A second fiddle to Cadillac Fairview's neighbouring Eaton Centre as a Downtown Toronto retail destination, the Atrium on Bay could soon be transformed into a flashier presence on Dundas Street West. Stretching across a full city block between Yonge and Bay streets, the deceptively dense complex—which features a floor area of almost 1 million ft²—is set to be expanded and architecturally re-imagined.
Five and six-storey additions are planned for the Atrium's paired 13- and 14-storey towers, with the shorter mid-block volume also slated to be extended via a one-storey addition.
At the west end of the site, the Bay Street frontage would also be re-configured, with the west building's footprint extended to meet the sidewalk across from the Toronto Coach Terminal. Expanded lower, ground, and second floors would replace the partially exposed staircase that links the Atrium's concourse level—and the PATH—with the bus station, creating a fully enclosed connection and adding square footage.
Inside, the H & R REIT project would also reconfigure the second floor of the complex to further expand floor area, filling the foot of both tower atriums with additional office floor space. This would cut off the atrium spaces from the retail levels, putting a roof over the shopping space. Above, however, the glass roofs that cap the marquee atrium spaces would be retained, with the new levels wrapping around the existing skylights, preserving some indirect light below.
Architecturally, the Page + Steele / IBI Group-designed proposal presents an unapologetic aesthetic departure from the existing complex. Completed in 1981, the project was actually designed by the same firm—then known only as Page + Steele—now charged with expanding the complex. Undulating extrusions would cap the expanded towers, with a pair of angular red additions perched atop the shorter mid-block volume providing access to new rooftop amenity terraces.
While the additions would introduce highly conspicuous elements to the complex, the existing tower exteriors would by contrast be made more rectilinear. Currently defined by a series off extrusions that aesthetically divide the body of each tower into a series of bays, the redevelopment would effectively strip away the Atrium on Bay's existing architectural context in favour of a new aesthetic, while removing the signature atriums from public access.
The new Minor Variance Application—which arguably proposes more than a 'minor' change—to the Committee of Adjustment (CoA), advances an expansion plan that was provisionally tabled to the City of Toronto in 2011, with a zoning amendment approving more architecturally restrained five-storey additions approved in 2014. The current proposal is set to be reviewed by the CoA in July. So far, the project has been met with a largely negative reception on the UT Forum.
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