Local Condominium Developer The Rockport Group Takes St Clair West Beautification to a whole new Artistic Level By Joshua Sherman
Construction sites aren’t usually known for their aesthetic beauty. Mostly they’re limited to utilitarian elements like temporary fencing, or a few pylons scattered about.
Not so at 829 St. Clair Ave. W., where work on The Rockport Group’s The Nest condo development is underway. Instead of stark walls of hoarding, artists’ work is on full display. “We wanted to find a way to beautify the community during The Nest construction period,” explains Rockport spokesperson Lauren Granatstein.
This June, as students from nearby Oakwood Collegiate Institute put the final brush strokes on a mural covering The Nest’s temporary fencing along Hendrick Street, the developer’s goal was realized. The finishing touches came on the heels of a mural that local artists William Lazos and Michael Davis painted in late 2014 overtop the construction site’s St. Clair Avenue West hoarding.
Positive community reaction to that project spurred the creation of another, says Granatstein. “It inspired us to do the same for Hendrick Street,” she says. So Rockport reached out to Michael Bodden, then an art teacher at Oakwood, early this year to see if students wanted to paint a new mural.
The resulting piece students created depicts buildings from the area – including a minimalist rendering of what The Nest will look like once completed – and colourful birds, a playful nod to the condo’s name. Referring to the mostly red-and-blue mural’s theme, Bodden says, “We wanted to keep it within the community.” Thus far, it seems the community’s taken to the second mural, too. “We’ve gotten great compliments from our neighbors who are happy to see art rather than posters and graffiti,” says Granatstein.
Of course, the creative process wasn’t without its challenges. Lining up panels – which Oakwood students had started painting off-site in March – with the hoarding wasn’t easy. “There’s a bit of a slope to the street,” says Bodden, “so we had to adjust each panel.”
The mural, standing eight feet tall and 65 feet long, will remain in place until construction winds down in Fall 2016. After that, it may live on elsewhere. “We are discussing options with the school for preservation,” says Granatstein.