Just to the northwest of Toronto City Hall, a new home for many of the city's courthouses will soon be under construction. Today, Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) has announced that a fixed-price contract has been awarded to EllisDon Infrastructure to build the new 17-storey Ontario Court of Justice Toronto. The building is designed by the world renowned Renzo Piano Building Workshop, their first project in Canada, working with NORR Architects and Engineers of Toronto.

Ontario Court of Justice Toronto, designed by Renzo Piano Building WorkshopLooking northwest to the Ontario Court of Justice Toronto, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop & NORR

Shorter than the 135 metre maximum height (approximately 23 or 24 storeys) which was established when the site was rezoned last year, the building is meant to complement the monumentality of the architecture in the area around City Hall, and not compete with the famed Viljo Revell-designed building for attention. The building faces Nathan Philips Square, completing a view corridor found between Osgoode Hall and City Hall, is carved out n the corner closest to the square, and offers an inviting, warm-hued atrium to those approaching from the southeast.

Ontario Court of Justice Toronto, designed by Renzo Piano Building WorkshopLooking northwest to the Ontario Court of Justice Toronto, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop & NORR

IO and MAG awarded the contract, valued at $956.4 million, to EllisDon Infrastructure following an evaluation of two short-listed pre-qualitifed teams identified after a Request For Proposals was issued in October 2016. The EllisDon Infrastructure team is made up of:

  • Developer: EllisDon Capital Inc.
  • Constructor: EllisDon Design Build Inc.
  • Design Team: Renzo Piano Building Workshop and NORR Architects & Engineers Limited
  • Facilities Management: EllisDon Facilities Services Inc. and SNC Lavalin O&M
  • Financial Advisor: EllisDon Capital Inc.

The building will bring together many of Toronto's current Ontario Court of Justice criminal courts operating across the city into one facility, reducing costs, and making operations more efficient and organizationally more effective. The plan will also provide for equal access to services in a state-of-the-art building. The building's design targets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Silver certification, focusing on energy efficiency, healthy indoor environments, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Improvements that those using the new courthouse can expect over current facilities include a barrier-free environment, video conferencing to allow witnesses and/or defendants to appear from remote locations when necessary (or a private room when children or vulnerable witnesses are called to testify), and systems to allow for video evidence to presented in court.

Ontario Court of Justice Toronto, designed by Renzo Piano Building WorkshopCourtroom in the new Ontario Court of Justice Toronto, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop & NORR

The building is designed with a single point of entry with a comprehensive security checkpoint to ensure the safety of all users of the facility, but at the same time as it will be a bit of a fortress, it is also meant to be welcoming to the public, and will include a learning centre—a first for an Ontario court facility. From the press release, the learning centre will be "a safe, inclusive place of dialogue and host to interactive exhibits, teaching opportunities, and will house reference materials relating to justice, injustice, truth and reconciliation, as well as Indigenous legal traditions and systems."

Site preparation for construction has already taken place, with an archaeological excavation that commenced in 2015 which uncovered about 15,000 artifacts from the 19th and early 20th centuries when the site was part of St. John's Ward. Also known simply as 'The Ward', the area was an early immigrant settlement quarter for Toronto. Regarded by many as a slum, it was substantially cleared in the 1960s for construction of the new City Hall. While a commemorative art installation was installed on the hoarding around the site, planing for the permanent commemoration of the site's history will be designed into the new Toronto courthouse. To that end, IO has struck a Heritage Interpretation Working Group, with representation from government and various community groups, "to provide a forum for information sharing, feedback, guidance and advice regarding appropriate considerations and suggestions for public interpretation themes and approaches."

Ontario Court of Justice Toronto, designed by Renzo Piano Building WorkshopAtrium in the new Ontario Court of Justice Toronto, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop & NORR

Construction is targeted to start shortly, with completion planned for the Spring of 2022.

Want to know more about the development? UrbanToronto's database file for the Ontario Court of Justice, linked below, includes several more renderings. Want to talk about it? Our associated Forum thread will allow you to get in on the conversation, or you can leave a comment in the space provided on this page.