Grocery giant Loblaws has submitted a revised and much expanded plan to the City of Toronto for the redevelopment of its former head office and warehouse at Bathurst Street and Lake Shore Boulevard. Architectural renderings of a full-scale retail, office, and residential complex—partly nestled beneath the Gardiner Expressway—would give the deteriorating property a new lease on life.
The proposal involves a complete gut of the Art Deco brick building, followed by new construction and the restoration of the heritage façades, behind which would be three storeys of retail including a Loblaws grocery store. Planted above it would be a 5-storey (plus mechanical penthouse) addition of office space, topped with a green roof. The existing billboards on the building, which also have heritage protection (not shown above, but visible in the image below) would be replaced in their current locations. Two residential towers, 37- and 41-storeys in height, would rise immediately adjacent to the north, replacing a now torn-down one-storey section of the complex that does not have heritage protection. Along with a new courtyard, they are nestled in the remaining space against and below the Gardiner Expressway.
The project has been a contentious one as the heritage community has sought to save much more of the existing building, but consultants retained by Loblaws have declared that the 1928-built structure is simply too compromised now to properly repair and reuse. No doubt we will learn more about the state of the building in upcoming public consultations on the plan, as well as the reaction from Heritage Preservation Services.
The plan is an ambitious one. It includes a gently sloping walkway and bridge leading pedestrians from Housey Street at Concord CityPlace to the north of the complex, under the Gardiner and directly into the second floor grocery store without having to navigate stairs or a "movator". Street level will also see new retail space including below the expressway, while five levels of underground parking will serve shoppers with cars, office workers, and residents of the new towers. Some amenities for residents are proposed for rooftops including areas sheltered under the Gardiner.
Government policies have been reshaping this city’s growth through intensification, and shopping plays a key role in the urban revitalization. As the downtown population increases, so does the need for retail and, as Loblaws knows, people are looking for higher quality prepared meals. Its new urban supermarkets at Maple Leaf Gardens and at Queen and Portland have responded to that need, in locations where the majority of the shoppers come on foot. The Fort York neighbourhood has seen a great deal of development in recent years as it transitions from an industrial area to a high-density mixed-use community. If built, 500 Lake Shore Blvd would bring a much needed retail presence to a predominantly condo-filled zone that so far is largely lacking in neighbourhood amenities. The residents of the Fort York, CityPlace, and Niagara neighbourhoods have shown great interest in the development, attending earlier public meetings in droves.
Erected in 1928, the Loblaw Groceterias Building served as the company’s head offices and central warehouse, complete with packaging and manufacturing facilities. The growing supermarket chain remained on the site until the 1970s when its new headquarters opened on St. Clair Avenue East. The building was used by The Daily Food Bank during the interim years and in 2001, received heritage designation. Loblaws re-acquired the site in 2004 and applied, unsuccessfully, to have it demolished. Abandoned for more than a decade, the decaying building has been an eyesore in the area: in 2011 finials along the building's roofline were strapped with aluminum bands to keep them from crumbling. Restoring the property breathes new life into old spaces and would create an interesting texture in the urban fabric.
Loblaws has partnered with Toronto firm architectsAlliance to design the complex. The renderings represent an early iteration of the design and will no doubt evolve over time. As it currently stands, the proposal would bring a total of 840 residential units, 859 underground parking spaces, and 17,134 sq. m of retail to the neighbourhood, with a total site density 5.9x. The first public consultations on the plan will occur sometime this fall as the planning department evaluates the proposal. Zoning approval and a 'go ahead' from City Council is still a ways off.
Our new dataBase page for the project has many more images which will allow you to study the proposal in greater detail. You will find additional information there as well, all at the link below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or voice your opinion in the comments section provided on this page.