The State Building Group and Stanford Homes have proposed an extensive redevelopment of what are currently surface parking lots at Front and Spadina in Downtown Toronto. The property at 400 Front Street West is somewhat bowtie-shaped, and works its way around existing buildings including Tridel's Element and Emprie's Fly on Front Street to the south, and the 1911-built Clarence Square Building at 49 Spadina Avenue to the west. It site also borders Clarence Square itself, a Toronto park dating back to the 1850s. The square provides the greatest inspiration for the proposal designed by architectsAlliance and landscape architects Public Work.

400 Front Street, Toronto, architectsAlliance, Public Work, State Building GroupPreliminary Concept, 400 Front Street and neighbouring The Well, image courtesy of the State Building Group 

The proposal is across Spadina Avenue from The Well, a large mixed-use development proposal being pursued by DiamondCorp, Allied REIT, and RioCan on land where the Globe and Mail is currently located. Between them , both developments promise significant new space for residents, office space, retail, and comprehensive public realm enhancements which would transform the area, infusing it with significant vibrancy. The Well would bring close to 2.5 million square feet of new development, while 1.5 million square feet of space, mostly residential, is proposed for 400 Front.

400 Front Street, Toronto, architectsAlliance, Public Work, State Building GroupPreliminary Concept, 400 Front Street, looking north across Front, image courtesy of the State Building Group

This preliminary concept plan for 400 Front Street—not yet submitted to the City—is made up of five main buildings. A pair of towers, 24 and 25 storeys high, are situated along Front in the southwest portion of the site. They have been kept relatively low to avoid casting shadows on Clarence Square. The towers sit on slender podiums and are surrounded on all sides by generous sidewalks or laneways with retail at grade.

400 Front Street, Toronto, architectsAlliance, Public Work, State Building GroupPreliminary Concept, 400 Front Street, looking east towards Downtown Toronto, image courtesy of the State Building Group

A taller pair of towers—currently proposed at 58 and 60 storeys—would sit on a much larger podium at the northeast corner of the site. It too would have retail at the base, with ground level retail across the site totalling about 100,000 square feet of space. On the second floor of this podium would be an additional 40,000 square foot grocery store.

400 Front Street, Toronto, architectsAlliance, Public Work, State Building GroupPreliminary Concept, 400 Front Street, Grocery store, image courtesy of the State Building Group

A two-storey pavilion is the last main component building proposed for the site. The building could be retail, or a cultural venue or a community facility, depending on how plans for the complex evolve. It would be positioned in the centre of the bowtie, at a point where the southwest and northeast side laneways all meet up, and right across from the southeast corner of Clarence Square, with the intention that it might act as the lynchpin attraction for the whole site, during the daytime and into the evening hours.

400 Front Street, Toronto, architectsAlliance, Public Work, State Building GroupPreliminary Concept, 400 Front Street, looking northeast at the pavilion, image courtesy of the State Building Group

Facing Clarence Square on its east side would be a tall arcade, with one of the two tallest towers held aloft over it by canted pillars in a repeating V pattern. Providing shelter while also allowing in significant light, the space would serve as restaurant/café patio and gathering space, as an amenity for those drawn to the square.

400 Front Street, Toronto, architectsAlliance, Public Work, State Building GroupPreliminary Concept, 400 Front Street, looking east towards the arcade, image courtesy of the State Building Group

As with the building plans, the landscape and paving plan for the site is also still preliminary, but the intention is for a coordinated theme with variations throughout the site. Coordinated enough that the extent of the site can be understood as one centre, but with variations that provide fine-grained detail, relief, and interest throughout.

400 Front Street, Toronto, architectsAlliance, Public Work, State Building GroupPreliminary Concept, 400 Front Street, looking north through the arcade, image courtesy of the State Building Group

The proponents are suggesting that the recently improved Clarence Square be further improved. The low-volume roadway surrounding the square on three sides would be woonerf-ized to a degree, with curbs removed to make pedestrian access to the park space much simpler and more inviting. The treatment proposed is similar to what was installed on Market Street in 2014, one which proved extremely popular. 

400 Front Street, Toronto, architectsAlliance, Public Work, State Building GroupPreliminary Concept, 400 Front Street, looking south beside Clarence Square, image courtesy of the State Building Group

The proponents foresee adding a circular multifunction pathway to Clarence Square, which would return to the park some of its original Victorian design geometry, while brining in modern touches. Seen below in four seasons, the ring would be raised in areas to provide seating on its edges, it could include misters to providing more cooling in the summer, and could be flooded in the winter to make a skate path. The ring would also define the edge of certain uses, like the leash-free fenced area on the south side, and other flexible use activity areas. The ring would be able to be built in open space without cutting down a single tree in the park… but again, this is all very preliminary and changes to the park will have to satisfy Toronto Parks and Recreation, Toronto Planning, and would be the subject of further public consultations as well.

Clarence Square, Toronto, architectsAlliance, Public Work, State Building GroupPreliminary Concept, Clarence Square improvements, image courtesy of the State Building Group

Introduced at a public consultation on Tuesday Feb 3, the plans were quite favourably received overall. There were no major objections raised about any of the specifics of the plans, while area residents are naturally concerned that what gets built does not overwhelm the area. The promise of more neighbourhood-oriented shopping, especially a large grocery store, was particularly welcomed. The mid-block pedestrian links focusing on Clarence Square also seemed to be a major hit.

400 Front Street, Toronto, architectsAlliance, Public Work, State Building GroupPreliminary Concept, 400 Front Street, Site Plan, image courtesy of the State Building Group

The application is expected to be filed with the City in March, with more details to emerge at that time. Further public consultations would follow later in 2015. 

Want to know more about this project now? You will find more renderings in our dataBase file for 400 Front Street, linked below. Want to talk about it? You can join in on the discussion in the associated Forum thread, or add a comment in the space provided on this page.