A block south of Eglinton, and just west of Mount Pleasant, a high-rise development proposal is testing Toronto's city limits. While the site at Soudan and Brownlow is in the Midtown heart of the amalgamated city, the the two-tower project—now before the OMB—straddles the boundary between two very different contexts. To the north and west, a growing cluster of towers stretches all the way to what will soon be E Condos' 58-storey height peak at the corner of Yonge and Eglinton. To the south, single family homes extend down to Davsiville Avenue. 

200 Soudan Avenue, Toronto, by Benvenuto Group, SMV Architects The approximate 200 Soudan site within its urban context, image via Google Maps

Skirting the boundary of these two very different urban environments, the Benvenuto Group's site at 200 Soudan Avenue sits on the southeast edge of Yonge & Eglinton's high-rise corridor, and directly north of single-family and semi-detached houses. Designed by Neuf Architect(e)s and SMV Architects, the project calls for a pair of 24-storey rental towers to intensify a low-rise residential site. 

200 Soudan Avenue, Toronto, by Benvenuto Group, SMV Architects The revised submission, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Initially proposed in late 2015, the development's first iteration (seen below) envisioned a pair of bulkier 25- and 20-storey towers sharing a flat four-storey podium. Following early input from City Planning—who did not support the project, citing "significant overdevelopment"—and members of the community, a revised proposal came to light earlier this year. With the unit count reduced from a total of 463 to 369, steps were also taken to address the project's heavy street-level presence, as well as the shadows cast by the comparatively cumbersome towers. 

200 Soudan Avenue, Toronto, by Benvenuto Group, SMV Architects The 2015 plan was characterized by bulky towers and an overwhelming podium, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Originally conceived as terraced buildings rising from a shared podium, the floorplates of both towers have been slimmed down to fall within the 750 m² standard identified in the City's Tall Buildings Guidelines. The west tower's average 941 m² footprint has been reduced to 697 m², and the east tower's average floorplate has been reduced from 776 m² to 623 m². The new massing model also meets a 60º angular plane, transitioning towards the low-rise homes to the south.

200 Soudan Avenue, Toronto, by Benvenuto Group, SMV Architects A massing model of the revised submission, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Alongside the scaled down massing, changes to the unit mix reflect an attempt to address broader city-building concerns. While the first proposal called for 300 (approximately 65%) of the the 463 units to be one-bedroom suites, the revised plan puts much more emphasis on larger, family-oriented suites. 166 of the residences across the two buildings are now planned with two- or three-bedroom configurations, with 45% of 369 units featuring at least two bedrooms. At street level meanwhile, the towers' townhouse-inspired brick frontages attempt to negotiate a transition in scale, referencing the more intimate typologies across the street. 

200 Soudan Avenue, Toronto, by Benvenuto Group, SMV Architects The POPS, looking west, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Finally, an on-site green space is also now slated to be provided. With the revised buildings set back further from Soudan, and the removal of the three-storey base building, the strip of green space along Soudan will extend into another mid-block POPS between the two towers. (The landscaping will be appointed by Ferris + Associates Inc). According to Ward 22 Councillor Josh Matlow—who moved a motion to secure the public space—the revision is a "positive note" for the project, which he has otherwise described as "really bad planning, [and] a really greedy application."

200 Soudan Avenue, Toronto, by Benvenuto Group, SMV Architects The updated site plan, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Ahead of a May 29th pre-hearing (which will focus on parkland requirements), and nine-day formal hearing beginning July 31st, the project remains highly contentious. Throughout the neighbourhood, lawn signs advertising the "No to Brownlow" organization are a conspicuous presence. A product of concerned locals' partnership with the South Eglinton Ratepayers' and Renters' Association (SERRA) and residents of nearby the condominium at 83 Redapth, the campaign against the development has outlined a series of concerns to be considered by the OMB.

200 Soudan Avenue, Toronto, by Benvenuto Group, SMV Architects 'Demand Good Development' signs are a common sight, image by UT Forum contributor WislaHD

While some of the issues identified by the group—such as parkland provision—were likely more applicable to the previous submission, more general concerns about height, shadowing, increased vehicle volume, and "undesirable precedent for potential future development," remain widespread. In particular, the project's height continues to be regarded as excessive, with the 24-storey towers slated to rise above their neighbours, including the 21-storey 83 Redpath condo (which was also a Benvenuto project), and the 19-storey slab apartment building at 18 Brownlow (which would directly abut this project's east tower).

200 Soudan Avenue, Toronto, by Benvenuto Group, SMV Architects Existing site conditions, image via Google Maps

Then there's the fact that the subject site is slightly south of the majority of the Yonge & Eglinton area's existing and upcoming high-rises. While the under-construction Art Shoppe Condos will reach an eventual height of 28 storeys on Yonge Street immediately south of Soudan, most of the small east-west street remains occupied by low-rise homes on either side. That's quickly changing, however, as projects like 200 Soudan and Distinction Condos (at 11 Lillian on the north side of Soudan) and Plaza Midtown—which calls for a much taller nearby height peak of 34 storeys—are advancing plans to transform the street. 

Distinction Condos, Toronto, by Lash Group of Companies, Giannone Petricone Distinction Condos, image via Lash Group of Companies

Planned at a height of 19 storeys, the Lash Group's Distinction Condos will similarly transform a comparable low-rise site a block west of the Benvenuto project. Now in sales, the Lillian Street project is slightly shorter than 200 Soudan's 24-storey towers. In taking on a much more compact site, however, the project's Floor Space Index (FSI) of 8.94 exceeds the 6.06 FSI planned at 200 Soudan, where the comparatively large site—and community green space provision—facilitates more spread out density. 

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For SERRA, meanwhile, the OMB appeal also brings added logistical difficulties. As SERRA President Andy Gart explained, writing in The Town Crier that the requirement to be represented by an "expert witness" makes participation in OMB appeals more difficult compared to City Planning's review process. Gart notes that it's "an expensive proposition," since community groups have to raise funds to hire a professional representative, a process that SERRA is currently undertaking. This also means that the community groups most able to make their voice heard are typically the ones with the sizeable socio-economic base required to fundraise. (Meanwhile, today's Provincial announcement of a new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, means that future land use appeals are likely to proceed differently).

Notwithstanding the perceived bureaucratic difficulties of the OMB—which, in the eyes of its supporters, offers a mechanism to by-pass the parochialism and occasional myopia of local political and community interests—the project is emblematic of the City's broader debates about development and intensification. How tall is too tall? What constitutes an appropriate transition from one urban context to another? How should local concerns be weighed against city-building priorities?

In the Yonge & Eglinton area, which is identified as a Growth Centre in the Official Plan, and which will soon become one of Toronto's best-connected transit hubs—once the Crosstown LRT opens—these questions take on greater urgency. The answers, for better or worse, will likely come at August's OMB hearing.

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We will keep you updated as more information becomes available, and the project continues to take shape. In the meantime, you can learn more by checking out our associated dataBase file, linked below. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment on this page, or join the ongoing conversation in our Forum.

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