Last week's series of public consultations in Toronto's Entertainment District saw a trio of projects up for discussion. To this point we have considered two; Mirvish+Gehry as it met the public for the first time, and 263 Adelaide Street West. Today we consider the recently announced proposal for a tower on the properties at 40 through 58 Widmer Street. This puts the Scotiabank Theatre complex immediately to the east, while to its south is a 9-storey brick warehouse converted to office space. To the west of the proposal is a more contemporary 9-storey office building, which is already flanked itself on either side by the construction sites for Peter Street Condos and Tableau.
Below are the Victorian row houses that currently sit at 40 through 58 Widmer. The Scotiabank complex, formerly the Paramount Cinemas, was built across the street before the zoning in the area looked at regeneration in the way we do now, and according to ward councillor Adam Vaughan, that was before anyone thought that there was any future for the community. The City had an opportunity to designate these properties as Heritage nearly 20 years ago but at that time chose not to.
Architect Enzo Corraza of Graziani + Corazza spoke about the project, noting its features. Developers Greenpark Homes also retained Michael McClelland of ERA Architects prior to acquiring the property, in response to the City's request to prepare a Heritage Impact Assessment. The proposal is to replace the existing row houses with a 40-storey residential building, including 1 floor of commercial office space on the second floor. Currently, no ground floor retail is proposed as is typically seen in other developments in the neighbourhood, although Widmer is a minor street in comparison to any other street in the area.
The architects looked at various angular planes, and looked at the potential impact of this tower on the Queen Street Heritage Conservation District where building heights are kept low to preserve the nature of the street. While the now under construction Picasso condo (shown on the left) clearly pierces the angular plane below which encroaching buildings are hidden, this proposal (in yellow), keeps within the requirements to address visual and shadow impacts onto Queen.
All vehicular access is all proposed from the south end of the site, with loading bays within the building itself, as well as the parking ramp access. Residential dropoff would also be done from the back side of the building.
The developer proposes to have about 6500 sq ft of commercial space on the second floor, with its lobby near the north end of the building. The residential lobby would be just south of that, and the sidewalk is proposed to be increased to about 1.4m wide. Four levels of underground garage is proposed with 73 spaces on 3 levels while a 4th level would accommodate bicycle parking and lockers for the residents in the building.
The third floor terraces back on the north side, with residential units facing Widmer, while more lockers make up the west half of the floor. The fourth floor is residential amenities space of approximtely 7000 sq ft.
The following is a typical tower floorplate.
Because the site itself is narrow, the building fills almost all of the Widmer frontage, creating what some in the meeting called a "fat and narrow form".
Heritage is clearly an issue with this proposal, as the developers intend to demolish the existing Victorian row houses that represent some of the few remaining in the neighbourhood. As the City has not taken the opportunity to protect the homes over the years, time has likely run out to do so.
A member of the public at the consultation raised the possibility of future adjacent tower applications. While the architects did a good job of identifying all the sites in their vicinity that currentlly have construction or proposals on them, they conspicuously left out the site to the north of the proposal, where a 3-storey warehouse building currently sits. Would this proposal preclude a future tower on that site?
Another attendee commented that architecturally this proposal one of the better designs he had seen recently, praising the articulation of the podium with mindfulness to the warehouse building to the south. Yet another attendee raised the issue of Widmer's narrowness, commenting that because of the long frontage of the proposal and its closeness to the Scotiabank Theatre complex, Widmer would likely be experienced in a negative way.
Suggestions were also made that because of the angular plane, what about pulling back the building from the north, making it more slender but taller near the southern part of the property: a smaller floor plate would be compensated for by a gain in height. The attendee noted that the massing of such a tower would not overwhelm the street as much, and thought it would be nice to have buildings in the area that weren't all approximately 40 storeys. He mentioned that with everything now benched at that height, it's going to look bizzare judging from how Cinema looks next to TIFF, and imagining the monotony if future towers all are around the same height.
Another person commented that there wasn't enough commercial space in the podium, and because of the ugly blank facing wall of the Scotiabank Theatre, it would be less desirable to have residential units in the first 8 or 9 floors of the proposed building. Because of that, and the the desire by the councillor to have more commercial space in the neighbourhood, it was suggested that this may be an opportunity to increase the number of commercial floors to maybe 9 floors.
What are your thoughts concerning this project and the ensuing discussion? Please leave us with your comments below, or in the discussion thread for this project.