Toronto Boutique Office Building Sports a Roof Top Garden

 In Gardens

Work perks: A Roof-Top Garden Can Suddenly Make the Office a Preferred Option

adapted from an article By Ben Kaplan, National Post

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 1.08.45 PMThere are eggplants and fig trees and artichokes growing in front of this Toronto boutique office building located in Midtown Toronto, just off Yonge Street and a bit south of Davisville Avenue. This six-story building,  124 Merton St., houses the usual severe-sounding businesses, places like Oral Ceramic Laboratory and Dandx Health Care, but high up above the workplace clamour, there’s an organic tomato farm where the building’s tenants are encouraged to come up and chill.

“It’s the perfect place to make private phone calls,” says Natalia Vitenski, who was enjoying a glass of chardonnay on the roof last Friday when the building’s owner, Vivian Reiss, invited outsiders to sample this year’s 34 varieties in her tomato crop. Reiss says the roof used to be “a black hole, just this horrible waste of dead space,” and so she decided to turn it into something that would improve her tenants’ quality of life.

“People are into the vibe of the building,” says Reiss, a New Yorker who wears pink sunglasses and has bangle bracelets hanging off both her wrists. “Lots of businesses have opened in this building, and when they grow, they just take on bigger spaces — they don’t want to move.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 1.09.59 PMOffice perks around the city have gone above and beyond just tomatoes. At Steam Whistle Brewery, employees celebrating five years at the company will be taken to Oktoberfest in Munich this fall, and at the Kraft headquarters on Moatfield Drive in North York, employees can stop off at the shop on the first floor of their building for affordable chocolate, peanut butter and other Kraft-brand goodies.
And of course, when Sugar Beach opened this month at the bottom of Jarvis Street, employees at the Queens Quay headquarters of Corus Entertainment were immediately packing suntan lotion along with their lunch.

“It’s awesome because it brings people from different departments together,” says Lee Millman, 27, who works in the on-air promotions department of the media company. “Working in television, there’s lots of deadlines, but it’s been so nice to be able to escape at lunchtime and put my feet in the sand.”
For some employees, like Waisee Wong, who works in the IT department at Spin Master, a toy company located at Spadina and Front, the office perks are geared more towards her kids. “My little one, Serafina, she’s turning three, and she was going on and on about coming to the office for her birthday party,” says Wong, who has two daughters, aged 12 and three.

At Spin Master, each employee is given four toys a year, but Wong’s co-worker, Enrico Ferrara, says it’s impossible to bring his kids by the office without leaving with an armful of goods. “My basement’s literally littered with Spin Master toys,” says Ferrara, whose boys are six and 12. Ferrara says he can’t even bring his sons to the office anymore at the same time. “It’s impossible; they fight over everything,” he says. “Although I guess it’s not the worst occupational hazard to have.”

Back at the tomato tasting on top of Vivian Reiss’s building, office workers were faced with an occupational hazard of a different sort. It was just after 5 p.m. and the chardonnay was flowing, but Vitenski, who originally had come up to the roof to make a quick private phone call, decided she’d had enough.

“I’d love to stay up here all evening,” she says, “but I’ve got to go back to work.”

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