After several controversial years of construction, the TTC's Saint Clair streetcar right-of-way has become an engine for urban growth along one of Toronto's most appreciated thoroughfares. The avenue is now undergoing a dramatic transformation, with mid to high-rise residential edifices bringing a new density to the Midtown Toronto area. On March 2, Main and Main Developments held a second public consultation regarding a new proposed development for the intersection of Saint Clair Avenue West and Alberta Avenue, more precisely at 898 and 900 Saint Clair Avenue West.

quadrangle Architects, Main and Main Developments, 900-898 Saint Clair Ave W900-898 Saint Clair Avenue West looking north, image courtesy of Main and Main Developments

Designed by Quadrangle Architects, the mixed-use project consists in a 14-storey building comprising 121 units ranging from bachelor to two-bedroom dwellings. The edifice also includes 975 square metres of retail space at ground level, with access on both Saint Clair and Alberta Avenues. Architecturally, the 46-metre building features a black and white brick facade punctuated by protruding boxes designed to reduce the impression of height, while the first level and amenity space located directly above on the structure's southwest corner will boast transparent glazing.

quadrangle Architects, Main and Main Developments, 900-898 Saint Clair Ave WExisting conditions at 900-898 Saint Clair Avenue West looking northeast, image retrieved from Google Maps Streetview

Although the current zoning resulting from the 2009 Avenue Study for the site allows for a maximum height of 12 storeys or 39 metres, the proponents are seeking to increase the building's total height to 14 storeys, thus allowing for a smaller footprint, itself resulting in a decreased shadowing over the existing residences to the northeast, as well as a less overwhelming massing along Alberta Avenue. However, Main and Main Developments' Vice President Daniel Byrne explained that the City has expressed concerns regarding the building's height and the lack of a 45 degree setback on the upper levels facing south, and are calling for a redesign of the project. 

quadrangle Architects, Main and Main Developments, 900-898 Saint Clair Ave WRetail along Saint Clair Avenue looking northeast, image courtesy of Main and Main Developments

In its current form, the proposed development also includes several green roofs, a possible geothermal loop underneath the building, and is aiming to achieve a Tier Two performance in relation to the Toronto Green Standards. Also, to accommodate the additional pedestrian traffic, the project includes a 1.5 metre setback from the property line, allowing a widening of the sidewalk along Alberta Avenue. Landscaping will also add trees and bike racks on the sidewalk along that same street, which might one day become a vibrant retail-boarded alley should the No Frills site immediately adjacent to the north be redeveloped, as mentioned during the meeting by Councillor Cesar Pallacio, who aims to request a planning study for the site.

quadrangle Architects, Main and Main Developments, 900-898 Saint Clair Ave WRetail along Alberta Avenue looking east, image courtesy of Main and Main Developments

Well received by the attendants of the meeting, the project only raised a few but expectable questions from the area's residents. The issue of the increased traffic on nearby streets was raised before being rapidly tempered by Byrne, explaining that residential car traffic will be directed on Alberta Avenue only, with only delivery trucks having access to the laneway at the back, accessible from Winona Drive. Car parking is also currently limited to 71 spots across two underground levels, instead of the 79 required by the city; while the plan includes a total of 163 bike spots.

quadrangle Architects, Main and Main Developments, 900-898 Saint Clair Ave W900-898 Saint Clair Avenue West, image courtesy of Main and Main Developments

Other questions from the audience concerned the types of units, with residents asking for more family-sized dwellings. It was mentioned by the developer that due to the higher cost of a unit in a mid-rise residence, and should this project be a condominium, (it may go ahead as purpose-built rental), it would probably be more appealing for families to purchase a home in the area rather than a condominium unit. Another question concerned the kind of retail that will fill in the dedicated spaces. Main and Main Developments clarified this point by revealing that the company will be the landlord, and therefore had an enhanced interest for the quality and success of the retail portion within the development.

Although the design is still subject to changes in terms of massing, the demolition of the existing structures currently on site is imminent, and will enable further ground study of the lot. If no major issues are faced throughout the rest of the planning application process, construction could start before the end of 2016. No fixed delivery date has been communicated so far.

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