Appearing for its second pass through Toronto's Design Review Panel (DRP) on March 10, Mizrahi Developments' highly-anticipated and widely-publicized proposal for The One showcased further evolutions in its design, as the Foster + Partners and Core Architects-designed tower continues to take shape on the southwest corner of Yonge and Bloor. With an emphasis on the public realm design, the integration of existing heritage structures, and the overall building composition, several notable refinements of the proposal were highlighted in the presentation.
First, the height of the building, which has fluctuated throughout the design process, has been decreased from 84 storeys (340.6 metres, 1118 feet) to 72 storeys (304.3 metres, 998 feet). The building height was decreased in order to reduce the shadow impact of the tower on nearby Jesse Ketchum Park to the northwest and Asquith Green Park to the east. The reduction in height is a direct result from stakeholder meetings and public consultations held throughout the planning process. The image below shows the building at its 84-storey height. Essentially the reduction simply simply removes the upper two hanger sections.
The public realm around The One was extensively showcased, with an emphasis on the relationship of the building's ground floor and podium structures to the surrounding streetscapes. The sidewalks around the building were significantly widened from the previous proposal presented to the DRP: the Bloor Street sidewalk increased from 7.9 metres to 8.8 metres, while the width of the Yonge Street sidewalk nearly doubled from 4.8 metres up to 9 metres. The designers cited a recognition of the heavy pedestrian traffic and importance of the intersection in the city as influences for the increased public realm.
Furthermore, the proposal includes a privately-owned public space (POPS) at the northwest corner of the site, near the main residential and retail entrance to the building. The facade will step back 12.5 metres from Bloor Street, providing an entry plaza that leads into an interior laneway giving access to the elevator core for the retail levels, which is pulled out of the tower and pushed to the western edge of the site. The interior corridor also provides a connection from the laneway facing the back of the buildings along Yonge, through to Bloor Street and with a view across to Mayfair Mews on the opposite side of the road. Mayfair Mews is expected to be improved as part of redevelopments on the north side of Bloor in the coming years.
The base of The One was reduced in scale to align with the top of the neighbouring small-scale structures. Clad in glass and featuring dramatic angled columns in the interior on which the tall tower is balanced, the ground floor provides a simple expression that visually expands the surrounding public realm. A single yet-to-be-named retailer - apparently of international stature - will occupy the ground floor and will maintain, we are assured, the transparent expression of the ground levels currently shown in the renderings. The retail levels above will be clad with an innovative glazing system, as described in a previous article, that will present a rather spectacular facade on Yonge and Bloor Streets.
The final point of interest is the incorporation of the designated heritage buildings at 776-778 Yonge Street and the transition of The One to the small-scale historic structures to the south. With the Historic Yonge Street Heritage Conservation District having just been approved by City Council on Wednesday, it is now more important than ever that the development, located just outside the northern edge of the district, features appropriate treatment of its heritage elements.
The two heritage facades will form part of the podium of the building and will house retail. A full five metres of the north and south party walls will be retained and articulated, allowing the buildings to be read as distinct volumes in their own right. As well, the tower and podium above feature a minimum five-metre setback from the heritage facades, and the massing of the podium has been reconfigured and shortened in height to minimize its impact on the historic structures as well as the surrounding buildings. To the south, the street wall will be maintained with new infill clad in champagne-coloured metal panels, and the existing street wall height will be preserved with the new portion matching the height of the adjacent properties.
The members of the Design Review Panel had an overall positive review of the proposal, but of course, there were several refinements suggested that could have an impact on the design. While the panel members were very pleased with the increased sidewalk widths and public realm treatment, the relevance and viability of the POPS and the interior and exterior laneway connections—which connect to back alleys that are unlikely to be pedestrianized—were brought into question.
As well, panelists expressed concern over the impact that retail on the ground level would have on the expression of the architecture, which they generally approved of in its current form, but feared that much of the transparency and openness would be lost once the tenant moves in. It was suggested by one panelist that the ground floor be left largely for public use, rather than private retail, to continue the public realm indoors.
In terms of building composition, panel members felt that the reduction in height compromised the proportions of the building, with the location of the recessed mechanical levels not having been properly re-calibrated to the new height, thereby unevenly breaking up the volume of the building. As well, concerns were expressed over the cladding and expression of the podium walls, particularly on the south and west facades, where large expanses of blank walls would be highly visible. The metal cladding to the south along Yonge Street was questioned in terms of its compatibility with the heritage facades, as well as its cohesiveness with the remainder of the development.
Finally, panel members pointed out that an underground connection to the TTC was omitted from the presentation and has not yet been fully developed. Plans of the building, both previous and current, show one or more potential PATH connections, but little emphasis has been placed on them in the presentation. Mizrahi responded that owing to time constraints, that had not been addressed in the presentation but that in fact one connection to Two Bloor West and the Holt Renfrew Centre PATH system is part of the plan, while a more direct connection to Bloor-Yonge subway station has been discovered to be technically very challenging owing to underground services below the Yonge and Bloor intersection. Given the volume of pedestrians and transit users at Yonge and Bloor, panelists were still concerned that the more indirect connection the the subway through the PATH system might not be enough.
As The One makes its way through the planning process, its design is still subject to change, and comments from the DRP may have an impact on further refinements of the proposal. Stay tuned for updates as we closely follow the continuing evolution of this development.
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