Updated plans for a condo-hotel-museum-retail complex to be known as King Blue Condos at King Street West and Blue Jays Way were revealed yesterday by Mansoor Kazerouni of Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects on behalf of the Easton's Group of Hotels and Remington Homes. The presentation was at a meeting hosted by Adam Vaughan, Toronto City Councillor for the ward where the project is proposed, to let interested parties in on the plans and to get community feedback. The proposal is still at a stage where changes are likely to occur.

355 King St W, Toronto, as designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects355 King St W as designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects

(We apologize for the quality of the photos, all taken at an acute angle.)

The shot  above looks west along King Street past the Victorian low-rise restaurant row at the foot of the complex, while the TIFF Bell Lightbox can be seen on the right. The design is a major departure from the previous one by KPMB Architects for previous ownership. That plan consisted of a pair of towers situated similarly, but with a bold, exciting design appropriate for a lively city and perfect for the vibrant Enterainment District. Every section of the KPMB design playfully referenced the distinctive terra cotta frames of the 1905 Westinghouse Building, seen at the bottom centre of the rendering below, and updated the look through staggered cubes. One often hears about the embodied energy of buildings: this design expressed that embodied energy better than any other design proposed for Toronto, its cubes seemingly shifted by massive forces into a haphazard stack.

355 King St W Toronto as designed by KPMB Architects355 King St W as designed by KPMB Architects

So, how can a project that is designed to look sleeker actually come off looking clunkier and inelegant compared to a KPMB's assymetrical plan? Page + Steele seems to have found a way with their suburban office park aesthetic, a dated looking design which is reminiscent of CD stackers of the 1980s. It is unsurprisingly taking a beating in the UrbanToronto Projects and Construction thread for the site.

Following are the treatments for the design of the podium along King Street, Blue Jays Way, and Mercer Street.

Page + Steele's plan also echoes the terra cotta frames of the Westinghouse building, while the main element of the podium's facade would be the black brick popularized by its application on the Four Seasons Centre of the Performong Arts. A glass reveal separates new construction from the preserved Westinghouse façade.

355 King St W, Toronto, as designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group ArchitectsKing frontage, 355 King St W as designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects

355 King St W, Toronto, as designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group ArchitectsBlue Jays Way frontage, 355 King St W as designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects

355 King St W, Toronto, as designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group ArchitectsMercer frontage, 355 King St W as designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects

Whie the south tower rests heavily in the image above, this southwest corner perspective is still the most satisfying view of the podium frontages of the building, where horizontal bands outline the location of TheatreMuseumCanada, a 10,000 square foot space for a new small museum for Toronto. The Museum is part of the Section 37 benefits derived from this project, and was made a part of the plan when David Mirvish was the proponent. 

Despite criticism of the aesthetics of the plan, the scheme's street level plan is admirable, and has everything the City wants in a pedestrian friendly project. Here's how it works:

The vast majority of the street frontage on King, Blue Jays Way, and Mercer is made up of retail units. (Of the existing buildings lining King, only the one containing Verano restaurant is coming down for the project.)

355 King St W, Toronto, as designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group ArchitectsGround Floor Plan, 355 King St W as designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects

There is a mid-block, north-south pedestrian walkway from King through to a courtyard and on to Mercer. There is a mid-block eastbound only driveway off Blue Jays Way towards the King Street Alley, with a new north-south City-owned lane at the east end of the site taking traffic back to Mercer Street. The parking entrance and the loading bays are located at the east end of the project and can be accessed by the two-way, north-south lane off of Mercer. The south side of the eastbound driveway has a bollard-protected couple metres-worth of space for pedestrians. The north side of the courtyard has a lay-by for vehicle pick-ups and drop-offs, while the remainder of the area is bollarded off for pedestrians' convenience and safety. Paving stones will include scattered illuminated "stones" mixed in.

355 King St W, Toronto, as designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group ArchitectsCourtyard, 355 King St W as designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects

Each of the four sides of the courtyard will be predominantly glazed:

  • The northwest corner will feature the hotel's lounge and entrance.
  • The northeast corner will feature the 48-storey tower's lobby and entrance.
  • The southwest corner will be the 44-storey tower's lobby and entrance.
  • The southeast corner will be the lobby and entrance to TheatreMuseumCanada.

Second floor areas at these corners will also be glazed. The glazed boxes will always mean that activity and light will filled the courtyard area.

The north podium of the project up by the hotel on floors 2 through 8, essentially in the area behind the bricks, black or yellow, in the images above. The Westinghouse Building's façade will be preserved, but not its interior spaces. The brand hotel that would be run inside it has not been settled on yet: Easton's already operates several successful hotels in the area, including the Hilton Garden Inn and the Marriott Residence Inn, both within blocks of this site.

Above TheatreMuseumCanada's space space on the second floor of the south podium would be more residential condominium units associated with the south tower. The top of the podiums - 7th and 8th levels - feature outdoor amenity space for the condos and hotel, with green features. The tops of the towers will feature white roofs.
More information can be found in UrbanToronto's Projects and Construction thread for the project, here.
What do you think of this plan? Let us know in the comment section below, or join the discussion in the thread linked above.