When renderings of a new Toronto project surface online, UrbanToronto lights up like a poorly maintained petroleum tank farm, especially if that project has a central location and includes talllllllllllll buildings. Outside of the Downtown core itself, there is no part of the city that triggers so much interest on UrbanToronto as Bloor-Yorkville where the subway lines meet, where the shopping is deluxe, and where the sidewalks now beat any others in town. It's also an area that UrbanToronto types suspect know is not all it could be yet, and where promises to redevelop are dissected at the micro level to examine what improvements they'll bring.
Such was the case yesterday evening when a newly revamped architectsAlliance website sported a new design for 2 Bloor West, a.k.a. Cumberland Terrace, an Oxford Properties site at the northwest corner of Yonge and Bloor Streets. It's been known for years that Oxford has wanted to redevelop the site which currently sports a 34-storey office tower and low-slung mall extending westwards along Cumberland Street.
A previous plan for the property by B+H Architects, still featured in our dataBase page for the property, had many excited by the possibilities. Since the time that proposal first appeared, many more redevelopment proposals in the area have come to the fore. Immediately adjacent to the south and west of 2 Bloor West's L-shaped site is Morguard's 50 Bloor West—the Holt Renfrew Centre—and its plan for an 83-storey residential tower and complete redevelopment of the upper tier department store and its mall. Across Cumberland Street from 2 Bloor West are two proposals on the north side; an advanced one from Minto which would redevelop the site of the Toronto Parking Authority's Yorkville Garage near Bay Street, while less advanced is a Bazis proposal at the Yonge Street end of the block.
The number and location of the properties up for redevelopment here at the same time caused Toronto's Planning Department to take a closer look. The City now wants to bring the fine pedestrian grain of Yorkville west of Bay to the area east of Bay, and this is being manifested in a plan to create a mid-block pedestrian retail mews from Bloor Street through to Yorkville Avenue, with a vista ending at the historic Yorkville Firehall's clock tower. The developers involved are now working in cooperation and the various redevelopment proposals are now being redesigned to accommodate the plan, and being redesigned to maximize the view opportunities for towers on each site.
The architectsAlliance renderings of 2 Bloor West are from before the plan for the pedestrian mews coalesced, and before the property owners started cooperating en masse. Jeff Hess, Senior Vice President for Development at Oxford Properties told me that they represented at one point one of several possible programmes for the site—a concept—but that what will eventually be built will in all likelihood be quite different from what is seen here.
UrbanToronto readers normally see renderings once proposals have been submitted to the City for its approvals process, and thus we are accustomed to expect a finished building several years off which will look quite similar. This is not the case here. No proposal has been submitted based on these renderings. This is a blue sky attempt to rise to some of the challenges presented by the site and its location directly over the Bloor line subway tunnel. While the diagonally braced 85 and 70-storey towers and the Wintergarden-topped podium design by architectsAlliance has turned a lot of heads, it's too early to get too excited.
It does make one dream about the possibilities though, right?!
Want to see the previous B+H Architects plan for the site? Check out our dataBase page for the project, linked below. Want to get in on the discussion? Choose the associated Forum thread link, or simply leave a comment in the space provided on this page.