Yesterday, Waterfront Toronto's Design Review Panel conducted a meeting for the LCBO Lands proposal at 55 Lake Shore Boulevard East and 100 Queens Quay East. The 11.5-acre site, recently purchased by Menkes Developments, would see the LCBO head office and warehouse partially retained while the store, parking lots, and green space would be redeveloped. architectsAlliance (aA) is responsible for the design of the residential, retail, and institutional uses in the development, while B+H Architects is designing the new LCBO Office Tower.

As per the City of Toronto's Lower Yonge Precinct Plan—the area from Yonge to Jarvis south of the Gardiner to Queens Quay, where about 35,000 people would live and work—this development is divided into four development blocks, with Harbour Street extended east through Pinnacle's 1-7 Yonge St site, to a new north-south street along the Loblaws grocery store property line to the east of the site. Cooper Street runs north-south through the middle of the site.

Looking northeast towards the LCBO Tower at 100 Queens Quay East, Toronto

Menkes' original proposal called for 7 towers built in three of the four blocks. Block 1 (southeast) would have the new 24-storey LCBO head office tower, along with a new retail store. Directly north is Block 2, which would include a 74 and 76 storey residential tower, with retail and a fitness facility. Block 3 (southwest) would be mostly a new public park wit a retail pavilion along the north side of it, while Block 4 (northwest) would have 4 residential towers at 85, 80, 70, and 65 storeys tall. In the time since, the Menkes proposal has changed in terms of tower orientation, height, and pedestrian networking. As seen in some recent proposals in Toronto, one tower has been eliminated, with the density reallocated to the other proposed buildings.

The extension of Harbour Street will create four blocks, image retrieved via submission to the City of Toronto

While the revised plan for Blocks 1 and 2 remains the same, Block 4 now sports 3 towers instead of 4, with two of them proposed at a staggering 304 metres each, rivalling The One, Mirvish + Gehry, and the 95-storey supertall on the 1-7 Yonge St site a stone's throw away to the west. A shorter tower is now centralized on Block 4, south of the twin towers. This block would feature first and second level retail, along with a daycare on the west side, and a new public elementary school on the third level. On Block 3, the retail pavilion to the north of the public park now features an elevated PATH connection to Block 4. The PATH network would also connect buildings throughout the site, and across to the community centre planned at 1-7 Yonge along with the rest of the city's PATH system.

The Lower Yonge Precinct as envisioned by Waterfront Toronto

As emphasized in the Precinct Plan, retail will line Harbour Street as well as other blocks throughout the site, with a floor-to-ceiling ground floor height of 6.2 metres. Access to underground parking would be through the eastern edge of the site. An exceptionally large elevator would carry up to 60 students from ground level to the school on the third floor. (A passenger elevator of that size in not in place here yet, but has been successful in New York City.) The development would also include 5% affordable housing in Block 2.

Conceptual rendering of the original version, image retrieved from the submission to the City of Toronto

The design elements of the buildings comply with tier 1 of the Toronto Green Standard, and the LCBO office tower will aim to achieve LEED Platinum. It would be the first building to be constructed, as the existing LCBO headquarters would need to operate until the move. 

Conceptual rendering of the original version, image retrieved from the submission to the City of Toronto

A rather unusual feature for the office tower is the provision of surface parking, tucked behind the LCBO retail outlet. This was much to the displeasure of the panelists, who were also quick to voice their concerns for the unprecedented scale of development overall. Another concern was for the servicing plan for the mews in Block 4, with members feeling it would turn the pedestrianized area into a back alley over time. They suggested that servicing be limited at-grade, and wherever possible, be located underground.

Locating a school on the third floor in Block 4 was another concern. Intended to range from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 7 with an enrolment of 450 students, it would be problematic if the schools' service elevator broke down. Another panelist hoped to see a less densely built-up location for a school, and expressed that Toronto still has land downtown, and should secure it while there is still an opportunity to.

Rendering of the LCBO Office tower, image retrieved from the submission to the City of Toronto

Another feature that came in for criticism was the use of elevated PATH connections. With the Precinct Plan emphasizing a strong and high quality public realm streetscape, members felt the bridges would take away from that experience. Peter Clewes responded that they were looking at elevated versus below-grade options, but a bridge is needed to connect to 1-7 Yonge's facilities. The members agreed that a high quality public realm should be the top priority for an active, vibrant street life on the site. In regards to the park, members said planning should begin now, and that the commercial pavilion be removed from the plans as it acts as a barrier. They felt the park design should carried out by either Waterfront Toronto or by the City's Parks and Recreation department.

Conceptual rendering of the original version, image retrieved from the submission to the City of Toronto

Additionally, panelists were not supportive of the current design for the LCBO tower. They felt the east-west massing was too similar to the Financial District's TD Towers in the sense that it would block views from residential units. Instead, a slimmer "L-shaped" tower oriented north-south was preferable. As well, this site should be given a stronger identity as it is to house a flagship LCBO store, similar to the quality of the flagship Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Conceptual rendering of the elevated PATH, image retrieved from the submission to the City of Toronto

Ultimately, the panel members did not support the current design, and that the project should be redesigned to address their concerns. The proposal is still in its early stages of planning, and will be some time before architectural renderings are made, with statistical figures likely to change as well. The public will also get to weigh in on this version of the proposal, this coming Monday. On November 28, a consultation will be held at the Novotel on the Esplanade, from 7 PM to 9 PM, second floor in the 'Champagne Room'.

Want to share your thoughts here? Feel free to comment in the space provided on this page, or join in on the ongoing conversation in our associated Forum Thread. More information on the original proposal can be found in our dataBase file, linked below.

Related Companies:  B+H Architects, Enwave Energy Corporation, Hariri Pontarini Architects, McIntosh Perry, Menkes Developments, NAK Design Group, NAK Design Strategies, Pinnacle International, Stephenson Engineering, The Mitchell Partnership Inc., Urban Strategies Inc.