Ever since the sale of land located between Wellington and Front Streets west of Spadina to RioCan REIT, Allied Properties REIT, and Diamond Corp was announced in November of 2012, UrbanToronto readers have been keen to learn what would be proposed for the site. The property, 6.47 acres known as the "Globe Lands" where the Globe and Mail currently has its offices, was joined in April 2013 to another 1.2 acre site at the corner of Spadina and Front. That land, previously home to a Toyota dealership, was to be redeveloped as a new office tower for the Globe, but that media company has since announced a move to 351 King Street East.

RioCan, Allied, and Diamond have now announced details of their joint venture for the full site, a multi-use development that will bring offices, residences, shops, restaurants, green space, and landscaped pedestrian laneways. Three renowned firms have been announced as part of the design team. Master planned and architecturally designed by Toronto's Hariri Pontarini Architects, with Montreal's Claude Cormier + Associés handling landscape design, and Connecticut-based Pickard Chilton designing an office tower, the overall 7.67 acre development is to be known as The Well. Plans that will require zoning bylaw amendments and official plan amendments are expected to be submitted to the City of Toronto in the next two weeks.

Looking southeast along Wellington Street at The Well, condos and retail TorontoLooking southeast along Wellington Street at The Well, image courtesy of Diamond Corp

The team's intention at The Well is to create a mixed-use development which integrates live-work-play within the site to a greater extent than any other other project currently proposed on Toronto, while sensitively connecting to the surrounding neighbourhood. The plan, tallest at Front and Spadina, drops down in height toward Wellington and Draper Streets, and includes many buildings separated by meandering shop-lined pedestrian lanes, with offices and residential condominiums or rental units above. Brick, not concrete nor steel, more typical of current development in Toronto, would frame generous glazing on the buildings' lower floors. Buildings are designed on a theme-and-variations basis as opposed to the copy-paste method seen in many developments.

The site's developers have each weighed-in on their aspirations for The Well.

Stephen Diamond, President and CEO of Diamond Corp laid out his firm's intentions at the site; “It is rare that developers have the opportunity to shape a mixed urban space that links us to all that is essential in our lives. The Well will be a world class mixed development that expands and enhances the experience of downtown living while integrating seamlessly with all of our neighbours, adding to Toronto’s attraction as a great city.”

Edward Sonshine, RioCan’s CEO added “Our vision for this community is that those who come to The Well, whether to shop, work, live or all three, will discover opportunities to connect and engage in ways that are often missing from urban life. Each element of The Well—retail, commercial and residential interspersed with pedestrian friendly walkways and open space—will flow together synergistically to create a vital and vibrant community. The Well captures our energy and creativity and provides us with a new landmark.”

Michael Emory, President and CEO of Allied spoke on his firm's behalf; “For two and a half decades, Allied has been renovating, developing and managing office space to meet the changing needs of businesses and their employees who want to work in Toronto’s vibrant downtown core. Our joint venture with RioCan and Diamond allows us to bring complementary expertise to bear in creating an urban environment where everyone will be connected. Knowledge workers, shoppers, residents and neighbours will enrich the urban experience for one another on an ongoing basis. The common spaces in The Well will significantly enhance the sense of community that exists in the area.”

The plan extends existing pedestrian lanes linking popular King and Wellington Street strolling areas into the site to form a seamless extension of a revitalized Downtown West, while building on the pedestrian promenade now developing along tree-lined Wellington Street. Restaurant patios and a central green space will enliven the pedestrian realm, while an undulating glass canopy is proposed to shelter internal shopping mews without creating an indoor mall.

Pedestrian lanes will connect The Well to established King West haunts, TorontoPedestrian lanes will connect The Well to established King West haunts, image courtesy of Diamond Corp

The site's designers all have something to say as well about their part in creating The Well.

Claude Cormier, of Claude Cormier Landscape Architects volunteered “There is a strong and definite interest in providing a high quality public realm that will be a true benefit for everyone: the city, the neighborhood, the residents, and the developers.”

Jon Pickard, FAIA, OAA, RIBA, a principal of Pickard Chilton told us “It is a deep honour for us to collaborate with RAD (RioCan, Allied and Diamond Corp) in the realization of the 410 Front Street development. As this will be Pickard Chilton’s first project in Toronto, we are highly motivated by this extraordinary opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the vitality of Downtown West and to the Toronto skyline.”

David Pontarini, of Hariri Pontarini Architects summed it up; “The truly mixed-use configuration of this project could inform future development of Toronto. Not only has it brought together three of the city’s most innovative developers, but it is a visible commitment to high quality urban lifestyle – mixing living, working and leisure space in a downtown setting. This is a legacy project for all involved.”

Pedestrian realm at The Well on Wellington Street, looking west, TorontoShops and restaurants predominate at street level at The Well on Wellington Street, looking west, image courtesy of Diamond Corp

The developers have already engaged the local residents' association and have been discussing their plans with the City's Planning Department and local City Councillor Adam Vaughan. With the application shortly to be submitted to the City, greater outreach to the community will be coming up with public consultations. The plans will continue to develop and morph through the planning process.

While UrbanToronto has obtained the above three images (higher-res detail shots are included in our dataBase file, linked below), we were privileged to see some other concept renderings and site plans which we cannot yet present, but which we can elaborate on.

Further details we can tell you, but cannot yet show you:

  • Vehicular access to the site would be restricted to only a couple of entry/exit points to underground garages. Vehicles would not move through the site at ground level, which would be left to pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • Approximately half a million square feet of retail space is planned for the development at ground level, one level below ground, and one level above. Retail would include everything from fashion to groceries, from "international anchors" to one-off boutiques, while restaurants and coffee shops would dot the site.
  • More than a million square feet of residential units are planned for The Well, with both condominiums and rental buildings planned.
  • More than a million square feet of office space is planned for The Well, most of it in a 34-storey office tower proposed for the southeast corner of the site (at the northwest corner of Front and Spadina). Its designer is Pickard Chilton Architects of New Haven, Connecticut.
  • Along its west edge, the property extends to the back of the Victorian homes along Draper Street. A row of townhomes, as part of a building podium, would face the homes on Draper, while a landscaped walkway would extend through to the quaint street at 19 Draper.
  • While Section 37 benefits are still a ways from being nailed down, amongst the local improvements the developers are proposing are a landscaped sidewalk along the south side of Front Street, partially cantilevered over the slope leading down to the GO Bathurst rail yard. The sidewalk would extend as far east as Spadina, while the west end would culminate in a new ramp connecting to the Puente de Luz, the popular pedestrian bridge which crosses the tracks to Concord CityPlace.

For more information on The Well, check out UrbanToronto's dataBase file for the development, linked below. Want to talk about The Well? Join the conversation in the associated Forum thread, or add your comment in the space provided on this page.