587 Yonge Street

I wrote yesterday about taking a break from building for the rest of 2016, but that I have other new projects I’m working on and getting ready to start.  One of the new projects I am starting on the preparations for, is a model of 587 Yonge Street in Toronto.  For many, the address won’t mean anything, it’s just another anonymous 3 storey retail building along the Yonge Street strip between College and Bloor, but for those who like good beer, 587 Yonge Street was home for the last 30 years to Bar Volo, one of the early comers on the good beer scene in Toronto, the owners of which are almost singlehandedly responsible for the re-birth of Cask Conditioned Real Ale in Ontario through the creation of the “Cask Days” festival in 2005, and was one of my favourite places in the city to have a beer, dine, bring friends and family, and enjoy an evening from when I was introduced to it around 2006, until the last night on October 1, 2016.  Over the years, I have had the great pleasure of getting to know owner Ralph Morana and his sons Tomas and Julian as they grew into the business as staff, managers, and active parts of the restaurant, bar, Cask Days, brewery and beer importing business that Volo evolved into.  I even had the pleasure of turning the tables and volunteering to serve at a couple of Cask Days festivals when it was held at the bar, before the space at 587 Yonge Street couldn’t accommodate the size and scope of the festival.  The last night of Volo as it was, was because of another inevitability in Toronto, the building’s impending (now complete) demolition for a new condominium.  A new 2nd bar run by Tomas and Julian has opened on College Street as Birreria Volo, and Bar Volo is intended to arise like a phoenix at a new location, but as anyone knows, things are never the same when that kind of change happens.

29515480414_3868e052bb_o587 Yonge Street, as nondescript a 3 storey Yonge St Commercial Building as you could find, but full of life and memories on the ground floor.  This picture is sadly the last night at Volo on October 1, 2016.

So why is all/any of this important?  Well, while Volo wasn’t anywhere near a train track (not counting the subway beneath it), as I was enjoying a final visit on the last day, and commiserating with people I’ve met over the years, I realized, that I am more than able to create a memorial to a place I loved using all the skills I have as a modeller.  I don’t have a layout to put it on, but, the building itself is small enough that it will fit on a 12″x 12″ panel, with lots of room for the patio and a portion of Yonge and Dundonald Streets to create a mini-diorama. It will also fit nicely into a future layout or larger project that has an urban street to fill a corner and be a focal point.

Good times at Bar Volo, if you look close enough, there’s even some crazy model railroader pre-beard hiding in there.

The building itself is relatively simple, a rectangular box with windows, no crazy architecture or strange details, just brick with stone inserts at the windows.  This means I can easily use traditional construction techniques, build a sheet styrene frame, cover it with embossed brick sheet, and windows and doors, and paint.  The biggest need, is for dimensions and drawings.  While the City of Toronto Building Department would likely have the original architects plans microfiched at City Hall, since I’m not the owner and don’t have their authorization, they wouldn’t be able to release them to me (but, if you own a building in Toronto or have the owners authorization, Building Records Staff are actually very helpful in obtaining drawings, I do it for clients a couple of times a year).  But, the fact that there is a Condo being built on the site, actually made some very useful drawings available for free from the City.  The City Planning department posts all the applicants submitted materials on their website for development applications.  In this case, it got me something almost as useful as detailed building plans, a brand new topographic survey of the properties being developed, showing the dimensions of the building, the patio, the setbacks from the street, and where different bits of infrastructure are located.

untitledExtract of Topographic Survey, Copyright 2015 R.Avis Surveying Inc.

Before Volo was torn down, I went back and took a host of pictures of the building and details, and measured some key items around the outside of the building, including the bricks.  Using pictures and spot measurements, I can work with the information from the survey which gives me an accurate building footprint to prepare drawings of the building to use as templates for cutting the walls and building the scenic base.  My plan is to draw up the required windows and doors and have them 3D printed, as matching windows and doors aren’t readily available.  I also want to do a highly detailed interior, as a big part of what made Volo such a special place and created so many memories is what happened inside, sitting with friends over meals, chatting at the bar, and the ambiance of the space.  While this can’t really be recreated in 1/87th scale, the appearance of it can be re-created, and along with tiny LED’s, the warm welcoming feeling can be presented.  I suspect I’ll 3D print the interior so i can get a lot of detail in without having to make the fiddly bits by hand.

img_3337Working on counting bricks and preparing the plans for 587 Yonge Street so I can re-create it in HO Scale.

I don’t normally set goals for myself on when a project is going to be done, as there are too many variables, but all things being equal, I’d like to have this done by October 2017 so that perhaps it can make an appearance at the next Cask Days festival as a reminder of how far the beer culture has come in Ontario in a relatively short period of time.  We’ll see how far I get, but I will definitely write about the project again when I complete the drawings and start actual construction.

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