been remodeled, and rock walls and wrought iron are prevalent. It’s also home to Lunken Airport, the oldest commercial airport in the United States, and the oldest Yacht Club in Ohio.
Prior to the official ribbon cutting, the neighborhood is planning a clean up of the area, and may be followed by dinner at BrewRiver Gastropub. Queen City Bike is working with the East End Community Council to plan the event. For more information on the ribbon cutting, check out the Bike Program calendar.
By Caitlin Koenig
Follow Caitlin on Twitter


University of Michigan social entrepreneurship partnership in Detroit creates jobs

Whomever invented the term social entrepreneurship probably wasn't thinking of the partnership between the University of Michigan and Cass Community Social Services, but it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to think something similar inspired it.

U-M's Integrated Product Development class has been working with Cass Community Social Services' Green Industries program to come up with new businesses that are both sustainable (financially and environmentally) and create jobs in the Motor City.

"Detroit is a gritty, tough, resilient city but also tragic in many different ways," says William Lovejoy, a professor of operations and technology at U-M's Ross School of Business, who also overseas the Integrated Product Development class. "These people (who are participating in the partnership), myself included, think diversifying the economy is key for the long-term success of the city so it can stand on its own."

Cass Community Social Services already has a couple of green businesses. One focuses on turning discarded tires into welcome matts. Another employs developmentally disabled people to shred documents. The newest one employs formerly homeless people to turn recycled glass into coasters. That new business currently has eight people working at it, Lovejoy says.

"I understand they are selling all they can make," Lovejoy says.

The mini-coaster business was spawned from a brainstorming session of people working at the partnership between the University of Michigan and Cass Community Services. The Integrated Product Development brings together students of business, engineering and art and design to help create these new business and get them off the ground.

Source: William Lovejoy, a professor of operations and technology at U-M's Ross School of Business
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

University of Toronto releases new design for architecture school

It turns out, One Spadina Crescent, the big 19th-century building Spadina curves around just north of College, was never completed.

The University of Toronto School of Architecture is going to change that.

The school's Dean, Richard Sommer, announced this morning that U.S. architect Nader Tehrani has designed an addition to the north side of the building, which will be built in conjunction with thoroughgoing renovations to prepare the building to be the new premises for the expanding architecture school, the country’s oldest.

"It's one of those early buildings in the history of the city, like Upper Canada College or the provincial legislature, that was a kind of a frontal building, positioned to face the lake," Sommer says.

"It was a U-shaped building, what we call in architecture single-loaded. The north end of the site was never developed, and over time it just got filled in with stuff. Before it was even [the] Knox Theological Seminary and later college, it was built as a prospect for wealthy landowners. That was the original function of that circle. Then the seminary took over and had a building facing south."

Sommer says there have been a number of additions added haphazardly to the north of the building over the years, which will be demolished.

"The project is part of making design and city-building front-and-centre for the city of Toronto," he says.

John Daniels, of developer the Daniels Corporation, and his wife Myrna have given another $10 million towards the project, in addition to the $14 million the couple gave in 2008 that triggered the renaming of the architecture school in his name.

Daniels graduated from the school of architecture in 1950.

"I would compare the Daniels benefaction to what Alfred Taubman gave to the University of Michigan more than a decade ago, and which completely transformed its prospects," Sommer says.

Some excavation of hazardous materials has already been done, and Sommer hopes that if the rest of the fundraising goes well, the entire project will be completed within three years.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Richard Sommer

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.

Wonder Bread Factory renovations almost complete

Renovations are nearly complete at 641 S Street NW, the old Wonder Bread factory, and potential tenants are in talks to move in, says Thomas Schneck, Douglas Development’s sales and marketing manager.

“Renovations will be finished in June,” says Schneck. “And we’re almost done with the exterior. The pretty touches with landscaping are not done, but the upper level windows are all in and the only thing missing are the first- and basement-level windows now.”

The windows all had to be custom-built on-site, says Schneck, because each window was a different size. But even more remarkable than the floor-to-ceiling windows visible from the outside, are the changes Douglas Development and R2Land OTJ architects had to contend with inside the building.

“We were forced to remove everything—even put in new floors,” says Schneck. “Because of the severe roof damage, over the years water got in and vegetation was literally growing on the wooden floors. We completely cored the whole thing.”

The four-story building now has the outside walls, but inside it is a total open floor plan on every level. Depending on who signs the lease and when, Douglas Development could help construct in the interior walls, but so far the company hasn’t crossed that bridge.  

The 98,000 square foot mixed-use building was reported to have their entire third floor—20,678 square feet of space—leased to furniture consultancy group WorkSpaces LLC, as originally reported by the Washington Business Journal last June. However, WorkSpaces has since filed bankruptcy and so there are no set tenants for the building.

One thing that has remained constant are the 27 underground parking spaces.

The Wonder Bread Factory was originally a three-story building built sometime between 1900 to 1920 as the Dorsh’s White Cross Bakery. Wonder Bread and Hostess Cake producer Continental  Baking Co. then bought the building in 1936. The building was closed in the 1980s and has since been vacant.
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