Tucked in amongst Toronto's ever-expanding cluster of Entertainment District high-rises, the proposed 17-storey building at 24 Mercer Street would hardly register for its height alone. However, considering the extremely compact nature of its lot, the proposed pencil tower is arguably one of the city's most audacious projects. Rising from a narrow 195 m² site, the project would stack 12 residential units atop an existing 2.5-storey heritage brick building.

24 Mercer Street, Toronto, by Scott Shields ArchitectsA 'hero shot' rendering of the 17-storey tower, looking north, image courtesy of Scott Shields Architects

First proposed by Scott Shields Architects—then known as Scott Morris—in 2011, the project was initially envisioned as a 21-storey tower, higher than the City wanted on that site, with a settlement eventually ratified by the OMB to develop a 15-storey building. Over the last few years, however, the nature of the plan has continued to evolve, including a proposed height increase submitted to the City's Committee of Adjustment which was turned down. Most recently, while the height parameters of the 15-storey proposal have been maintained, the project has been reconfigured as a 17-storey tower, with floor heights altered to accommodate two additional levels. Ceiling heights in the suites will still be approximately 10 feet on each level. 

24 Mercer Street, Toronto, by Scott Shields ArchitectsThe site in May 2016, image retrieved via Google Maps

As currently proposed, the 17-storey building will rise to a height of 57.5 metres, with the mechanical penthouse bringing the project's total height to just over 63 metres. With a Floor Space Index (FSI) of 16.8, the density proposed exceeds many—though not all—of Toronto's recent point towers. By comparison, the slender, 47-storey Theatre Park has an FSI OF 20.17. Like 24 Mercer, the tower does not rise above a podium structure. 

24 Mercer Street, Toronto, by Scott Shields ArchitectsThe 9th and 10th level floorplans (click for a closer view), image retrieved via submission to the City of Toronto

Despite its extreme slimness, the tower is not unprecedented in terms of density alone. Nonetheless, the pencil tower's exceptionally compact configuration is still notable for eschewing the podium/point tower typology typical of Toronto condominiums, making for an unobtrusive presence at street level. What's more, with no vehicle parking spaces proposed, the suites exclusively cater to car-free lifestyles. 

24 Mercer Street, Toronto, by Scott Shields ArchitectsA closer look at the ground level (where the existing building will be modified), image courtesy of Scott Shields Architects

The unusual nature of the proposal may be facilitated by the fact that the project's architects—Toronto's Scott Shields—also own the site, which currently houses the firm's offices. To build vertically on such an exceedingly compact site can be prohibitively expensive. For such small floors, elevators, stairs, and mechanical elements take up much of the space, making the cost per square foot comparatively high. As such, this type of development is rare outside of extremely high-value markets like Manhattan and Hong Kong. Since Scott Shields already own the property, however, the project may be a more viable undertaking when compared to the costs of a developer purchasing—and then redeveloping—the small site.

24 Mercer Street, Toronto, by Scott Shields ArchitectsA closer view of the upper levels, image courtesy of Scott Shields Architects

Resembling the mid-to-late 20th century pencil towers common in Hong Kong, the project is an intriguingly extreme departure from Toronto's high-rise development template, which arguably tends towards excessively cumbersome podium structures. In the coming weeks, we will return with a more in-depth overview of the project. Until then, more information is available via our dataBase file, linked below. Want to share your thoughts about the project? Feel free to leave a comment in the space provided on this page, or add to the conversation in our associated Forum thread.