Coming: Mid-rises made of wood

A city planner told Danica and me that “six on sticks” is her pet phrase for 6 storey, timber-framed buildings, now approved for construction in Toronto.


“Heartwood” is marketing-speak for 2x4s. Well, not just 2x4s. Timber construction with engineered beams has advanced a lot. I like the idea and so do city planners and developers.


Timber is faster and cheaper than concrete construction, reducing not only costs to purchasers, but shortening lane closure times and traffic congestion.

Best of all, developers have an incentive to accept 6 storey restraints. Timber construction requires less capital and delivers profits sooner. They can stop pushing for high rises to maximize real estate potential.


The shot above is a Gerrard St. East condo under construction. While it does depend on many 2×4 divider walls, it doesn’t really fit in the “six on sticks” category. It is unusual for the way its foundation was done but even more exceptional for its lack of sidewalk-level store fronts.

Will this become a trend? Many retail spaces have already been converted to residential space. There don’t seem to be enough store operators to fill them all. Plenty of stores just sit empty. As more and more shopping goes online and to big box chains, will  the need for small brick-and-mortar shops decline?

Almost every new condo on a main street comes with retail space on the bottom. Have the Gerrard builders read the tea leaves, seeing no need to build shops they won’t be able to rent out?