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Toronto Retail Design Manual

Kenojuak

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Received the following communication from BILD. Link to the manual: https://www.toronto.ca/wp-content/u...oronto-Retail-Design-Manual-December-2019.pdf

Members of the BILD Toronto Chapter:
Please be advised that the City of Toronto has released a draft Retail Design Manual for your review and comments. The Manual is targeted to be reported to the Planning and Housing Committee on March 23rd, 2020.

The Manual is organized into three major themes including: (1) the building, (2) the street & retail frontage and (3) the retail space.
The City has expressed that the Manual is a collection of best practices and is intended to provide guidance on developing successful ground floor retail spaces. The intent is also to provide aspirational retail design best practices to inform, guide, inspire and educate architects, retail designers, City staff and the development community.

The Manual is provided as a resource to a wide variety of stakeholders involved in the design and development of retail. Each of these user groups will refer to this document in a different way and at different stages in the planning, design and development process. Some best practices are direct and provide guidance on quantitative measures (e.g. ground floor heights), while others are more qualitative or are intended to guide tenants at later stages of development (e.g. lighting).

A number of the best practices, such as recommendations for MEP - Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing for example, are not subject to City Planning review or oversight. Again, these are included in this document only as a resource for developers, architects, and retail designers to consider as they develop the retail program and space.
Despite these lofty claims that this document is an aspirational guide of best practices etc., I think we all know that City Staff, especially UD, will attempt to use these as rules, further complicating and extending the jurisdictional overreach by certain departments in the development review process.
 
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jje1000

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It's definitely a fine line to walk between being overly prescriptive and fussy, and being a set of toothless suggestions that developers would be happy to disregard.

Most of the best retail strips in Toronto emerged without any sort of strict guidelines ages ago- spaces like Kensington Market would be in total violation of most modern guidelines.

At the same time, these guides seem to be attempts to guard against the worst aspects of societal drift (think the move towards ugly back-lit & LED signage, and the emergence of mega retail units in megapodiums)- how our cities developed even 60-70 years ago is far different than the way they develop now.

On top of that- that most new retail is developed and managed by large, risk-aversive corporations (resulting in endless 'safe' Rexalls, BMOs and Shoppers) rather than smaller owner-developers is another larger underlying issue that simple design guidelines can't address.
 
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ADRM

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From an outcomes standpoint, it's also troubling that they chose "best practice" images that in some cases feature exclusively conglomerate chain tenants (Shoppers and Subway in one; Shoppers and LCBO in another), including a company whose stores are one of the worst offenders in terms of street presence (Shoppers). The last one (below) is better at grade, but I still don't think the City should be encouraging massive flat expanses of curtainwall.

IMHO, if this is indeed an aspirational document, those sorts of precedents shouldn't be found anywhere in there.

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DSC

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Must say these look like useful guidelines (and they are clear that's what they are) and they seem to be aimed at making BETTER retail space - for customers, retailers and 'the streetscape'. Looking at all the good examples in the publication reminds me of the ones that are NOT!
 

Northern Light

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Ward8

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Haven't been able to read it all, but this section was promising.

"Avoid fully glazed curtain walls with large areas of glass or multiple storefronts that are undifferentiated."

The trend right now is massive 2 story glass retail frontages that are consistent throughout the entirety of a building. Haven't pinned down if they recommend a frequency of retail frontages or not.
 

DSC

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Yes, looks like a useful document but sorry not to see anything trying to limit the opaque glass one sees more and more often. "Eyes on the street' are important and opaque windows are not helpful. There are two (new) pot shops on Front Street in St Lawrence, both have (only) opaque windows. Is this some sort of stupid Provincial rule or ???
 

AlexBozikovic

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These are totally solid ideas. The project on the cover (109 Ossington) is a big urban-design success; well done by the planners.

But that's one case. Where else are these ideas actually being realized?

And why do most of the biggest downtown projects totally fail to do what's being recommended here? I think of Union Park in particular. If you apply these guidelines to that project, you have to blow up the entire thing.
 

Northern Light

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Councillor Layton has a member motion going to the Oct 27th meeting of City Council on the subject of retail.

While the motion is a report request; and mentions San Francisco's limitations on chain or 'formula' retail.............

His request specifically notes that he is not seeking any ban or limitation on said retail but only binding rules that they better fit into the character of existing areas.

Better than nothing, insofar as it goes anywhere; but I would rather see something more like what SanFran has done in terms of capping the number of chain stores present.

 

junctionist

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It would be nice if we could change zoning rules to encourage more of the fine-grained urbanism that characterizes many of the city's most successful and popular retail areas today like Queen West or the different retail areas along the Danforth and Bloor Street West. If there's a nice low-rise or mid-rise main street area like Queen West or the Danforth, you can generally bet that both housing and commercial space are desirable there. And yet, today's planning and zoning regulations mean that you can forget about building more areas like those.

I think the key is higher-density development on narrower lots with less parking and less open space on the lot. The city will inevitably tell you the project needs more parking, that it should cover less of the lot, or that density should be a couple of storeys. Getting rid of the minimum parking requirements and the extremely conservative maximum allowable density would mean we could build more narrow and tall buildings of 4-6 stores around the city, particularly now that wood construction is more viable.

These changes would allow for more pleasant and varied rhythms of storefronts along main streets instead of long and monotonous condo podiums. They would also allow more private individuals without the financial resources of a major developer to add density and capitalize on real estate development trends, which would make the process more equitable and probably result in more density overall around the city.

When there's a huge district redevelopment project like the West Don Lands, part of the new building lots should simply be divided into a dozen or more narrow and long lots and sold off to private individuals like in the 19th century, on the condition that they build an approved building immediately, not speculate, and not sell off the land to a developer. Then, add design standards for the storefronts and facades, minimize the parking requirements, build higher-order transit and bike lanes, and we can see the rise of Danforth-type streetscapes from the Port Lands to North York, which are extremely popular based on housing prices.
 

Ward8

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When there's a huge district redevelopment project like the West Don Lands, part of the new building lots should simply be divided into a dozen or more narrow and long lots and sold off to private individuals like in the 19th century, on the condition that they build an approved building immediately, not speculate, and not sell off the land to a developer
Couldn't agree more on this. Developers play a role in modern construction, but this would be an important way to encourage good quality urbanism and create more interesting lively neighbourhoods.
 

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