On Thursday, February 11th, the Douglas Cardinal-designed tower at 100 Davenport was reviewed at a community consultation meeting in Toronto's Yorkville neighbourhood. Designed in partnership with Scott Shields Architects for Diamante Development, City Planning officials and members of the community deemed the 39-storey tower—which 'open[s] up like a flower to the sun'—inappropriate for the site.
Yorkville area planner Oren Tamir explained that the scale of the proposal far outstrips the zoning regulations for the site, with a maximum height of only 11.1 metres currently permitted on the lot. Located on a block featuring the 25-storey Florian and the 31-storey Yorkville Condominiums, the taller 100 Davenport would rise just to the north of these recent towers. According to City Planning's preliminary report, "[t]he proposal is too tall and not appropriate in this location."
Previously subject to a series of re-zoning application throughout the 2000s, Tamir explained that the site is now subject to Site Specific By-Law 1331-2008, which sets out detailed height criteria for the immediate area. The By-Law was initially enacted to allow for the development of the 25-storey Florian condominium—immediately south of the 100 Davenport site—while significantly constricting the surrounding height limits.
The By-Law split the site into three parcels, with the bulk of the density given over to the 'tower site' (Parcel 1) now occupied by The Florian. According to the By-Law, a maximum height of 11.1 metres is permitted on the 100 Davenport site (Parcel 2), which is currently occupied the The Florian's sales centre. Finally, Parcel 3 refers to the Publicly Accessible Privately Owned Space (POPS) created as part of the The Florian's public realm contribution. The By-Law effectively offsets the Florian's density by allowing a very limited height ceiling to the north of the tower.
Based on this legal framework, City Planning argued that a 39-storey tower should stand no realistic chance of being approved. Local councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27) echoed these sentiments, leaving her "final word" on the project to planning staff. While Wong-Tam was highly critical of the project's scale, she did praise the architectural expression, calling Cardinal's tower "beautiful... but inappropriate" for the site.
The project was also met with strong criticism by members of the community, with many attendees citing the tower's height as an area of particular concern. With the site situated north of the Yorkville area's tallest built form, many residents felt that a 39-storey tower—taller than The Florian and The Yorkville Condominiums to the south—would disrupt the area's architectural context, which sees heights reduced towards the residential neighbourhoods to the north.
Wind, shadowing, and traffic were also points of concern for attendees. In particular, residents of neighbouring buildings worried that a new tower would block their views and cast potentially overwhelming shadows into their properties. By and large, community members felt that a project of this scale would not fit the surrounding context.
Though the 53-unit 100 Davenport would be taller than its immediate surroundings, the presentation by Scott Shields Architects and Douglas Cardinal argued that the tower's slender form would significantly mitigate the impacts of a larger floor-plate or a shorter but stockier building on the site.
For his part, Cardinal identified the site on Davenport Road as an apt location for a work of 'organic architecture.' The cultural heritage of Davenport Road—which follows the path of an ancient First Nations trail known in Ojibwe as Gete-Onigaming, meaning 'the old portage'—served as an inspiration for Cardinal's design aesthetic, which evokes a naturalistic spiritualism rooted in First Nations culture.
For Cardinal, who is of Kainai, Blackfoot, Métis, and Algonquin heritage, the "spiritual connection to nature is a very important aspect of the design." In this regard, the tower's symbolic presence on the streetscape could come to represent a sort of conciliatory gesture to Toronto's chronically overlooked First Nations culture if Cardinal's 'flower' was allowed to rise above its surroundings.
While a 39-storey, 142-metre tower was widely regarded as excessively tall for the site, it is difficult to predict an acceptable degree of compromise for City Planning. Maintaining the 11.1 metre height limit currently legislated for the site would severely constrain its development potential, making the current zoning criterion an unrealistic benchmark for proposals.
Considered within the area's broader context, the low height limit seems particularly out of place given Mizrahi's community of 12 and 9-storey buildings—at 181 Davenport and 133 Hazelton, with a third proposed at 128 Hazelton—currently underway just to the northwest. With this in mind, however, the extent to which Cardinal's design would have to be scaled down to meet approval remains uncertain.
We will keep you updated as more information regarding the project continues to emerge. In the meantime, check out our dataBase file, linked below, for more information and the latest up-to-date renderings. Want to share your thoughts on the design so far? Join in the discussion in our associated Forum thread, or leave a comment at the bottom of this page.