Yesterday evening, March 23rd, ONE Properties hosted the third and final pre-application consultation hosted for their 552 Church Street proposal at the northwest corner of Church and Wellesley in the heart of Toronto's Gay Village. Exactly one month ago, we reported on the second pre-application meeting when seven different podium concepts were presented, the designers looking to hear how attendees felt about their qualities. Following roundtable discussions, members of the community described elements of various podium schemes, looking for them to be integrated into one final design. Copenhagen-based architects 3XN heard the community, and created two final podium designs based on the feedback. In addition, this meeting provided a first look at what will surely be an evolving tower. 

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, ONE Properties, TorontoRendering of Base Option A, windows pushed back, original image by 3XN Architects

Before unveiling the new designs, representatives of 3XN rhetorically asked 'how can the podium activate the corner?' Their answer came in two variations, each one depending upon clusters of pillars to hold a sheltering roof over an open, multi-use, and adaptable space. Both designs offer retail spaces and public gathering place in a space that can be tailored to the season, and one that aims to reflects the value of inclusivity and the aspirations of the Church and Wellesley Village. 

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, ONE Properties, TorontoRendering of Base Option B, windows pushed back, original image by 3XN Architects

Both options place the driveway along the far west side of the site, accessed from Wellesley Street, and providing access to underground parking, garbage pickup and delivery. Both also place the residential lobby just to the east of the driveway, with a small cafe closer to the corner, while four small retail units are found to the north along the Church St frontage. Also included in both plans, the second floor features a large fitness centre and indoor amenity space on the west side of the building. It's at the street corner where things differ.

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, ONE Properties, TorontoGround floor plan of Base Option A, original image by 3XN Architects

Option A features a Privately Owned Publicly accessible Space (POPS) at the corner, providing much improved pedestrian circulation with wider sidewalks, while a "catwalk" runs along the perimeter at the second floor level, offering both another animated interface with the street, and more intimate two-storey public space behind it. On the second level, a restaurant is found at the top of a circular staircase. It takes up nearly half of the floor overlooking Church Street, with its seating area extending onto the catwalk.

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, ONE Properties, TorontoGround floor plan of Base Option B, original image by 3XN Architects

Option B takes a slightly different approach. Its POPS space is fully open to the second floor, a wide staircase-cum-amphitheatre rising at its north end, to be used as seating during programmed events, or casually at any time. The retail space against the "amphitheatre" seating is posed a as "flex retail" space, having the option to range from 126-190 metres square, or about 1,350 to just over 2,000 square feet in size. The second level consists of a market space with a kitchen running the along its west side.

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, ONE Properties, TorontoRendering of Base Option A podium, windows closed on the second level, original image by 3XN Architects

In both options, the third and fourth levels of the podium are proposed as a boutique hotel.

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, ONE Properties, TorontoRendering of Base Option B podium, original image by 3XN Architects

Finally, the proposed tower was finally revealed. 3XN emphasized that this is just a preliminary design and that changes will happen through the course of time, but the current iteration stands at about 40 storeys tall. The tower is divided into four separate stacking masses, with 3XN explaining that they drew inspiration from the existing townhouses in the neighbourhood, and did a conceptualized "stacking" in creating what they are calling the vertical village. 

552 Church Street, 3XN Architects, ONE Properties, TorontoRenderings of the rental tower, original image by 3XN Architects

Generally, there was support for both podium designs, with attendees appreciating various elements of the initial seven included in the two final ones, while others felt that previous renditions were preferable. As for the tower, there were a number of people concerned with the overall height, saying it's too tall for the neighbourhood, while others argued that its height is appropriate given the site's proximity to Wellesley subway station. 3XN reiterated that the design of the rental tower would evolve through the planning process, while as much time will be focused on getting the ground realm details right.

The next step is for the team is to prepare documents for a rezoning application submission to the City of Toronto, which is expected to take a few months' time. We will keep a sharp eye out for the proposal when that time arrives. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts on the new podium and tower designs by leaving a comment in the space provided below, or join in the ongoing conversation in the associated Forum thread.