About halfway up the hill between Bloor Street and St Clair Avenue on Yonge Street, the tall limestone clocktower of Toronto’s flagship Summerhill LCBO stands over Scrivener Square, marking the site of the once vital North Toronto Rail Station that served the city between 1916 and 1930, closing after Union Station's opening in 1927.

Directly to the south of the square, on the properties of 1095 trough 1107 Yonge Street, 5 Scrivener Square, and 4, through 10R Price Street, Diamond Corp and Tricon Capital have proposed a 21-storey mixed-use redevelopment with extensive plans for the public realm to create an enhanced and pedestrian-friendly ‘heart’ for the Summerhill neighborhood. The development—to be called Scrivener Court—is designed by Danish firm COBE Architects (for their first development in Canada), Montreal’s Claude Cormier + Associés for the landscape architecture, and Urban Strategies Inc. The proposal went before the City’s Design Review Panel (DRP) last week, where the team presented their latest vision to redevelop this small slice of the Yonge Street corridor.

Scrivener Court, Summerhill, Yonge, Diamond Corp, Tricon Capital, COBESouth facing view of Scrivener Court with Clock tower in foreground, image via Urban Strategies, Claud Cormier, COBE Architects

The site falls in the physical centre of the Rosedale Main Street Business Improvement Area, for which the developers seek to create an "urban focal point." Buffered from South Rosedale to the east of the site by the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club, the development won't impact on that neighbourhood's quiet streets. A number of considerations for its local context have guided the shaping of the development, though, as seen in the sketches below. 

Scrivener Court, Summerhill, Yonge, Diamond Corp, Tricon Capital, COBEArchitectural visions for building and public realm, image via Urban Strategies, Claud Cormier, COBE Architects

With Scrivener Square to the north of the site, Price Street to the south, and Yonge Street to the west, the site is bounded by a mix of historic, community-significant buildings, as well as condominium buildings, office and retail spaces, and a recreation facility. The Victorian retail buildings on Yonge—affectionately known as the ‘Five Thieves’—which contribute to the distinctive character of the Summerhill area, will be retained in their entirety.

Scrivener Court, Summerhill, Yonge, Diamond Corp, Tricon Capital, COBESouth east view of Scrivener Court's circular urban forecourt, image via Urban Strategies, Claud Cormier, COBE Architects

For the new build, the architects have drawn on the distinctive facades of the surrounding area: the red bricks and low heights of the shops along Yonge Street, for instance, will be reflected in the development’s 9-storey mid-rise podium element, which will have a stacked effect, where heights step back above the second and sixth storeys, eighth story, and again above the ninth storey.

Scrivener Court, Summerhill, Yonge, Diamond Corp, Tricon Capital, COBERendering of different built-form elements of Scrivener Court, image via Urban Strategies, Claud Cormier, COBE Architects

The tower will rise 21 storeys and will be primarily clad in a light coloured, limestone facade to mirror the iconic ex-railway station clock tower opposite, and glass. The tower’s floor plate rises consistently up to the 18th storey, after which it will step up in heights as the floor plate diminishes in quarter volumes to the 19th, 20th and 21st storeys. The result will be a slender floor plate up top, wth a kind of crown-like effect that reinterprets the design elements of the nearby clocktower. The development will offer approximately 141 residential rental units, proposed in a mix of one (35%), two (60%), and three bedroom (6%) suites, and a total 23,500 square metres of new gross floor area.

Scrivener Court, Summerhill, Yonge, Diamond Corp, Tricon Capital, COBERendering of the Tower Facade, image via Urban Strategies, Claud Cormier, COBE Architects

The building’s amenities are designed with a kind of conceptual connection to the outdoor spaces of the development, with particular focus on its rooftops. Terrace spaces, gardens, a pool and other amenity spaces will be featured throughout the buildings' roof spaces to celebrate views over the Summerhill area, and Toronto at large. Indoor amenity spaces are proposed on the seventh floor.

