The intensification of the Highway 427 corridor in Etobicoke is picking up steam with Edilcan's multi-tower proposal at 2 Gibbs Road, which made its first pass through Toronto's Design Review Panel (DRP) on Tuesday. The multi-phase development proposal includes two 10-storey rental midrises and three condo towers of 31, 37, and 46 storeys designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects. The Panel praised many aspects of the project, but expressed several concerns about the design that may result in changes as the planning process continues. It is important to note that since this is a rezoning application, only the massing, site plan, and height were reviewed, as the architecture of the buildings is still a work in progress.

2 Gibbs Road, Edilcan, Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, TorontoRendering of the proposal looking southwest, image courtesy of Edilcan.

Sitting on a 6.6-acre site near the intersection of Highway 427 and Bloor Street West, 2 Gibbs Road incorporates a variety of programatic elements within the sprawling complex. The site will be bissected by a new north-south road that connects with the adjacent One Valhalla development to the north. The two midrise buildings will be located to the east of the central road, while the towers and podium will be located to the west.

2 Gibbs Road, Edilcan, Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, TorontoSite plan of the site, image courtesy of Edilcan.

The development comprises 1500 residential units and includes 3200 square metres of office space, located on the northwest corner of Gibbs Road and the new north-south street, and 3200 square metres of retail interspersed throughout, which includes a large grocery-type retailer. As well, roughly 13,700 square metres of green space is included, with a Privately Owned Publicly accessible Space (POPS) at the centre of the site, and additional landscaped roof terraces on the podium.

2 Gibbs Road, Edilcan, Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, TorontoRendering of the POPS looking into the courtyard from the north-south street, image courtesy of Edilcan.

The three towers sit atop a common five-storey podium that wraps around the western edge of the site, forming an inner courtyard that contains the POPS. Given that the site has a very high water table, it was necessary to bring the majority of the parking above ground. To mitigate this inconvenience, the five levels of above-ground parking are located in the podium around the outer edge of the site to create a buffer from the busy highway to the west. On the inner faces of the podium along the courtyard and north-south street, there will instead be residences, retail, and office spaces to create a friendlier environment for the POPS.

2 Gibbs Road, Edilcan, Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, TorontoGround floor plan, image courtesy of Edilcan.

The placement and curvature of the towers aims to maximize the amount of sunlight reaching the inner courtyard and the lower midrise buildings. In order to navigate the drastic change in scale from the neighbourhood of single-family houses on the opposite side of The East Mall and the towers along the highway, the City is imposing a 45-degree angular plane on the property, which the tallest tower of the proposal currently protrudes above. To mitigate this issue, the City is working with the consultants on an alternate proposal that would see the tallest tower shifted from the south edge of the site to the western edge of the site, where the 37-storey tower now sits. The unaltered proposal was presented to the DRP, but the alternate site plan indicates that changes are in the works.

2 Gibbs Road, Edilcan, Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, TorontoRendering of the proposal looking northwest, image courtesy of Edilcan.

The landscaping of the development is being designed by Toronto's favourite Montreal-based firm, Claude Cormer + Associés. A garden concept was used for the approach, evoking the greenery of the nearby Etobicoke neighbourhoods. Tree species were chosen in order to create large, high canopies and leafy streets once fully matured, while the courtyard will include Cormier's signature grassy mounds with pathways and trees meandering throughout. The streetscapes will feature concrete planters with large trees and shrubbery, and a pedestrian path will encircle the perimeter of the site.

2 Gibbs Road, Edilcan, Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, TorontoLandscaping plan, image courtesy of Edilcan.

Panel members were pleased to see a variety of uses and typologies incorporated in the proposal, particularly with a family-oriented approach advertised by the designers. However, there was much criticism about the connectivity of the development to its surroundings, particularly to the park and Bloorlea Middle School to the southeast. It was also suggested to break up the massing at the ground level, particularly in the five-storey podium, which was described as being too large, monolithic, and oppressive. As well, the midrise buildings were criticized as being too symmetrical and static, and could perhaps be redesigned to allow more porosity and a more open connection between the inner courtyard and the Bloorlea park.

2 Gibbs Road, Edilcan, Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, TorontoEast-west section through the site looking north, image courtesy of Edilcan.

Site circulation was also a hot-button issue, as the courtyard was described by Panelists as being trapped in a circle of traffic, particularly since one parking ramp is located at the southwest corner of the POPS. Much of the service access and loading docks are located around the perimeter of the site, with a new service road proposed along the eastern edge. But Panel members pointed out that given the location of parking and service access, a lot of traffic will still depend on the north-south street, which may not end up being as pedestrian-friendly as the designers plan.

2 Gibbs Road, Edilcan, Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, TorontoSite circulation diagram, image courtesy of Edilcan.

Additional comments from Panelists criticized the uniformity and lack of diversity in the architecture of the building, calling for something more variable and worthy of being a 'gateway' into Etobicoke. As well, the pedestrian path encircling the site was rejected as being a hostile and unwelcoming space sandwiched between a highway and a parking garage. Panel members also expressed concern over the height and shadow impact of the towers.

2 Gibbs Road, Edilcan, Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, TorontoRendering of the proposal looking northeast, image courtesy of Edilcan.

The commentary sparked a broader discussion about the intensification of highway corridors, and the liveability of developments located next to Toronto's traffic-clogged arteries. How can we design these hostile environments to become hospitable, and how much density is appropriate next to a highway? No conclusive answers were reached in the debate, but it is a conversation that is becoming more and more relevant as the city develops.

We will keep you updated as the design continues to evolve for 2 Gibbs Road. In the meantime, you can get in on the discussion by visiting our associated Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.