Unlike the condominiums that continue to dominate Toronto's new glass and steel skyline, the process of developing a major office tower is typically contingent on signing a particular tenant. While a proportion of units sold—typically around 80%—is required to secure financing and launch construction of a condo, the viability of a high-rise commercial office development is strongly predicated on landing an anchor tenant. This means that fully approved projects regularly take years to launch, with developers waiting to secure a partnership with a tenant who will take substantial space in the building before beginning construction. That's the typical scenario at least, and it's one that's playing out across commercial sites throughout the Downtown core. It's not the case at 16 York Street, however, where a major office tower is beginning construction on speculation. 

16 York Street, Toronto, by Cadillac Fairview, architectsAlliance, B+H16 York Street, image via Cadillac Fairview

Developers Cadillac Fairview (CF) have announced that construction for the 32-storey, 879,000 ft² tower at 16 York will begin "without first securing a major anchor tenant," according to today's CF press release. Located at the southwest corner of York and Bremner in the South Core, the tower—which was first approved by the City at a height of 31 storeys—will rise immediately north of CF and Lanterra's completed Ïce Condominiums, adding a significant infusion of office space to an area that now arguably rivals the Financial District as a business hub.

16 York Street, Toronto, by Cadillac Fairview, architectsAlliance, B+HAerial view of the site (circa 2015), image via Google Maps

While 'on spec' office construction remains rare in the Toronto market, Downtown's record-low commercial vacancy rate points to latent demand in the market. According to a recent report by CBRE, the current vacancy rate of 4.2% in the core not only matches the lowest rate ever recorded in this submarket, but also stands as the lowest Downtown vacancy in North American markets. From a developer perspective, the CBRE report makes for emboldening reading, since tight market conditions suggest that an infusion of new office space could be relatively quickly absorbed. 

Trends in new construction (orange line) and vacancy (green bars), image via CBRTrends in new construction (orange line) and vacancy (green bars), image via CBRE

Designed by architectsAlliance and B+H Architects, the new tower will be architecturally integrated with the Ïce complex to the south. Extending the Ïce towers' shared tabletop podium to the north, 16 York will meet the street level with a tall atrium lobby and retail spaces. Reflecting the form of the towers above, the curving podium roof that fronts the southeast corner of Ïce—another architectsAlliance design—will gradually take on a sharper, more angular form below the rectilinear office tower. 

16 York Street, Toronto, by Cadillac Fairview, architectsAlliance, B+HThe east elevation (York Street), image via Cadillac Fairview

In the middle of the overall site, the base of the tower will connect to the Ïce courtyard that fronts onto Grand Trunk Crescent. Below grade, a new PATH connection will integrate both Ïce and 16 York into the underground network, creating a climate-controlled link to Union Station via Maple Leaf Square and the Air Canada Centre. Three underground parking levels are also planned, with a total of 289 spaces. 

16 York Street, Toronto, by Cadillac Fairview, architectsAlliance, B+HLobby rendering, image via Cadillac Fairview

Architecturally, the tower volume is characterized by a slight cantilever, which shifts the massing to north and east. Otherwise, the glassy curtain wall cladding will appear somewhat similar to many of Toronto's new-build office towers, including some of its direct South Core neighbours. 

16 York Street, Toronto, by Cadillac Fairview, architectsAlliance, B+HLooking northwest on York Street, image via Cadillac Fairview

More efficient and more expensive than the window wall systems typically used in residential developments, the high-performance curtain wall glazing will help the building achieve its targeted LEED Platinum and WELL certifications.

16 York Street, Toronto, by Cadillac Fairview, architectsAlliance, B+HLooking west from Maple Leaf Square, image via Cadillac Fairview

The podium will also be topped by a one-acre green roof, with a rooftop terrace planned along the tower's south elevation. 

16 York Street, Toronto, by Cadillac Fairview, architectsAlliance, B+HGreen roof and rooftop terrace at the south elevation, image via Cadillac Fairview

Developed in partnership with the Ontario Pension Board (OPB), CF's $479 million tower targets a June 2020 completion. Construction will be led by PCL.

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We will keep you updated as more information becomes available, and the start of construction nears. In the meantime, make sure to check out our dataBase file for the site, which has been updated with the latest renderings and information. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment on this page, or join the conversation in our associated Forum thread.