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For sale: a skinny $3 million Toronto home that neighbours and critics say doesn’t ‘fit in’

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It’s an unusual-looking house.

Sandwiched behind homes on either side, the tall, skinny house at 154 Hamilton St. is set back more than a dozen metres from the sidewalk.

The home at 154 Hamilton St. in Leslieville, sandwiched between two houses and set back several metres from the street, is listed for about $3 million.
The home at 154 Hamilton St. in Leslieville, sandwiched between two houses and set back several metres from the street, is listed for about $3 million.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

It’s selling for $3 million but depending on who you talk to, the property near Dundas St. E. and Broadview Ave. is either a wonder of modern architecture well worth that amount, or an ugly, overpriced monstrosity.

The 1,300-square-foot house is four storeys tall, with floor-to-ceiling windows. A portion of the house is cantilevered — protruding and elevated from the ground. It was built after a protracted battle that pitted owners of the property against the local councillor and several nearby residents — including a next-door neighbour who had limbs from her elm tree cut off two years ago during the home’s construction.

Bitter feelings linger. “It’s a really sad story,” said Councillor Paula Fletcher (Ward 14, Toronto-Danforth). “Everyone has been in a state over this particular house.”

It’s a story that began with an infill house that was a tiny garage long ago, and was later turned into a small, one-bedroom cottage.

In 2012, the city’s committee of adjustment approved the “minor variance” sought by Toronto architect Michael Mantzoris, who then owned the home. In 2016, Mantzoris, with business partner Gordon Kipping, sold the property to Cyril Borovsky, who built the existing four-storey home, which recently went on the market.

For homeowners Linda Bourgeois and Linda Clowes, who both live in a house on Munro St., one block west of Hamilton, their concern has always been the height of the house.

Four storeys is not in keeping with the heights of the other homes in the area, the two argue.

“This sets a precedent. The next thing you’re going to see is an eight-storey house,” Clowes said in an interview at their home this week. She and Bourgeois have lived in their home for 22 years and were part of the unsuccessful fight to stop the construction of 154 Hamilton years ago.

“It’s a slippery slope,” Clowes adds, referring to the height issue.

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Clowes and Bourgeois were among a group of alarmed residents who came together after Mantzoris applied to build a four-storey home on the tiny 15-by-86-foot lot.

A small cottage, left, occupied the lot at 154 Hamilton until 2012. It was replaced by a four-storeys tall, 1,300-square-foot house.
A small cottage, left, occupied the lot at 154 Hamilton until 2012. It was replaced by a four-storeys tall, 1,300-square-foot house.  (Toronto Star Composite Image)

Mantzoris purchased the cottage at 154 Hamilton in 2011 for $295,000 and later applied to rebuild on the lot. He and Kipping, a New York-based architect, designed a new house, but didn’t build it.

“We were interested in developing some interesting architecture,” Mantzoris said in a recent interview.

Mantzoris said he had a “more elegant design” in mind than what was eventually built. He said he wanted a house that would “disappear” into the fabric of the street more, and certainly not a white structure.

The zoning bylaw allowed for a building four storeys tall, Mantzoris added, arguing the roof peaks for some Victorian houses on Hamilton St. matched the four storeys he and his partner envisioned.

According to property records, Kipping and Mantzoris sold the property for $530,000 in 2016 to Borovsky, who constructed the existing house.

Borovsky didn’t reply to repeated requests from the Star for comment.

The house landed in controversy again in 2016, when Borovsky cut off a large limb of a neighbour’s 100-year-old silver maple, which hung over a fence onto Borovsky’s property.

According to a CBC report at the time, Borovsky said that overhanging limbs impeded the construction of his home.

But the city had turned down his bid to trim the limbs.

After it was cut, the city issued a stop-work order, but Borovsky argued he had a building permit that allowed him to override city rules on the protection of trees, the CBC report said.

The listing refers to the home as “truly unique” and a “modern marvel with four levels of functional minimalism.”

The white, four-storey east-end house was built back from the curb. It's listed for $3 million.
The white, four-storey east-end house was built back from the curb. It’s listed for $3 million.  (Dave Dunnville/Vimeo)

But John Richards, a resident on Munro St., called the house a “foolish design” built in the wrong place, and scoffed at the $3-million price.

“It looks like something that belongs in a trailer park,” says Richards, an architectural design specialist who does lighting designs for properties in Southeast Asia, the U.S. and Canada.

He believes the homeowners could have applied for a variance and done concrete foundation work that would have allowed the home to be built closer to the curb, preserving the backyard.

“The backyards around here are secret assets,” Richards says.

But Mantzoris said that scenario wasn’t possible.

“It wasn’t possible due to their roof eaves encroaching on either side of the property, and structurally we would be limited by the integrity of (the neighbours’) foundation walls and footings.

“Don’t get me wrong, we had investigated building closer to the curb, but after reviewing a few different design proposals with the senior (city of Toronto) planner for the area, we all agreed to develop the scheme at the rear of the lot, replacing the existing foundation and going up,” Mantzoris says.

Hans Ibelings, lecturer at the Daniels faculty of architecture, landscape and design at the University of Toronto, said taller homes are needed to “densify the city,” but in architectural terms, 154 Hamilton is “totally bland.”

“I have looked up images of the interior, and that confirms that this is not exactly a masterpiece of domestic architecture,” he said.

“Given the pressure on the housing market, it would be great if infills would lead to affordable projects. I don’t think there is a real shortage of $3-million homes,” he added.

Fletcher points to other houses in her ward that are built on tiny lots but fit with the other homes nearby, unlike 154 Hamilton, she argues.

“That should be the expectation — that a tiny house should fit well with the rest of the street, the rhythm of the street, the setbacks of the street,” Fletcher said.

“This one (on Hamilton) doesn’t fit, but others fit. It’s the difference between fitting and not fitting on these really small lots. Why do the others work and this one doesn’t?”

Donovan Vincent is a housing reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @donovanvincent

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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