Once home to Toronto's World's Biggest Bookstore, the now-vacant lot at 20 Edward Street could soon see activity. In advance of September's Council meeting, City of Toronto planning staff have recommended approval for a mixed-use tower to replace the former bookstore. As part of the project, a new PATH-accesible secondary entrance for the TTC's Dundas Station will come to Elm Street, adding a north access point to the subway. 

The proposed 30-storey tower has been recommended for approval, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Although the low-rise bookstore—which, despite its name, was not the largest in the world—was demolished in late 2014, Lifetime Developments' plans for the site's future have continued to evolve as the lot sat empty. While the site was initially envisioned as a high-end 'restaurant row,' that plan was scuppered in favour of a proposal for 35-storey tower in early 2015.

Demolition of the World's Biggest Bookstore in 2014, image by Jack Landau

Designed by architectsAlliance, the 35-storey version faced a number of significant planning obstacles. The proposed height impeded upon the helicopter flight path to Sick Kids Hospital, while further concerns about density and massing—as well as a desire for a new entrance to Dundas Station—meant that the project would require a number of revisions to meet approval. From there, the scope of the proposal evolved.

Looking south, the two typologies make the slab tower appear as two distinct points, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Last month, an altered proposal was submitted to the City. Responding to the planning concerns identified in the 2015 submission, the tower's height was reduced to 30 storeys, clearing the flight path to Sick Kids. In addition, the slab-like volumes initially proposed were refined into two distinct typologies, thereby breaking up the tower's apparent bulk (above). The tower would add 572 residential suites to the area, along with 6,399 m² street-level and underground retail space, and 2,844 m² of office space atop a three-story podium. In addition, a total of 241 vehicle parking spaces are planned in a four-storey underground parking garage, while 672 bicycle spaces will also be provided. Meanwhile, a provision for a secondary entrance to Dundas Station was also included in the new submission, with an automated exit/entrance facility set to front Edward Street.

The concourse level plan (note the TTC entrance at bottom right), image via submission to the City of Toronto

Now recommended for approval at October City Council following September Community Council, the Planning Department's Final Report states: 

The proposal will include a second exit to the TTC Dundas Station that will be accessible 24 hours a day 7 days a week. A tunnel will be constructed from the TTC Dundas Station that leads to the proposal's retail concourse level, which then provides access to the ground floor and out to Edward Street. The applicant has agreed to provide space for the proposed TTC second exit to be within the development proposal. The recommendations in this report secure the TTC Dundas Station second exit within the Section 37 Agreement as a legal convenience.

The retail concourse plan (above) indicates a wall-less level waiting for detail, showing the TTC connection underneath Edward Street. An indefinite end to the tunnel could indicate a potential connection to the Atrium on Bay and the existing PATH system on the south side of the street. The Final Report goes on to consider the possibility of PATH continuing north through the 20 Edward site as well. 

The City’s PATH Master Plan identifies a “medium priority” potential PATH expansion from the Atrium on Bay site to extending north to Gerrard Street. This could possibly connect the College Street and the College Park and Aura developments with the larger PATH system to the south. The PATH connection is identified as a potential Section 37 community benefit. 

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

A $3.5 million Section 37 contribution has been arrived at by the City and the developer, with allocation of the disbursements still to be finalized. As part of the Section 37 contribution beyond the TTC entrance, a 72 m² on-site POPS is being sought at the northwest end of the site, fronting the mid-block pedestrian connection between Edward and Elm streets, which is itself set to be widened and improved (below). In addition to the Section 37 monies, an off-site parkland dedication—equivalent in value to 253 m² of on-site land—has been earmarked via Section 42.

The improved mid-block connection, image via submission to the City of Toronto

We will keep you updated as the project continues to develop at September's Community Council meeting, and October's City Council meeting. In the meantime, additional information is available via our dataBase file, linked below, as well as our previous editorial, which highlighted the evolved submission. Want to share your thoughts about the project? Leave a comment below this page, or join the conversation in our Forum. 

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