For visitors to Toronto, the foot of Yonge Street is a surprisingly inauspicious place. While the nexus of our main street and the waterfront is a locus of activity in many cities, Toronto's Queens Quay and Yonge intersection remained a somewhat post-industrial milieu throughout recent decades. In recent years, however, the area has become a hub of new development, with the central waterfront now becoming a central part of the urban landscape. 

The waterfront at the foot of Yonge Street, image by UT Forum contributor G.L.17The waterfront at the foot of Yonge Street, image by UT Forum contributor G.L.17

Since the latter decades of the 20th century, Toronto's waterfront has gradually—albeit intermittently—embraced a more urban character. While the current Toronto Star Building at One Yonge Street was completed in 1970, the international style tower was joined by the Westin Harbour Castle and the Harbour Square condos to its west in the 1970s, though these developments arguably catered more to the automobiles than transit or pedestrians. New development in the area was slow throughout much of the 80s and 90s. Nonetheless, the two-tower Residences of the World Trade Centre added 700 residential units to the northwest corner of Yonge and Queens Quay in 1990, while the 21st century has brought with it a renewed vigour for urbanization and a the public realm. 

Westin Harbour Castle (left), with the World Trade Centre towers seen behind theWestin Harbour Castle (left), with the World Trade Centre towers seen behind the Toronto Star Building (right), via Google Maps

Since the turn of the millennium, Toronto's lakefront has taken on a more urban character. Alongside new Provincial growth policies, the trilateral establishment of Waterfront Toronto in 2001 brought new energy to a part of the city that long remained overlooked. While today's earlier coverage of the emerging East Bayfront neighbourhood showcases the large-scale waterfront developments east of Jarvis Street, the more central area near the foot of Yonge Street is also home to a wealth of redevelopment plans. 

1-7 Yonge Street, Toronto, by Pinnacle International, Hariri PontariniThe potential 1-7 Yonge development, image courtesy of Pinnacle International

At 1-7 Yonge Street, the current Toronto Star building will be the site of one of Canada's largest new developments, with five Hariri Pontarini-designed towers planned by Pinnacle International (above). Topping out at a proposed height of 303 metres, the tallest tower would also become among the tallest buildings in the country, changing the face of an area until recently dominated by parking lots. Immediately east of the proposed towers, the recent sale of the LCBO lands to Menkes is also paving the way for intense high-rise development, though those plans (seen below) remain at a relatively early stage. 

The Menkes proposal for the LCBO lands, image retrieved via submission to City oThe Menkes proposal for the LCBO lands, image retrieved via submission to City of Toronto

Immediately north of the Residences of the World Trade Centre—and just northwest of 1-7 Yonge—the four towers of the Pinnacle Centre injected another 1,880 residences to the area throughout the last decade. Completed between 2006 and 2011, the towers are now joined by a growing South Core skyline to their west. Meanwhile, with the Westin Harbour Castle reported to be on the market, a potential redevelopment of the site could also add further density to the waterfront west of Yonge. Immediately south of the hotel, the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbour Square Park are also set to be revamped.

Jack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbour Square Park, image via Waterfront TorontoJack Layton Ferry Terminal and Harbour Square Park, image via Waterfront Toronto

South of Queens Quay and east of Yonge, Cityzen and Fernbrook's Pier 27 community is also adding new density and an improved public realm to the area. With architectsAlliance's declaratively designed Waterlink at Pier 27 now complete (above), the landscaped promenade fronting the buildings is set to bring new pedestrian activity to the waterfront.

Waterlink at Pier 27, Toronto, by Cityzen, Fernbrook, architectsAllianceWaterlink at Pier 27, looking northeast, image by Edward Skira

Surrounded by additional landscaping—now in the final stages of being installed—the Waterlink buildings have also provided a valuable infusion of greenery. Trees planted in similar conditions have grown spectacularly over the last few years at Sugar Beach, so expectations of a verdant margin along the harbour here too are not unfounded.

Waterlink at Pier 27, Toronto, by Cityzen, Fernbrook, architectsAllianceA view of the promenade in early June, image by UT Forum member drum118

Just north of Waterlink, Cityzen and Fernbrook are now pushing forward with Pier 27's next phase, with a 35-storey tower set to rise above its mid-rise neighbours on the water. Also designed by architectsAlliance, the Tower at Pier 27 features a a distantly jagged balcony pattern, making for a noticeable presence in the skyline while maximizing residents' views of the water. (For a closer look at the tower, our previous editorial provides an overview of the amenity plan and layouts). 

Tower at Pier 27, Toronto, by Cityzen, Fernbrook, architectsAllianceTower at Pier 27, image courtesy of Cityzen / Fernbrook

Alongside the new tower, the Pier 27 community will also feature a new public park. Just west of the tower, the parking lot fronting the Yonge Street slip—once home to Captain John's floating seafood restaurant—will become a public green space, inviting pedestrians back to a waterfront that once invited mostly cars.

Tower at Pier 27, Toronto, by Cityzen, Fernbrook, architectsAllianceGreen space will surround the tower, image courtesy of Cityzen / Fernbrook

We will keep you updated as development plans for the foot of Yonge Street continue to take shape. In the meantime, more information about each of the ongoing projects is available via our dataBase files, linked below. Want to share your thoughts about the area's transformation? Feel free to leave a comment in the space below this page, or join in one of the ongoing project discussion threads on our Forum.