As the redevelopment proposal for 50 Bloor Street West continues to make its way through Toronto's planning process, and we wait for news to come from the City and the developers on next steps. Pellow + Associates Architects will be taking 50 Bloor before Toronto's Design Review Panel on March 7th, and those following the project closely are hotly anticipating any recommendations that will emerge, and the iterations in design that will likely occur throughout this process. We will be back to report more details as we learn about them.

Today we recall it to bring your attention to a little-reported aspect of the proposal which might come as a welcome surprise to those who lament the lack of adequate public green space in the downtown core. What has caught our attention with this project is the intriguing proposal that developer Morguard has put forth for a large rooftop public garden above the Holt Renfrew portion of the site. The developer would see an increase in height of the western half of the site up to 8 storeys, which would include an expanded mixed-use facility of retail and commercial office space. The rooftop of that portion would then be earmarked for public space, while privately maintained and being accessible through the concourse level of the expanded shopping plaza bellow. Sitting at about a half acre in size, there are few private properties in the immediate area that one can think of which have nearly as much rooftop space, while also being close enough to ground level to allow reasonable access. 

50 Bloor West aerial render viewing the south west side. Image courtesy of pellow + associates architects inc./Nomis Digital.

London, England has a plethora of privately owned and publically accessible rooftop spaces, including the Babylon Garden atop the 6-storey former Derry & Toms Department store building in Kensington. Those gardens first came to my attention during a guided walking tour of Kensington, and were highly regarded as a notable public amenity in the community. New York also has plenty of examples of rooftop gardens, as well as privately owned public spaces like those at the Rockefeller Centre. 
While the condo amenity space is proposed to be on the same level as the garden space, the private amenities are entirely internalized within the floor plate of the tower itself. What's proposed for the rest of the area are a series of smaller programmed spaces including landscaped gardens, a running track, a tennis court, and the ability to convert part of the space into a skating rink during the cold months. 

Render of publically accessibe park. Image courtesy of pellow + associates architects inc./Nomis Digital.

The space would be buffered to some degree on all sides by buildings of various heights, to the east by the new condo tower, the west by an office buliding that rises a few storeys higher than the proposed 8-storey podium. To the south is the shorter office tower of the Manulife Centre complex, and to the north the proposed redevelopment of the Cumberland Terrace, itself with a larger podium and two towers above. 

The project also proposes to make some improvements to the laneway in behind the complex, specifically by internalizing all loading functions, in conjunction with the Cumberland Terrace proposal to the north, helping to improve vehicular flow. The proposal also sees loading access happening exclusively from Bay Street, to avoid trucks having to navigate the increasingly congested Bloor Street. 

50 Bloor West site plan including adjacent properties. Image from public consultation meeting, by Dumitru Onceanu.

At the south east corner of the tower, the developer proposes to have a large glass-enclosed atrium forming the entrance to the retail and office components. They would like to see this component programed in a number of different ways, including fine dining, public art pieces, as well as the potential to host fashion runway events. 

50 Bloor West podium render, viewing south east corner. Image courtesy of pellow + associates architects inc./Nomis Digital.

50 Bloor West podium render, viewing Bloor St facade. Image courtesy of pellow + associates architects inc./Nomis Digital.

Passenger pickup and dropoff areas to both the commercial and condo components would occur immediately behind the atrium, and off the laneway. 

50 Bloor West podium render, viewing port cochere. Image courtesy of pellow + associates architects inc./Nomis Digital.

Toronto continues to face a future of continued growth, particularly in the downtown area. With growth comes the inevitable need for more good public spaces, yet many of those seemingly obvious candidates are already privately owned. The Wellesley Green initiative highlights the acute problem that the City will have in trying to acquire private land for the purpose of public space, and it's becoming increasingly clear that we may have to change our thinking around how to create more space given today's constraints. Creative solutions may need to include the increasing partnership between public and private stakeholders.

What do you think about this proposal? Leave you comments bellow, or join the conversation in the 50 Bloor West discussion thread.