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Mixing condos and offices in the central business district leads to surprises for both sides

June 25th, 2012 · 26 Comments

I first realized things were going to get awkward for the new Swiss Real tower back on Nov. 30, when I went to an urban design panel hearing for the tower.

Although comments were generally favourable, something that several panel members worried about was the impact of the 420-foot tower on the Jameson House condo tower across the alley. They asked what could be done to protect the privacy of those condo owners, who faced the prospect of staring across the way at office workers at the same level.

As most of us know who have worked downtown at one point or another, staring at other office smurfs is a fine way to pass the time of day. Most people having office sex know to use the stairwells, or a room without windows, so the views are mostly of photocopiers and people hunched over desks.

When people’s living rooms have the same view, it’s a whole nother story, as I wrote in the Globe on Saturday.

Predictably, many Jameson House residents are unhappy about the situation. They say the Swiss Real tower is getting an unwarranted increased in density, from 9 to 22 FSR with no compensating community amenities.

City planners say that the city’s increased focus on finding places for job space led to the Swiss Real tower site becoming one of 25 identified for higher density and no community amenities are required, because providing square footage for the city’s economy IS the amenity.

This is a warning sign about one of the downsides of mixing residential into a central business district.


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