With September's Toronto East York Community Council meeting fast approaching, another group of proposed developments face the scrutiny of Toronto's councillors. While Council—or in the case of an appeal, the OMB—ultimately determines whether any application requiring rezoning is approved, the votes are guided by input from the Planning Department. Before Council convenes, planning reports inform council decisions by contextualizing proposed developments with regard to the City of Toronto's Official Plan and other applicable growth and urban design policies, with the review by Community Council preceding a full City Council vote some weeks later. 

Ahead of next week's Community Council session, a number of high-profile projects have been reviewed by the planning department. As recently reported, the 30-storey proposal at 20 Edward Street—formerly the site of the World's Biggest Bookstore—has been recommended for approval, with a new secondary entrance for the TTC's Dundas Station set to be included as part of the project. Meanwhile, a refusal report to the Toronto and East York Community Council (TEYCC) has also been issued for Cityzen's 59-storey 1 Scollard tower.

Aerial view of the tower, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Located on a very compact 700.6 m² site on the north edge of the Bloor-Yorkville area, 59-storey proposal at the southwest corner of Yonge and Scollard is not supported by the Planning Department. While the recently released staff report adresses the project at an early stage, a declarative recommendation of refusal has already been issued. According to the report, the "proposed tower is too tall and the site is too small to accommodate the proposal. The proposal does not fit within the existing and planned context for the Bloor-Yorkville and North Midtown Area."

With a proposed height of 229 metres and a Floor Space Index (FSI) of 37.5 the planning department regards the proposal as a drastic overdevelopment of the site. Although the existing zoning for the site—which permits an FSI of 3.0 alongside maximum heights of 18-23 metres—is functionally outdated, the 194-unit proposal also exceeds more recently established planning guidelines.

A view of the street level, looking southwest, image via submission to the City of Toronto

At 229 metres, the tower's height does not fall in line with the Bloor-Yorkville framework set out in Area-Specific Policy 211. The policy provides a variable height criterion for new towers in the area, with the highest density permitted in the "height peak" at the Bloor and Yonge intersection. From there, the "height ridge" continues along both Bloor and Yonge, with tower heights meant to gradually decrease away from the intersection.

The height parameters as per Area-Specific Policy 211, image courtesy of the City of Toronto

Since the 1 Scollard tower would rise above its neighbouring towers—including the 58-storey/183 metre-tall 1 Yorkville a block to its south—and contribute "significant incremental shadow" to sensitive areas, the project's height is regarded as excessive for the site. Additionally, the highly compact nature of the lot has also been identified as an impediment to high-rise development. By comparison, many of Toronto's new-build condominium point towers feature a standard floorplate of approximately 750 m²; larger than the subject site itself. In order to accommodate a viable tower footprint on the site, no set backs were proposed.

Despite an average floorplate of only 537 m², the site's limitations mean that the massing also exceeds the street wall conventions established in the Bloor-Yorkville/North Midtown Urban Design Guidelines. Fronting Frank Stollery Parkette (which would be improved as part of the project), the project's Scollard street wall would need to rise to a height of 5-6 storeys to reinforce the "urban room" experience identified in the Guidelines.

The site as it appears now (left), image via Google Maps

Finally, the lack of retail space along Yonge Street is not in line with the parameters established in the City's Tall Buildings Guidelines. Yonge Street is identified as a "priority retail street," meaning that 60% of the frontage should be devoted to retail uses in order to preserve the street's vibrant character. For the KPMB-designed 1 Scollard, the compact nature of the site makes the inclusion of street-level retail a significant challenge. This small site also impacts sightlines, parking, loading, and wind, as well as the other issues identified above. 

Ultimately, City planning does not view the 700.6 m² lot as a viable standalone tower site. Notwithstanding height, most of the objections are—directly and indirectly—consequences of the site's spatial limitations. As the staff report concludes, "[t]his application for a tall building is not appropriate for the site, and should be refused. The proposed development does not conform to the Official Plan; is inconsistent with Council-approved guidelines; does not fit within the existing and planned context for the Bloor-Yorkville/North Midtown Area."

A view of the tower's Yonge Street frontage alongside the improved parkette, looking northwest, image via submission to the City of Toronto

The recommendation to refuse the project is somewhat unusual for a preliminary report. More commonly, preliminary reports outline a basis for negotiations between the City and the developers, with an indication of the City's requirements in order for a project to meet approval. In this case, however, the refusal report indicates that the planning department has identified inherent—and insurmountable—problems with this type of high-rise proposal on the site.

Ahead of next week's Council meeting, we will keep you updated with the other high-profile proposals facing scrutiny. To learn more about the 1 Scollard project—including improvements to Frank Stollery Parkette—our introductory editorial offers a more complete overview of the proposal. Additional information is also available via our dataBase file, linked below. Want to share your thoughts about the planning process? Leave a comment in the space below this page, or join the conversation in our associated Forum thread.

Related Companies:  Cityzen Development Group, Dominus Construction Group, Entuitive, KPMB Architects, Martha Schwartz Partners, The Planning Partnership, WND Associates Ltd