When One Properties purchased buildings at the northwest corner of Church and Wellesley, the very heart of Toronto's gay community, Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong Tam was ready to hear about another overly tall, dense, boxy development with very little regard to how it will be a benefit to the established community. When she asked One Properties to host a consultation meeting prior to them making a re-zoning application, she was shocked to learn that the developers did not want to proceed with only one meeting, but host three different "pre-app" meetings. This would allow members of the Church & Wellesley community to voice their thoughts and suggestions on how a project here could reach its full potential. 

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, One Properties, TorontoStreet view of 552 Church Street, image courtesy of Google Maps

The ultimate vision of the development is to have a 4-storey, 18-metre-high podium, animated with fine grain retail at grade, and reflective of existing retailers in the Village. The podium would also be set-back from the street, allowing more room for pedestrians on the sidewalk, in addition to allowing for more sunlight. A boutique hotel would be on the third and fourth levels of the podium, while the second level would be dedicated to the community. A rental apartment tower would rise from the western side of the site; height scale and massing still to be determined.

A handful of notable firms are involved in this project. Renowned planner Ken Greenberg of Greenberg Consultants is acting as the facilitator for these meetings, while SvN Architects + Planners have been leading roundtable discussions. Claude Cormier & Associés have been chosen as the landscape design firm, with projects in Toronto including the new Berczy Park restoration, the parkette at the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville, and several more. Bousfields is tackling planning work, while Copenhagen's 3XN Architects has been chosen to lead the overall design. 

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, One Properties, TorontoThe seven design concepts, original image by 3XN Architects

The first meeting was held in mid-January, where the team introduced themselves and mainly discussed the importance of the Church & Wellesley intersection, the development of further analysis, and heard initial ideas. After an hour of roundtable discussions, the consensus was simple; some element (not yet defined), should reflect the storied history of the LGBT community. The meeting then focused on the current state of the neighbourhood, where eight pillars of focus were identified: 1) a Church Street charter; 2) a community alliance; 3) Church Street cultural corridor; 4) shock Street; 5) Church Street strut; 6) keeping the Village in the Village; 7) pride in the Village; and 8) Church Street check-up. These eight pillars were used to help the teams involved create concepts that were shown at the second meeting.

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, One Properties, TorontoThe seven podium design concepts, original plans by 3XN Architects

Held last night (February 23), the second pre-app meeting focused on urban design principles, ideas and concepts. Using all the information gathered from the first meeting, the community was presented with seven conceptual renderings of the podium level. The first half of the presentation discussed multiple ways the treatment at the corner could interact with its surroundings, while the second half discussed the actual concepts. While no high-resolution renderings are available yet, the photos below captured during the presentation show the seven unique concepts.

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, One Properties, TorontoThe first design concept, "Twist", original image by 3XN Architects

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, One Properties, TorontoThe second design concept, "Spiral", original image by 3XN Architects

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, One Properties, TorontoThe third design concept, "Shift", original image by 3XN Architects

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, One Properties, TorontoThe fourth design concept, "Cloud", original image by 3XN Architects

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, One Properties, TorontoThe fifth design concept, "Slice", original image by 3XN Architects

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, One Properties, TorontoThe sixth design concept, "Layers", original image by 3XN Architects

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, One Properties, TorontoThe seventh design concept, "Step", original image by 3XN Architects

The seven concepts brought forth various elements in how the podium can best integrate with its surroundings. This led to 3XN changing the positioning of the podium floors in some instances, while other designs focused on pushing/pulling away the podium from the streetscape to create interaction. "The Slice" for instance would see an allée cut through the podium, with retail lining the north side, and a possible restaurant in the smaller triangular building at the corner. "The Step" (while not imaged in the rendering), could feature "coliseum style" stairs leading to differing entrances of the podium, as Kim Herforth Nielsen—principal at 3XN—termed them, and provide new vantages for events such as Pride Weekend events.

Afterwards, a roundtable session followed, giving the community time to study the different components of each concept and say what they liked or disliked about them. It was even suggested that integrating a few elements of each concept into the final design might create the best outcome. 

The next pre-application meeting will be held one month from now on Thursday March 23, also at Currie Hall at 105 Maitland Street. Being the third and final meeting before official documents are submitted to the City, this series will focus on getting feedback on "final" concepts. While we can only speculate when official planning documents will be released, we will keep you informed throughout the planning process. Want to share your thoughts on this project so far? Feel free to leave a comment in the space provided below, or join in the ongoing conversation in our associated Forum thread.