For almost two years, the former Edward Street site of Toronto's defunct World's Biggest Bookstore has sat empty. Initially envisioned as a low-rise 'restaurant row' in early 2014, the plan for the Lifetime Developments property was subsequently re-imagined, with a mixed-use tower proposed later that year.

20 Edward Street in May 2016, image retrieved via Google Maps

Initially submitted at a height of 35 storeys, the architectsAlliance-designed project offered a very different vision for the site. As the project made its way through the City of Toronto's review process, a number of complicating factors came to light. Perhaps most critically, the massing of the tower marginally impeded the helicopter flight path to Sick Kids hospital, while concerns about density, parking configuration, and PATH connectivity, also figured in the planning process. 

A worm's eye view of the 35-storey proposal, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Now, well over a year later, a refined proposal has come to light, with the project recently resubmitted to the City. Reduced to a helicopter-friendly height of 30 storeys, the tower is now planned with 579 units, 53 of which (9%) would be three-bedroom suites. By comparison, the 2014 proposal called for a total of 629 units, including 90 three-bedroom homes (14%).

The revised 30-storey design, image retrieved via submission to the City of Toronto

Alongside the reduced height, the massing and architectural expression have also evolved. Whereas the previous proposal included a single—albeit articulated—volume that faintly resembled mid-century slab towers, the updated design visually breaks up the massing into a noticeably differentiated pair of volumes. While the east elevation generally maintains the aesthetic of the earlier proposal, the west elevation has been re-imagined as a lighter, modernist-inspired gridded volume. 

Looking northeast, the tower now features two distinct volumes, image retrieved via submission to the City of Toronto

Aside from the reduced density and altered unit mix, the project's retail and commercial office components have also been slightly modified. As in the 2014 submission, retail space will be concentrated along the first two podium levels and in an underground concourse, with a total of 6,399 m² of GFA given over to shopping. Meanwhile, the entire upper level of the three-storey podium will be taken up by 2,844 m² of office space. 

The Edward Street frontage, image retrieved via submission to the City of Toronto

Notably, however, the retail concourse has now been reconfigured, making the addition of a PATH connection more feasible. While the PATH is not a universally embraced part of Downtown Toronto's urban fabric, connectivity could impact the success of concourse-level retail. For the City, a general policy of extending the PATH to developments adjoining the underground network is also pursued. In this case, the PATH-connected Atrium on Bay is located immediately to the south across Edward Street, while PATH access to a possible new north entrance to the TTC's Dundas subway station could be a longer term goal for redevelopment in the area.

An overview of the concourse level (click for a closer view), image via submission to the City of Toronto

As outlined in the resubmission documents, a number of more nuanced refinements have also been made, with the loading/servicing, parking, tree preservation, and waste disposal strategies all altered to some degree. Over the coming months, will keep you updated as the project makes its way through the planning process once again. In the meantime, more information is available via our dataBase file, linked below. Want to share your thoughts about the project? Leave a comment in the space below this page, or join the ongoing discussion in our Forum. 

Related Companies:  architectsAlliance, Cecconi Simone, Isotherm Engineering Ltd., Lifetime Developments, Strybos Barron King, Turner Fleischer Architects