Bird Poop!

Business | March 23, 2012

I think that’s the first time I’ve ever used the word “poop” in a blog title, but I digress…

The infamous “Bird Poop Building” on Yonge Street has been vacant for 25 years, and surprise, surprise – it’s going to be turned into a condo

If you know me, you know that I have a serious man-love for old, historic, Toronto buildings.

I’m fascinated by our city’s history, and while we simply can’t compete with the thousand-year-old structures in Europe, we do have our own little slice of history here in Toronto.

One of the most fun blog features I ever worked on was The Buildings of The St. Lawrence Market, back in 2009.  I did a three-part series on all the historic buildings in the area; a must-read for many of you who missed it!  You can read Part One HERE.

I’ve always admired the Bank of Commerce on Yonge Street, in between Queen & Shuter, but it’s a little…..ummmm……dirty, shall we say?

Over the years, this building has been used and abused by some of the most carefree and unpoliced members of our society: pigeons.

For some reason, pigeons love to empty their bowels (if birds have bowels…..any bird enthusiasts among my readers who can shed some light??) on this building and the neighbouring building immediately north.  Over time, these two buildings have simply become known as “the bird poop buildings.”

And seeing the photos I took below, can you argue?

Wow.  I don’t know what to say…

I’ve walked by these buildings many, many times over the years, and I’ve always thought, “I really wish somebody would do something with those buildings!”  It’s such a shame that a great piece of Toronto’s history is just sitting there getting crapped on by these guys:

Damn pigeons!

Well, time hasn’t been kind to the Bank of Commerce at 197-199 Yonge Street, but the future is bright!

I suppose it’s a bit of a double-edged sword, however.  I had always hoped that this beautiful building would be restored and turned into a library, museum, or event hall, but in actual fact, it’s going to be turned into yet another condo.  I suppose it’s the lesser of two evils; that is, it would be worse to see the building torn down or have it fall into even worse disrepair, although I’m not sure that’s possible…

Built in 1905, the Bank of Commerce has actually been abandoned since 1987!  It’s had many different uses over the years, and you can actually still see the words “DENTIST” on the second floor of the building where somebody probably practiced in the 60’s or 70’s:

Little-known developer, MOD Developments will be turning the historical building into a 60-storey condominium called “Massey Towers,” which already has a large advertisement up at the current site.  MOD Development’s only other project to date is FIVE Condos at St. Joseph’s & Yonge Street, but Massey Towers will be designed by renowned firm Hariri Pontarini Architects, whose projects are too many to name, but include One City Hall, Minto775, ART, Shangri-La, and my current residence, Vu Condos.

Like I said – it’s cliche that this site will become “yet, another condo,” but it’s better than letting it sit there and rot.

The article in this past week’s Globe & Mail, quoted the owner of MOD Developments, Gary Switzer, as saying, “What does it say about our city to have a building like this empty right on the main street?”

I couldn’t possibly agree more.

Yonge Street is famous!  It’s the best-known street in Toronto, and one of the most well-known streets in our entire country!

How could we let this happen?

Yet we have a poo-covered building sitting there, rotting away. 

It reminds me of this:

Those of you that read my blog during its infancy in 2007 will recall the photos and blog posts from my trip to Serbia.

These buildings are on the Belgrade’s equivalent of Yonge Street, and the city doesn’t have the money to fix them, so they don’t.  These buildings have been sitting here in this condition for almost twenty years, and they’ll likely remain as such indefinitely.

Toronto is not Serbia, but yet the Bank of Commerce and its sister building at 205 Yonge Street, the Bank of Toronto, draw some eerie similarities to the photo above:

Two buildings, both beautiful and historic, and both ruined by time.  And poo…

The crazy thing is – the Bank of Toronto is an even more impressive structure!  I wonder what will become of that building?  Perhaps, phase two of the condominium development at Massey Towers?

Dare to dream…

If you’re interested, there is a great article on www.blogto.com that has more information on the Bank of Toronto, complete with a dozen photos and even a video!  Check it out HERE.

Have a great weekend everybody!  Are the golf courses open yet?

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9 Comments

  1. BillyO

    at 9:09 am

    This will building looks great, and the condo that will rise between the two heritage structures looks great, shame about the floor plans though, most of them are crap.

    David, we all know you aren’t a fan of pre con these days between the higher prices, delays, shoddy workmanship, etc but something else is starting to become more noticeable. The sizes of the suites are shrinking at an alarming rate! Have you seen the pricelist/floor plans for Casa II? Many of the 2 bedroom units are under 700 sq ft! They all have wrap around a balconies, but still. A 625 sq ft 2 bedroom at close to $800 per sq ft (no parking or locker)? Compare this with Casa I which had numerous suites ranging in the 1000-1500 sq ft range. Surely this can’t be good for the market.

    1. David Fleming

      at 3:46 pm

      @ BillyO

      I remember the first time I saw a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom condo measuring 595 square feet. An agent brought in a floor plan and we all stood around and laughed at it. We taped off an area on the carpet with the same measurements as that in the floor plan – just to demonstrate how small the bedroom would be. It’s insane.

      People say things like, “Well over in CHINA, they’re living in 250 square foot condos.”

      This isn’t China. Let’s not even begin to count the differences…

      1. Phil

        at 11:46 am

        David, just to correct the rumour: Chinese don’t live in 250 sf condos any more. In big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, it is the opposite trend: developers build mostly large 2 and 3 bedroom condos, with less than 10% of the units being 1 bedrooms. One bedroom condos are usually 500sf or larger and most two bedroom suites are somewhere 800-1000sf. Three bedrooms would be 1300-1800 sf. Buyers are actually complaining units are too big (which led to higher prices) and they want smaller ones. I don’t think it is possible to find a 600sf two bedroom condos in any of the new-ish buildings.
        The exception is Hong Kong, where 595sf 2 bedroom condos are not only normal, but also considered spacious.

  2. Phil

    at 9:57 am

    I too think it makes more sense to make it into something else: a library, a department store (Toronto is very weak in that!), something everyone can enjoy. Yet it is another condo – not that I am against higher density in the core, it is just the building is too beautiful to be converted into another facaded highrise.

  3. Matt

    at 10:13 am

    We are now in the mania phase of condo construction in this city.

  4. Milan

    at 11:21 am

    David, a correction about the building in Belgrade. This building was the army headquarters that was bombed in 1999 by Nato planes. It hasn’t been fixed not because of lack of money, but because (long story short) the government at the time wanted to use it as a monument with political connotations, and there still isn’t enough political will to fix it.

    But this comparison with Yonge Street is off. Great blog otherwise, and keep up the good work.

    1. David Fleming

      at 3:42 pm

      @ Milan

      1999 eh? My friend (from Serbia….shows you what he knows!) said it was 1994, thus my “almost two decades” claim.

      He also told me that they aren’t fixing it because they don’t have the money.

      I should have sought a second source! I have so many Serbian clients – Damir, Milos, Uros, Dina – why didn’t you help me with this!?!?!?!

      I find it quite interesting that they’re leaving those buildings in that shape as a political statement. Perhaps fixing those buildings would wipe the issues from people’s memory. To Wikipedia, I go…

      1. Milan

        at 6:22 pm

        @ David
        If you really have to 🙂 have a look here:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yugoslav_Ministry_of_Defence
        but it’s the least appealing and the least representative building in Belgrade.

        Ok, back on the topic, it’s a shame that these two beauties will now be part of a condo building. But maybe finally they will invest in some anti-pigeon spikes!

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