Toronto’s Office Tower Boom

Why businesses are trading suburban office parks for downtown highrises

IT TURNS OUT THAT PETER MENKES was onto something in 2005 when he bought a swath of deserted land south of Union Station with the kooky idea of developing office space. As early blueprints were being drafted, Telus signed on to be his anchor tenant. The telecommunications giant had been looking to consolidate its 15 GTA locations, preferably somewhere cool, and pushed for an edgy and eco-forward design. By 2009, Menkes’ 30-storey Telus House had surfaced and spurred a wave of office tower projects now rising from waterfront brownlands. Count them: PwC’s glass-encased building on York, the nearby Bremner Tower under construction, and, south of the Gardiner, RBC’s WaterPark Place III and another Menkes office building on lower York Street that will stretch the boundaries of the Financial District. Continue reading

Canada’s Most Unwanted

As infertility rates rise and foreign adoptions become more difficult, some 30,000 Canadian foster kids may have a better shot at finding a family

WHEN JEFF AND ELIZABETH FENNELLY applied to adopt a child in 2010, they were young (both twenty-nine) and, as far as they knew, fertile. Elizabeth had always wanted to adopt, and she didn’t necessarily want an infant. Growing up as the third of seven siblings, she was used to babies and felt no urge to revisit diapers. In Jeff’s case, adoption ran in his family. He was adopted as an infant, as was his father. “It’s not that I felt some sort of duty or obligation to adopt because I was,” he says. “We just felt we had the skill set to be able to help a child.” This is his way of saying that they are intelligent, loving, adaptable people who would make good parents. For a thirty-one-year-old, Jeff, a clerk for Statistics Canada, speaks with the buttoned-up air of someone older: crisp and clinical, but without sounding cold. Elizabeth, a legal assistant, is small, pert, and also beyond her years. She is the emotive one in the pair. Throughout the adoption process, she blogged with stark honesty about what she and Jeff wanted in a child. “We would adopt internationally, two little boys who wouldn’t have a home without us,” she had written confidently, and now, she will admit, naively. Continue reading

Wild Brewing

Toronto brewers make beer in the back-breaking style of old-world Belgian breweries

ON A GREY OCTOBER AFTERNOON at the Good Earth vineyard in Beamsville, Ontario, a crowd gathers around a cluster of steaming stainless-steel vats set up mere feet from the rows of swollen grapes. Iain McOustra, a brewer with Toronto’s Amsterdam Brewing Co. and one of the architects of this madcap plan, periodically stirs the boiled concoction of grains, hops, and water that has the hue of milky coffee and smells faintly like shredded wheat. If McOustra is giddy, it’s because he’s exhausted and exhilarated by this, the culmination of three years of research and planning to make a sour beer in the back-breaking style of old-world Belgian breweries. Continue reading

Embracing Office Romance

Why bosses need not fear love among the cubicles

IT’S THE INFAMOUS DISASTERS THAT PRESERVE the chill around workplace romance: Bill Clinton and the intern, David Letterman and his assistant, former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz and the communications staffer. Even here in the real world, there’s no shortage of gossip about the CEO and the underling, shunted to a dreary regional outpost under mysterious circumstances. But what about a 25-year-old marketing manager and his colleague down the hall? They’re around the same age, they’re into the same music and they understand each others’ lives better than any outsider could. Need their employer fear these flying sparks in the vicinity of the serious business of work? Continue reading

A Modern Migration: Inuit Go South

Inuit are the least urbanized of aboriginal groups – less than 20 percent live in an urban centre – more are now moving to cities, a modern migration that seems inevitable and, some would say, even necessary.

WHEN YOU CONSIDER WHERE RHODA INNUKSUK was born, it seems remarkable that she now lives in a three-bedroom brick house on a leafy street in suburban Ottawa, where her 12-year-old adopted son and his friends are currently holed up in the living room playing Rock Band. A selection of classic-rock staples howls through the kitchen as Innuksuk prepares a pot of coffee. “Forgive the mess,” she says, referring to the boxes piled by the door. She has been sorting through winter clothes in preparation for a trip to Qaiqsut, an ancient hunting camp near Igloolik, Nunavut, where she was born in a tent while her father was out walrus hunting. That was in 1952, sometime in August – her exact birth date is unknown. Continue reading

After 75 years, Alcoholics Anonymous still rankles

For all AA’s seeming success and worldwide acceptance as *the* alcohol-recovery program, its references to God and spirituality have always rankled — even turned away — non-believers

IN A CLASSROOM ABOVE A TORONTO SUBWAY STATION, an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting gathers. The room is dreary, with harsh lighting and plastic chairs, and every few minutes a train rumbles below. Tonight roughly 25 people have trickled in — young professionals, students, middle-aged family men, a few first-timers — all here because they are alcoholics seeking the camaraderie and support of fellow alcoholics. But unlike a traditional AA meeting, this group makes no mention of God or any kind of “higher power” as prerequisite for recovery. This is “AA for free-thinkers,” an intergroup called Beyond Belief. “We found AA was getting a little too evangelical,” says Joe C., who co-founded the group several months ago and, in the AA tradition goes only by his first name. “In its purest form, AA works,” he says. “So, we kind of take what we want and leave the rest.” Continue reading

Uncle Berwyn’s Backwoods Boon

From his secret birch-tree stand near Dawson City, Lyndsey Larson boils and bottles a savoury syrup.

LYNDSEY “UNCLE BERWYN” LARSON SITS ACROSS from me in a clammy, raucous pub in Dawson City, Yukon. Over the barks and screeches of drunken patrons, we talk syrup. “Don’t think maple; don’t think pancakes,” he warns as I dip my finger in the dark, silky elixir that he cooks up on a secret plot of forest 140 kilometres east of town. On my tongue birch syrup is sort of spicy, rich and – Larson’s right – not necessarily what you’d want topping your pancakes, but better suited to fish marinades and dressings. “I eat a lot of this stuff,” he says with a wide, goofball grin. Continue reading