The area surrounding the intersection of Bloor and Yonge streets is currently a locus of development, with a number of Toronto’s tallest towers either being planned or currently under construction, and this phenomenon was central to Monday night’s community consultation for Menkes Developments’ proposed 48-storey tower at 771 Yonge Street. While the Wallman Architects-designed mixed-use building would be far from the largest in its cluster of towers, the effects of the added density it might bring to the area were central to the discussion, which was attended by community members, City staff, the architect, and Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. 

771 Yonge Street, Toronto, by Menkes, Wallman ArchitectsAn early rendering, looking southwest, image retrieved from Menkes' submission to the City of Toronto

Since we last checked in on the project, which would sit at the southeast corner of Yonge and Asquith, the plan has been resubmitted to the City with revisions. As currently proposed, the tower would stand 166m/48-storeys tall and feature 257 residential units, 291 bicycle parking spaces, 26 parking spaces, and feature retail on its ground floor. When Menkes initially submitted its proposal to the City in February 2016, the building was slated to reach 49-storeys with 322 unites and contained no parking for cars. The changes made at the urging of City Planning staff reduce the tower’s density by cutting down on the size of its floor plate to 446 m2/4,800 ft2 per floor, and increase its setback on the south elevation.

“The application would like to do something greater than what is permitted in the zoning bylaw,” City of Toronto Senior Planner Oren Tamir told the approximately 40 community members in attendance. While the site has higher density allowances than neighbouring Yorkville as part of the Bloor-Yonge area, Menkes’ zoning amendment application would still triple its density. Under current planning guidelines, the 771 Yonge Street is part of a height ridge, where buildings are slated to descend in height from the peak at the intersection of Bloor and Yonge.

771 Yonge Street, Toronto, by Menkes, Wallman ArchitectsThe site sits in the "height ridge" north of the "height peak," image courtesy of the City of Toronto

The proposed scheme would also have heritage implications, since the listed building at the corner of Yonge and Asquith would be retained, restored, and integrated into the building’s podium. This, City staff noted, would form a “heritage enclave” along Yonge Street in conjunction with the facades on the street’s west side.

Under the City’s area policy, the site could be used to build a future PATH link from the Bloor-Yonge subway station to the Toronto Reference Library, which sits on the northeast corner of Yonge and Asquith. “The same plan has been around for 40 years,” Tamir said. “Indication that there’s a future underground PATH location that would lead from the subway to the library is something that we’d like to look into and see if it’s still desirable.” Such a plan would require cooperation between Menkes and Brookfield Property Partners, which operates the Hudson’s Bay Centre above the subway stop. The Centre includes the 135m/34-storey 2 Bloor East office tower.

771 Yonge Street, Toronto, by Menkes, Wallman ArchitectsThe site in its current state with a view towards the HBC tower to the south, image via Google

During the public consultation, Eileen Costello, a lawyer with Aird & Berlis LLP, speaking on behalf of Brookfield Canada, indicated that their client had multiple concerns with the planned development. “I thought it was important for the community to understand that my client has written twice to Council to record its concern,” she said. Of the 15-metre setback on 771 Yonge Street’s southern façade, she noted that just 4.9 of those metres are on Menkes’ side of the lot line. Moreover, the most recent renderings produced by Wallman Architects suggest that there may be windows and balconies on the south façade, which were not part of the initial proposal. Costello added: “The tenants in that building are already raising concerns with my client about renewing their leases if this proposal goes through.”

Other members of the community raised concerns that the proposed development would add even more traffic to the streets and public transit network of an already-crowded area. “It feels like you guys are part of a tsunami and you’re all taking strength from each other to crush us,” one participant told the architects. “There’s going to be all these people moving in and that’s going to bring a lot of cars,” another community member said, “and already that’s deadlocked.”

In response to these concerns, Tamir noted that the City Planning staff had urged developers to add parking spots, which will be reached using car elevators to make the most of the narrow site. One of the two parking levels planned may be earmarked for car sharing for the building’s residents. ““There is a transit strategy and as we’re seeing in Yorkville vehicles are not the priority in that strategy,” he explained. “But I should be clear that City Planning, while we believe there should be reduction in parking supply, don’t believe that zero parking is a response to the needs of any site.”

The community’s concerns were echoed by councilor Wong-Tam. “I think you raised some really excellent points, points that City Planning made to the applicant when they first walked through the door,” she said. “So I think we’re all on the same page.”

771 Yonge Street, Toronto, by Menkes, Wallman ArchitectsThe proposed hexagonal treatment, image by David Rudin

Architect Rudy Wallman says his firm has yet to finalize their design treatment for the building’s exterior. On the initial proposal for the site, the tower had fins protruding from the windows to break up the vertical mass. “The idea was that it’s a fairly glassy building material with the fins,” he explained. “Those fins are cut away, the attempt here is to relate to 1 Bloor East.” While that treatment is still being considered, two variants with hexagonal pre-cast panels were also shown in renderings. In one version, the part of 771 Yonge Street visible from Cumberland Avenaue would be wrapped in the panels, while the rest of the building would simply be adorned with glass perimeter walls. “One of the most important considerations is the view down Cumberland which may become a very different street than it is today,” Wallman said. A third treatment would see the hexagonal precast panels wrapped around every side of the tower with inset balconies limited to its corners.

At this stage in the planning process, these proposals are still subject to potentially significant changes. We will keep you updated as new information continues to become available. In the meantime, our dataBase file features additional information, while a discussion of the proposal is already underway in the Forum. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment in the space provided on this page, or join in the conversation in our associated Forum thread.