July 6, 2011
Who is urbandreamer?
That’s something that everyone who loves Toronto development gossip and news would like to know. The mysterious figure, known only through his Twitter handle @urban__dreamer and his presence on development forums, is a great source of development industry and real estate news and is a true architecture, design and urban issues enthusiast. He also guards his true identity with a Batman-esque zeal.
We still don’t know where he gets all the amazing info that he tweets, but we hope this BuzzTalk will provide some insight into the enigma that is urbandreamer.
BBH: Whydoes the development industry interest you — and has it always?
UD: I’ve always been interested in architecture, from 12th century English castles to modern office blocks so my interest in the business starts with aesthetics and ends with lasting legacies. Nothing lasts as long on Earth as a well-crafted building! Architecture runs in my blood—my family history going back centuries has been practising architects, although the past few generations not so much… I want to continue this legacy…
Finally, having moved to Toronto in the mid-90s I spent many nights on long solitary walks from the Annex to Forest Hill, the Bridlepath,or Parkdale and beyond taking in the streetscape, new retail shops,the built form, new developments along the way, the urban decay and imagining what I’d do with the site… To this day, nothing invigorates my passion for good urban development more than walking the streets of the city finding relationships between buildings, the street and vacant spaces dreaming of what I’d do with strip plazas, empty lots, even older buildings if I was a developer.
BBH: Why has your interest never provoked a desire to work in the industry?
UD: I was a very shy child, and I suppose feeling the misunderstood outsider, never was surrounded by folks that shared my interest, and thus never knew exactly how to enter the industry. Joining urbantoronto almost a decade ago opened my eyes to a whole new world,where folks actually thought the things I did, or gasp! made a living from it! But it was easy to play the anonymous critic on these sites rather than participate in a related career.
UD: The condominium scene in Toronto overall is made up of a tight network of insiders, conservative business folk where sadly, only the bottom line seems to matter. There are signs of change though, from folks like Brad Lamb or Peter Freed or Symmetry Developments or UrbanCapital’s River City, that good design can be a central part of the business. Nonetheless, even though many eyesores and mediocre buildings have gone up over the past decade’s boom, the end result is an increasingly vibrant city with more pedestrians, bars, cafes, galleries and such that make life worthwhile, and increasingly educated condo buyer willing to buy quality designed projects.
BBH: What resources do you use for your research? You seem to know everything!
UD: Google! Seriously though, almost everything is online, although some of it is worth paying for! There’s still some expensive material out here that one day I’d love to subscribe to as an industry professional — Loopnet, Urbanation, NRU and other urban issues publications.
BBH: If you were to lead a condominium project somewhere in the GTA wherewould it be and what would it include feature and amenity-wise?
UD: I’d like to lead a multi-phased-project featuring an architect love — Peter Clewes or Montreal’s Saucier+Perotte — using a material this city was built with — red brick — with appropriate scale — 8-10 is perfect — filling in a dreary, but accessible hole in the urban fabric, ideally creating a continuous streetwall. One such street in dire need of change is Bathurst Street, really anywhere south of Steeles would do, but why not start around Bathurst and Bloor to QueenStreet West…? Those rundown rooming houses along that strip make the vibrancy of Spadina and East instantly forgettable… depressing so it needs to change!
UD: While many of these buildings have inferior architecture — Liberty Village area in particular stands out — what an embarrassment! — overall the vibrancy of downtown has changed considerably over the years with all these new folks moving into condos. The city has come alive, and can only increase in vitality!
BBH: You invented the term ‘render porn’. What does it mean and how do you decide which one is designated centre-spread of the week?
I’m anticipating having an annual awards show, probably the last Monday in December, at any event space, gallery or pub willing to tolerate a bunch of architecture snobs and developers, architects and render artists associated with my weekly picks! Thus a Render PornStar starts not with a great render but rather with great architecture! It’s my contribution to the development industry — good design and quality renderings need to be promoted!
UD: I live in BLAH — that’s Bloor and High Park area, yeah it’s kinda blah! But it’s close to two subway stops, decent bus and streetcar connections, my job, vibrant and trendy areas like Bloor WestVillage, Roncesvalles, the Junction, Blansdowne and has an up comingproject I rather like by Daniels, and the Address at High Park is decent infill too! It feels removed from the city —which I both love and loathe — but I’ve got a great city view to remind me where I am!
UD: This is a tough one. On the one hand, the mystery is intriguing for the audience, but on the other, does it set back my career aspirations in the real estate/development world?
Thanks to urbandreamer for taking the time to BuzzTalk with us! If you’re curious, he didn’t reveal his true identity to us, so don’t bother asking :)