A story of two Toronto development booms is being written out near the southwest corner of Midland and Lawrence. While the Scarborough site is far removed from the city's burgeoning Downtown, a dramatic influx of residential density is planned for the site, with a cluster of nine buildings—including towers of 27, 25, 24, 23, and 21 storeys—proposed by Arsandco earlier this year

On October 15th, the Quadrangle Architects-designed project at 1380 Midland was assessed by the City of Toronto's Design Review Panel (DRP). Presenting a thorough analysis of the redevelopment plan, the review offered a closer look at a proposal that could add well over 2,000 residents to the area.

1380 Midland Avenue, Toronto, by Arsandco, Quadrangle ArchitectsThe site plan, showing the three existing towers, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Quadrangle Principal Les Klein provided a contextual overview of the development proposal as it relates to the site's history. "Arsandco purchased the site in the late 1970s," Klein explained, "and they built the three towers that are there today, as well as as a garage that would serve future buildings."

However, the 1981 recession quickly curtailed Arsandco's plans for the site, leaving three towers standing in what remains a somewhat awkawrdly sparse landscape. 35 years later, and another development boom could see the site filled in by 1,752 units across nine condominium buildings, with the new residential density supplemented by more modest infusions of street-level retail and office space.  

1380 Midland Avenue, Toronto, by Arsandco, Quadrangle ArchitectsAn aerial view of the proposed community, highlighting the green roof coverage, image via submission to the City of Toronto

From a planning standpoint, the subject site is divided into four blocks, which largely surround the three existing 16-storey slab towers. The infill development's tallest towers will front Lawrence and Midland, with Blocks D, G, and H featuring 27, 25, 24, 23, and 21-storey point towers.

Fronting Lawrence, Block D is also set to feature a pair of 8-storey buildings, both of which would be situated directly south of their 27 and 24-storey neighbours. Meeting the street's curve with a pair of retail spaces that front the towers, Block D's mid-rises are set back towards the middle of the block, while the high-rises (below) front Lawrence.

1380 Midland Avenue, Toronto, by Arsandco, Quadrangle ArchitectsBlock D, looking east along Lawrence, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Southeast of Block D, Block G fronts onto Midland Avenue with a pair of 25 and 23-storey towers. Along Midland, another three retail spaces are proposed, while five live/work units front onto the northwest corner of Midland and quieter Prudential Drive. South of Block G, the smaller Block H brings a 21-storey tower to the southeast corner of Midland and Prudential. Another four live/work units front the corner. Although of Block G is classified as "Mixed Use Area" under the City's official plan, mostly residential uses are proposed—though much of the project's 9,039 m² of total office space is housed in the podium structures.

1380 Midland Avenue, Toronto, by Arsandco, Quadrangle ArchitectsBlock G, looking southwest along Midland Avenue

Block B is located at the southwest end of the site, abutting the CN and Scarborough RT corridor to the west and Arsandco Park to the south. Featuring a 21-storey tower and an 8-storey mid-rise, the block's south frontage faces the park with a row of three-storey townhouse suites and their private patios. 

1380 Midland Avenue, Toronto, by Arsandco, Quadrangle ArchitectsBlock B, looking northwest from Prudential Drive, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Meanwhile, the channelized West Highland Creek runs north-south through the site, the relatively inconspicuous natural feature situated just west of the proposed Block H and Block G buildings. According to the proponent presentation, the creek would be "restored and enhanced" to form a more prominent part of the landscape. Finally, the corner of Midland and Lawrence—occupied by a Burger King—itself is not part of the subject property. However, the plan leaves the north frontage of Block H undeveloped, facilitating the land assembly that would facilitate a future project on the site. 

Across the four blocks, the proposed unit mix calls for 1,214 one-bedroom (69%), 345 two-bedroom (20%), and 193 three-bedroom (11%) suites.

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Although the panel appreciated elements of the proposal, a vote to 'redesign' (rather than 'refine') was given at the project's first review. The general consensus was that the proposed community does not do enough to create a more vibrant and sustainable urban milieu. "As a pedestrian, I would feel kind of like I'm in a pinball machine," one panelist suggested, drawing attention to the somewhat disjointed spaces between the towers. 

A lack of attention to the pedestrian experience was a common refrain for the panelists, who felt that the proposal does not do enough move beyond the tower-in-the-park model of its three 1980s predecessors. A lack of "connectivity throughout the site" was diagnosed as a weakness in the plan, with the suggestion that more attention be given to pedestrian movement through the entire site. 

1380 Midland Avenue, Toronto, by Arsandco, Quadrangle ArchitectsThe ground floor plan for Block D, image via submission to the City of Toronto

While the inclusion of surface-level parking was seen as acceptable—and likely critical to the viability of the planned retail spaces—a "lack of streets" and pedestrian space was identified, with too much space given over to vehicle loading and circulation. "Treat the site as if it's in a compact urban area," a panelist suggested, arguing that the preponderance of open space does not justify creating more automobile infrastructure than strictly necessary. "Rationalize the space as if it's Downtown." 

Additionally, the panel admonished the design team to strive towards a more ambitious sustainability strategy. In particular, the plan for the enhancement of the West Highland Creek was seen "a bit abstract," with questions remaining as to how the natural feature would be incorporated into the community. The panelists agreed the creek should be treated as a focal point for the development, and that more attention should be given to the surrounding landscape plan. 

1380 Midland Avenue, Toronto, by Arsandco, Quadrangle ArchitectsThe site as it appears now, looking south from Lawrence, image via Google Maps

While the project—which features extensive green roof coverage—targets Tier 1 of the Toronto Green Standard (TGS), some panel members felt that a development of this scale ought strive for the more stringent Tier 2, with an enhanced storm water strategy identified as a particular area of focus. 

Finally, some panelists worried that the proposal represents an overdevelopment of the site. While the proposed density was not the central concern presented, a reduction in scale was suggested by a number of panelists. Additionally, the tower floorplates were seen as slightly excessive, despite meeting the 750 m² standard identified in the City's Tall Buildings Guidelines. 

Ultimately, the panel felt that—as one member put it—"this has got a ways to go."

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We will keep you updated as the project evolves and the planning process continues. As suggested in the proponent's presentation, Arsandco will likely seek a joint venture partnership before the project comes online. For more information, make sure to check out our introductory editorial, as well as our associated dataBase file, which features additional renderings. Want to share your thoughts about the proposal? Leave a comment in the space below this page, or join the conversation in our Forum. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated on 09/19/16 to include the updated renderings that were presented to the Design Review Panel on 09/15/16.