Renderings depicting the podium of a proposed 45-storey residential tower at Yonge and Grosvenor have been posted on Quadrangle Architects' website. The KingSett Capital development spans several properties along the west side of Yonge Street, from 480 to 494 Yonge, including a heritage clock tower which was originally part of Old Fire Hall No. 3 before landmarking the St. Charles Tavern. 

View from the northeast, image courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

The redevelopment proposal calls for demolition of the long-since-defaced former fire hall and incorporation of its clock tower into the three-storey podium of the new building. The modern glass and corten steel base of the building, to house over 2,200 square metres of commercial space in three potential units, will be recessed to allow for the clock tower to take centre stage amid a pedestrian plaza area.

UrbanToronto spoke with Sami Kazemi, Senior Associate at Quadrangle Architects, who provided us with some additional information about the project. "Before starting any design work, we needed to understand the history and significance of this site. We found that it was not only significant for the heritage elements that physically remain, but also for its more recent history as the St. Charles Tavern and what that represents in the collective memory of Toronto. Through our research and consultation with the City’s urban design and heritage staff, it became apparent that the clock tower has the potential to regain its stature and visibility on Yonge Street, as both a landmark and visual marker within the community and city, and so our design is anchored around this opportunity respectfully."

View from southwest, image courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

Heritage specialists ERA Architects are consultants on the project. "Physically, there is little that remains of the original fire hall, so one of the challenges of the project has been how to appropriately conserve the value of the remaining heritage elements," said Kazemi. "Portions of the tower may be concealed below the roofline, and more investigation will be done to understand the extent of the original structure." 

Kazemi also spoke to the significance of the site and its past history. "The site has some very interesting history. From the time of its construction in the early 1870s until 1929, 484 Yonge Street was Fire Hall No. 3. The building was then converted for commercial use, and in 1950, part of the fire hall was demolished and replaced with the St. Charles Tavern. The clock tower was maintained, and the St. Charles slogan became "meet me under the clock". The St. Charles holds significance in Toronto’s social history; during the 1960s, at a time where LGBT activity was publicly discriminated against; it opened its doors as one of the few places that openly accepted the community. But that also attracted homophobic violence throughout the 60s and 70s. Advocacy groups were established and together with some politicians, they began pressuring the police force to provide protection." 

Current and future site conditions, image courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

"Between the project team and through our consultations with the heritage department at the City, there was consensus that we should not try to recreate historical elements, and that we should clearly distinguish between the old and the new," said Kazemi. "We chose weathered steel panels because we felt that its unique patina compliments the older materials without trying to directly mimic them."

The building occupying addresses 480 and 482 Yonge Street—a heritage property currently housing two commercial units (Sevan Art Gallery and Hair Story) and apartments above—will be retained. The shops and apartments north of the clock tower will be demolished, though the 26 rental units lost will be replaced in the new building. 

East elevation of the tower, image courtesy of the City of Toronto

"We realized that many people walking along that strip of Yonge Street don’t really notice or pay too much attention to the clock tower. The original fire hall building was set back from the property line exposing the base of clock tower; this made it very visible to pedestrians and gave it a grand presence at the time. We felt it was important to recreate that condition so that the clock tower can regain its visibility and stature. We developed a 3d model of the area, then took several camera views looking towards the clock tower from all directions. We were then able to manipulate the angles at different levels of the podium creating increased visibility of the clock tower, widening the existing sidewalk along Yonge Street, and creating terracing opportunities, while at the same time maintaining the retail street edge that is characteristic of Yonge Street today."

Design concept for the site, image courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

Including the rental replacements, there will be a total of 423 residential units accommodated in a box-shaped point tower with protruding balconies along its north, south and east sides. The proposed suites consist of 27 bachelor units, 272 one-bedroom units, 83 two-bedroom units and 41 three-bedroom units. Though no renderings of the tower have yet been released, drawings have been submitted to the City and have indicated a height of 153 metres. 

Closeup of the relationship between the modern base and heritage clock tower, image courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

Four levels of underground parking with 131 spaces are proposed with access off of St. Luke Lane to the west. The lobby to the building will be accessible via the northwest corner of Grosvenor Street and amenities are proposed for inclusion on the third floor. Two outdoor amenity terraces are also proposed: one for the northeast corner (depicted in the image below) and the other on top of the retained 480 Yonge. 

Closeup of the northeast corner at Grosvenor, image courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

Only 480-484 Yonge are currently listed in the inventory, none of which have yet been designated as a heritage property, a condition that would require Council approval for alterations and demolition. However, on February 11, the City passed a one-year Heritage Conservation District Study Area Bylaw that applies to each property included within this development. The proposed Heritage Conservation District, Historic Yonge, has been in the works for months. The bylaw gives the City time to pass a Heritage Conservation District designation while ensuring protection for the buildings within the study area. With the bylaw now in force, no property within the study area can be demolished or its exterior significantly altered for a period of one year. 

Historical photos of Old Fire Hall No.3, image courtesy of Quadrangle Architects

"Even when designing the tower, we focused on the pedestrian experience," said Kazemi. "In reality what an individual either on foot or in transit experiences when passing by is quite different than a rendering that shows the complete vertical of a building. We felt the residential tower needs to become a simple and elegant backdrop to the more animated and dynamic podium forms, always leading the eye back to the focal point, which is the clock tower. We hope that once this project is constructed, the clock tower will become a visual marker on Yonge Street again and you will start hearing people say 'meet me under the clock'."

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