Bloor West Village in Toronto's West End is turning into a hotbed of development activity, as the historic stretch of Bloor sandwiched between High Park and the Humber River is being densified with a host of new mid-rises along its length. Looking to add to the mix is Plaza's proposal for a 14-storey condo building at 2452 Bloor Street West designed by Quadrangle Architects, which made its first appearance at this week's Design Review Panel meeting.
The development would replace five low-rise properties currently occupying the site, one of which is the much-loved Humber Theatre. The context presents several interesting conditions, the most notable being the bend in Bloor Street at the intersection with Jane, giving the property a prominent position as the terminus of the viewpoint looking west along Bloor. As well, the site slopes downward nearly 20 metres toward the north and west. The property is also bordered by several hostile elements, including the drab mid-century Arbor Memorial Building to the east, a parking lot to the north under which runs the subway tunnel, and the bulky structures of One and Two Old Mill condominiums to the west.
Rising 14 storeys, the massing of the U-shaped building is broken down with a series of protruding and recessed volumes finished with varying colours of bricks that step up from east to west. Given the visibility of the site, the design intends to establish a landmark element on the southeast corner that takes its inspiration from the design of a marquee, evoking the theatre that once occupied the property. This motif would be carried along the ground floor elevations with the use of brightly-coloured metal panels and complementary glazing.
The proposal comprises a gross floor area of roughly 28,600 square metres, of which about 5000 square metres would be dedicated to two storeys of retail spaces on the ground floor and lower level. Roughly 250 residential units would be included, providing a mix of sizes that tend toward larger units. A little over one third of the units are one-bedrooms or one-bedroom-plus-dens, while 25% are marked for two-bedrooms, 28% for two-bedroom-plus-dens, and 10% for three-bedrooms.
Retail will be located on the lower two levels of the building, both of which can be accessed at grade given the slope of the site. Entrances will be from the south along Bloor, on the west along Riverview Gardens, and on the north along a public laneway.
Indoor amenities will be located on the second floor, with complementary outdoor amenities located on the roof of the floor below. Four levels of underground parking will provide 331 vehicular and 273 bicycle spots. In addition, improvements to the public realm are also planned, with a wider sidewalk and better landscaping along the streetscape.
Panelists gave the project a lukewarm reception, and had some critical comments for the proposal. While they praised certain aspects of the building and its design approach, they agreed that more work needed to be done to better integrate the building into its context.
The massing of the proposal was brought into question, with most Panel members agreeing that the project was too bulky. They commented that more needed to be done to mitigate the change in height between the historic buildings to the east and the condos to the west, and that using the Old Mill development as a precedent—which didn't receive much love from the Panel—was a dangerous route to take. Some Panel members suggested chopping a few storeys off the top, or creating a lower streetwall more in line with the mid-rise guidelines.
The issue of the landmark element was debated, with some Panelists arguing that more needed to be done to establish a more iconic building, while others questioned the necessity of having a landmark in the first place. Panel members argued that an increase in height at the corner in the form of a short point tower would create a better icon, rather than the articulation currently proposed, and given the prominence of the site, a landmark would be quite effective. Others argued that a contextual approach was more important, and that the ambitions to create a landmark threatened to stray from that. Regardless, all Panelists agreed that the massing needed to be reorganized.
The Panel also criticized the articulation of the retail, particularly on the Riverview Gardens facade where the site slopes down to create two storeys of commercial space. They also questioned the viability of having retail entrances off the public laneway at the rear, where the service entrance and loading dock would be located. The materiality and articulation of the building's facades were further criticized, as the Panel was not fond of the white bricks or orange metal panels proposed.
Overall, the Panel agreed that the building was making too many moves to try and fit in, and that it needed to be simplified and reorganized in a way that was more cohesive and compatible with the neighbourhood. In the end, they voted unanimously for a redesign of the project.
We will keep you posted as any changes or updates are made as the development works its way through the planning process. In the meantime, you can get in on the discussion by checking out the associated Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.