When a settlement between the City of Toronto and the developer was reached at the OMB earlier this year, the drawn out development saga at 177 Front Street East took a major step forward. Sold to the Pemberton Group by Metropia in 2011, the 11,323 m² site at the southeast corner of Front and Lower Sherbourne was subsequently subject to a series of high-rise condominium proposals throughout the half-decade that followed. 

An aerial view of the site, image via Google Maps

After two Hariri Pontarini-designed submissions (2012, 2013) for the site, Wallman Architects took over the design for Pemberton in 2015. Responding to the City's concerns regarding excessive density alongside insufficient public space and street-level retail, the initial Wallman plan called for four residential towers (with heights of 33, 29, 27, and 25 storeys) to surround a POPS fronting The Esplanade (below).

The 2015 plan, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Following a series of negotiations with the City, a revised rezoning plan was ratified at the OMB in early February. Now, the developers have returned to the City with a Site Plan Application that highlights the changes to the design while bringing to light a more detailed architectural plan.

For starters, the approved density is slightly scaled down from the original proposal. At the north end of the site, the two tallest buildings are now envisioned as 29-storey towers, while a mirrored pair of 18-storey towers—which step down to 10 storeys at the south end of the site—transition the project to what is intended to be a more intimate urban context on The Esplanade. 

The updated proposal, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Fronting The Esplanade, the central POPS space remains, as does an adjoining POPS laneway to the north. Bringing permeability to the site, the 758.4 m² east-west POPS provides a mid-block pedestrian connection from Lower Sherbourne to Princess, while the 1,656.7 m² space fronting The Esplanade to its south is programmed as a courtyard. Finally, significant improvements to the Lower Sherbourne sidewalk legally constitute a third POPS, with a widened 758 m² public space planned. 

While the 2015 plan called for 1,679 units, the number of condominium residences has been reduced to 1,586. With a proposed unit mix of 14 bachelor (1%), 1,088 one-bedroom (69%), 326 two-bedroom (20%), and 158 three-bedroom (10%) suites, small investor-oriented units remain the focus. As outlined in the submission to the City, the average one-bedroom suite will be approximately 485 ft² in size. 

A closer view of the Lower Sherbourne frontage, image via submission to the City of Toronto

The project's massing and architectural expression have also evolved since last year, with an attempt at typological diversity evidenced in the latest plans. Whereas the 2015 rezoning application called for a flat 10-storey podium structure at the base of all four towers, the proposal has evolved to feature a more varied series of frontages (above). Attempting to recreate the appearance of a typologically diverse urban streetwall, the frontages—which vary in height and materiality—are slightly extruded to the street, ostensibly reducing the visual impact of what remains a somewhat monolithic presence. 

Otherwise, the current proposal is largely in keeping with the rezoning plan submitted last year. Nonetheless, while some 40% of the site (just over 4,500 m²) was designated as POPS in the 2015 submission, this new plan sees the three public spaces reduced to approximately 28% of the site (3,173 m²). As in the former plan, however, double-height retail spaces (adding up to a total of 1,966 m²) continue to line most of the Front and Lower Sherbourne frontages. 

The updated site plan (click for a closer view), image via submission to the City of Toronto

Facing the courtyard—and part of the Princess Street frontage—rows of townhouse-inspired residences provide 'eyes on the street' at grade. While this element is carried over from the previous submission, 13 of the 14 units are now planned as three-bedroom homes. By contrast, the former plan (which featured 11 of these suites) exclusively called for two-bedroom residences. 

The parking plan is also mostly inherited from the project's previous iteration. Alongside a single level of underground parking, 10 storeys of parking are planned above grade, making for a total of 836 spots. 563 of these will be housed above grade, with the underground garage home to another 273 parking spaces. While the 2015 submission called for only 708 spots, the configuration of parking space has remained similar. Above grade, the north podium's garage will be enveloped by residential uses, meaning that the parking levels will not be visible from the street. 

Levels 3-4 in the north towers, car and bicycle parking is surrounded by suites, image via submission to the City of Toronto

In addition to reducing the overall density and height of the development, the revised proposal meets a number of the City's other planning priorities. A greater number of two- three-bedroom suites—and child-friendly amenity spaces—have been added, while setbacks and tower separation distances have been increased along the south end of the site, bringing the massing down to a more contextually sensitive scale in the City's eyes. Furthermore, pet-friendly amenities are now planned, while loading and vehicle access spaces—situated north of the POPS laneway—have been reconfigured to meet the City's demands. 

The Esplanade frontage as it appears now, looking northeast, image via Google Maps

Occupying a full city block from Front to the Esplanade between Lower Sherbourne and Princess streets, the mostly vacant site remains home to surface parking and a pair of low-rise commercial structures on Front Street. Formerly home to a Sobeys supermarket and an Acura dealership, both of the site's commercial tenants have closed or relocated, clearing the way for new development. 

Front Street and Sherbourne, looking southeast, image via Google Maps

We will keep you updated as the planning process continues, and more information becomes available. In the meantime, further details are available in our dataBase file, linked below, while a more complete look at the previous proposals is offered in our 2015 editorial. What do you think of the project? Does the latest iteration present a contextually appropriate addition to the neighbourhood? Leave a comment in the space below this page, or join the conversation in our associated Forum thread.

Related Companies:  Community Agency, GFL Environmental Inc., Pemberton Group, The Planning Partnership, U31, Wallman Architects