Over the last two decades, Toronto's former railway lands have undergone a remarkable transformation, as high-rise residential towers now stand where, not so long ago, an empty and sullen expanse stretched out just west of the Downtown core. Yet, while residential development has transformed the area seemingly overnight, bringing thousands of new residents to the city, public infrastructure has not been as quick to follow. Though City of Toronto by-laws ensured that new parks (including Douglas Coupland's Canoe Landing Park) and public art have accompanied the residential towers, the construction of housing has not yet fully translated into the construction of a community. Now, however, as concept plans for Concord CityPlace's new public schools and community centre at Block 31 have been revealed, area residents can look forward to seeing the social fabric of a more mature neighbourhood sewn together. 

Block 31, Toronto, by City of Toronto, ZAS Architects Inc.Aerial view of Block 31 and surrounding area, image from Apple Maps

Following a round of public consultations in early 2015, the new schematic design for Block 31 represents a concretethough preliminary—step towards the development of new public infrastructure, with two schools and a new community centre now definitively in the City's plans. The new concept design is particularly significant considering the slow and controversial development progress on the site—which has been specifically earmarked for school development since at least 1994thus far.

Block 31, Toronto, by City of Toronto, ZAS Architects Inc.The footprint of the future Block 31 buildings seen beside Canoe Landing Park (left), image courtesy of the City of Toronto

Initially, the proposal for Block 31 included a 42-storey mixed-use tower (alongside the schools and community centre) on the site, though the scope and nature of that project proved highly contentious. The proposed building, which would have included a combination of market-price and Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) subsidized units, was highly criticized for the shadows it would cast over nearby amenity spaces and the site's adjoining Canoe Landing Park, as well as the views it would partially obstruct. The inclusion of TCHC units, meanwhile, also drew a degree of bourgeois, NIMBY-ist ire from some area interests.

Block 31, Toronto, by City of Toronto, ZAS Architects Inc.The entrance of the new complex from Brunel Court, image courtesy of the City of Toronto

The controversial reception of the previous proposal meant that progress on determining the site's future has been relatively slow until now. With this in mind, the recent and ongoing public consultations—and the framework emerging from them (above)have been especially meaningful, as they represent a long-awaited sign of momentum. Working with ZAS Architects Inc., the City has drawn on public input in outlining the broad scope of future development.

Block 31, Toronto, by City of Toronto, ZAS Architects Inc.A preliminary layout of the mixed-use public space, image courtesy of the City of Toronto

Block 31's main features will be two elementary schools—which will share a common space—and a community centre (above). Following the community meetings, the City responded to public demands for more community space by expanding the school's adjoining childcare area, providing improved amenities for families with younger children, including new playgrounds. The lobby space of the community centre has also been expanded to reflect a demand for communal space expressed in the public consultations, while the outdoor space has also been configured to respond to this community need (below).

Block 31, Toronto, by City of Toronto, ZAS Architects Inc.Block 31's outdoor space, image courtesy of the City of Toronto

One of the challenges of designing the space was finding a way to efficiently accommodate two schools in the same complex. Since the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) have both been designated to use the new space, the shared school building (LEVEL 1, above) will seek to maximize spatial efficiency, with a common gym and theatre complex for both schools. Some classrooms will even feature removable crucifixes.

Block 31, Toronto, by City of Toronto, ZAS Architects Inc.A rendering showing the view from above Canoe Landing Park, image courtesy of the City of Toronto

A particularly eye-catching feature of Block 31's design is the attempt to maximize available green space. With an articulated green roof spanning the complex's footprint, Block 31 will double as a public, outdoor space, looking like an extension of Canoe Landing Park in the renderings (above). With green space in Downtown Toronto at a premium, the complex is designed to sensitively replicate the natural landscape that it usurps.

For those interested in how the project will develop, a further round of public consultations will be held later this year. We will be sure to keep you updated as the project develops, with completion currently expected in 2019. In the meantime, you can find out more about the project in our dataBase, and join in in the conversation by visiting the Block 31 Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided at the bottom of this page.