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Shipping Containers Serve as Model for Toronto Urban Infill

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With space at a premium in Toronto, Canadian development company Curated Properties wanted to find a way to utilize an odd-shaped property in the burgeoning West Queen West neighborhood. The site being eyed by the company, a narrow, 60-foot wide lot at 45 Dovercourt Road, had been overlooked by most developers, according to architect Roland Rom Colthoff of RAW Design. Colthoff and his team devised an in-between solution he feels fits the changing landscape, a series of 25 two-story units called Cabin that will be built as prefab townhomes. Aping the shape and modularity of shipping containers while taking design cues from the cabins found in the Canadian wilderness, the project offers a potential model for working in crowded city neighborhoods, without adding a bland, obtrusive tower that sticks out in the rapidly changing cityscape.

"Most developers turned up their noses at using this lot," he says. "Our scheme makes for a very efficient building, and allows for unique organization that gives each of the units terraces and roof top areas."

Colthoff describes the development as transitional, a way to add density to the neighborhood without resorting to typical tower design. The six-story development adds housing that won't overshadow street-level life in the neighborhood. Set to open next year, 45 Dovercourt may be constructed out of panelized units and cross-laminated timber, a more sustainable and stackable system that can easily be transferred to similarly challenging lots. The 14-foot-wide units with cantilevered bedrooms offer efficient organization without feeling cramped. Even the sales office, a series of stacked shipping containers that will eventually be converted to a cottage unit, has the same modular philosophy.

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