Danish starchitect Bjarke Ingels' firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has been retained as the design architect for a new joint-venture development by Westbank Corp and Allied Properties REIT on the south side of King Street West. The site is located across from the foot of Brant Street between Bathurst Street and Spadina Avenue. This proposal replaces an earlier one for a portion of the site from Allied, which called for a 12-storey office building to be designed by Sweeny &Co Architects Inc.

489-539 King St. West, Allied, Westbank, Bjarke Ingels489 King Street West, image retrieved from Google Street View

Now with more land under their ownership, the site of the new proposal spans from 489 King Street West through to 539, (images of the existing buildings from east to west appear above and below), measuring 189 metres/620 feet of frontage. 

489-539 King St. West, Allied, Westbank, Bjarke Ingels499 King Street West, image retrieved from Google Street View

The site includes properties at 511 through 529 King West which are considered the "Heritage Component" of the site. These buildings in the middle of the site will be severed from the bulk of the property and will continue to be wholly owned and operated by Allied as part of their commercial office rental portfolio.

489-539 King St. West, Allied, Westbank, Bjarke Ingels511-529 King Street West, image retrieved from Google Street View

The bulk of the property is being referred to as the "Intensification Site". This portion will be jointly owned, 50-50 by Allied and Westbank, with the deal to close once site-plan approval has been achieved for the intensification site.

489-539 King St. West, Allied, Westbank, Bjarke Ingels539 King Street West, image retrieved from Google Street View

Michael Emory, Allied’s President & CEO issued a statement that reads “This is another good example of our expanding opportunity set. With a proven and compatible partner in Westbank, we’ll be able to realize the value inherent in this site sooner and on a risk-appropriate basis. We’ll also be able to ensure that the site makes an optimal contribution to King and Spadina, one of Toronto’s most extraordinary downtown neighbourhoods.”

Map retrieved from Google Maps, cartography overlaid by Craig WhiteMap retrieved from Google Maps, cartography overlaid by Craig White

This announcement is a notable one for Toronto architecture buffs, as it is the first confirmation that BIG will be designing a development in this city. The Copenhagen and New York-based firm has made a name for themselves around the world, typically designing high-profile projects that push the envelope architecturally. BIG's previous work for Vancouver-based developer Westbank had led to talk that Toronto would get a BIG project ever since the developer arrived in this city. The existing Westbank-developed Shangri-La Toronto hotel and residences was designed by James Cheng and Hariri Pontarini Architects, while Westbank's recently announced Mirvish Village redevelopment is being designed by Henriquez Partners Architects.

Vancouver House by BIG for Westbank CorpVancouver House, designed by BIG for Westbank Corp

“What is so exciting here is that Allied has over time assembled 620 feet of frontage on what is fast becoming one of the most interesting streets in Toronto,” said Ian Gillespie of Westbank. “With this scale, we have a unique opportunity for world-class city building.” 

W57, New York, designed by BIG for the Durst CorporationW57, New York, designed by BIG for the Durst Corporation

While the surrounding built form of King West suggests this development will not be particularly tall, the size of the proposal site provides a broad canvas for Bjarke Ingels Group to work with, notwithstanding having to work around the heritage component. Considering the calibre of BIG's worldwide portfolio, we expect to see something pretty spectacular proposed here.

We look forward to sharing more information about the proposed development as details continue to emerge. In the meantime, you can get involved in the conversation by visiting the associated Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.