Scrivener Court, Summerhill, Yonge, Diamond Corp, Tricon Capital, COBERendering of Scrivener Court Midrise Facade, image via Urban Strategies, Claud Cormier, COBE Architects

Claude Cormier + Associés, reknowned for their unique urban landscape design approach, have put forward a concept to the public realm, bringing in streetscape elements reminiscent of the pedestrian-friendly streets of Old Montreal, and the scale and width of Toronto’s Yorkville. The built form of the development is set back so as to leave unobstructed views of the North Toronto Rail Station clocktower from every street angle on and off Yonge Street. Its position leaves a significant amount of space at ground level, both in front and around the proposed building, set to create a more centralized and inviting area that ‘enhances public life’ in the Summerhill community.

Scrivener Court, Summerhill, Yonge, Diamond Corp, Tricon Capital, COBESouth elevations of development, looking north from Price Street, image via Urban Strategies, Claud Cormier, COBE Architects

The portion of the site that borders the rail station on Scrivener Square—currently an underused parking lot that services both the LCBO and a Beer Store on site—will be redeveloped into an urban forecourt intended to complete the process ‘that began over 30 years ago, to transform the former rail yard (then known as the Marathon Lands) into a mixed-use community. This north-western portion of the site will include urban park space, outfitted with a bosque of trees and other landscaping, to serve as an inviting and aesthetically pleasing entrance to the building and internal public spaces.

Scrivener Court, Summerhill, Yonge, Diamond Corp, Tricon Capital, COBERendered view of Bosque and Urban Forecourt, looking East from Yonge, image via Urban Strategies, Claud Cormier, COBE Architects

The design seeks to encourage public activity in the area with one-inch curbs, widened sidewalk spaces and a granite-paved forecourt that encourages walking in and around the existing and proposed retail areas. Porosity and permeability throughout the site will be achieved by creating new walking lanes that intersect and are tucked in behind the shops on Yonge, connecting to pedestrian mews that open up into an internal urban piazza space. The existing L shaped lane that cuts through the site will be reoriented to serve as a central artery that will connect Yonge Street, Scrivener Square, and Price Street. The area will include a decorative central fountain (signature Cormier whimsy coming in the form a giant grapefruit, no less), urban furniture, and seating areas that spill out from inward-facing retail spaces, and a range landscaped elements.  

Scrivener Court, Summerhill, Yonge, Diamond Corp, Tricon Capital, COBESouth facing view onto Scrivener Court and Scrivener Lane, image via Urban Strategies, Claud Cormier, COBE Architects

Two levels of underground parking are proposed below the site, to be accessed via a car elevator. The garage provides approximately 137 spots, plus 135 long-term bicycle parking spaces. Given that part of the site sits directly on top of the Summerhill TTC Station, the developer has suggested that the development will incorporate a new entrance to the station, offering roughly 97 square metres of the garage area to accommodate it. While the existing loading bay for the site is proposed to be converted into some active commercial use, the loading facilities are to be consolidated into the new development with a below grade service connection.

Scrivener Court, Summerhill, Yonge, Diamond Corp, Tricon Capital, COBEEntrances, walk ways, and TTC Access on Scrivener Court Site, image via Urban Strategies, Claud Cormier, COBE Architects

In general, the development was commended by members of the DRP, who appreciated both the level of insight provided in the proposal, and the analysis put into the interaction between the built form in relation to the surrounding area, the materiality, scale and massing of the development, and the proposal's commitment to the public realm as a way to frame the iconic North Toronto Rail Station. Some concerns were raised regarding east-west permeability through the site, and it was suggested that more consideration be given to the laneway connections to best accommodate the possible on-site TTC entrance. All said and done, all 10 of the present DRP members voted in favour of the development’s refinement, underscoring, perhaps, the potential of this kind of development’s promise to enhance Toronto’s urban landscape.

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