Immediately north of High Park, the low-rise homes that characterize much of Toronto's west end give way to a cluster of mid-to-late 20th century towers. Rising well above the immediate surroundings, the area height peak comes in the form of a collection of tower-in-the park style residential buildings, with the jumble of mostly slab-form apartment towers separated by swathes of green space.
After 1980, the wave of intensification drastically slowed, leaving the community—whose density is predicated on the close proximity of Line 2—largely unchanged throughout the following decades. In recent years, however, Toronto's rapid intensification has brought the first signs of renewed activity. Since 2013, a site at 51 Quebec Avenue has been subject to an infill application. With the site plan approval process now underway, GWL Realty Advisors' Grenadier Square development could intensify the block with a pair of Zeidler Architects-designed 25-storey rental towers, replacing rows of townhomes and stretches of under-utilized lawn.
More recently, the block to the east has also come online. Submitted to the City of Toronto in late December of 2016, a development proposal calls for large-scale intensification of the block between High Park Avenue and Pacific Avenue. Like Grenadier Square immediately to the west, the long urban block is characterized by a mix of slab towers, townhomes, street-level parking, and green space. As with the neighbouring block, the proposal is also led by GWL Realty, featuring another design by Toronto-based Zeidler.
The development provisionally dubbed 'High Park Village' calls for three high-rise point towers and an 8-storey mid-rise building to intensify the 3.07 hectare site. A combined 1,031 rental units are planned across the four buildings. At 39 storeys, the tallest of the proposed structures—known as 'Tower A'—would rise well above its surroundings on High Park Avenue, with 375 residential units planned above an expansive four-storey base building. Replacing a row of existing rental townhomes, the plan includes a collection of retail spaces at grade, with a street-facing grocery store or pharmacy envisioned as the largest tenant. Mid-block, an elevated outdoor amenity area would also serve residents.
At the southeast end of the site, meanwhile, an 8-storey mid-rise building would replace an existing green space, street-level parking lot, and a garbage disposal area. Meeting the street-level with a row of townhouse suites, the building includes a total of 74 units. To the north, meanwhile, a pair of new point towers will also front High Park and Pacific, with heights of 29 and 34 storeys planned for towers 'B' and 'C' respectively.
The 29-storey 'Tower B' fronting onto High Park Avenue would replace the outdoor swimming pool of the existing apartment building at 96 High Park, while the 34-storey 'Tower C' on Quebec would rise on a site currently occupied by another row of rental townhouses. North of the paired towers, a new driveway will provide vehicle access, while contributing a new mid-block connection to an unusually long and relatively impermeable block. Between the two towers, a surface parking area will also be replaced by a new landscaped space.
In addition to the new density, the project would see many of the block's loading and vehicle areas reconfigured. With street-level parking curb cuts removed, the proposal calls for a consolidation of some loading spaces, limiting the provision of street-level space for vehicular uses. However, the site's redesigned street level spaces would mean that four existing units would be removed—as they would front onto a loading space—and replaced within the new development.
In total, the 1,031 proposed suites would more than double the site's population. While 988 homes are currently dispersed across the 3.07 hectare site, 964 of these would be retained—with 20 'high-end' townhomes and four 'mid-range' apartment suites removed, making for a new total of 1,993 units. The unit mix calls for a total of 66 (6.4%) bachelor, 465 one-bedroom (46%), 452 two-bedroom (43.9%), and 47 three-bedroom suites (4.6%).
Taken together, the drastic increase in density and height would transform the character of the block. Despite the rather dramatic degree of change proposed, however, the proposal evinces a number of established—and growing—trends in Toronto development. For starters, the infill tower-in-the-park development follows an increasing number of similar projects, which are gradually seeing underused green spaces replaced by development.
While the Le Corbusier-inspired ideals that inspired much of mid-century urban density envisioned these green spaces as oases from the supposed chaos of city life, many of these spaces do little more than separate buildings from the street. Unlike urban parks, which can be vital hubs of community activity, the private and seemingly left over tower-in-the-park spaces are not designed for public use. The loss of such green space to infill development is typically not regarded as harmful to community health, especially when compared to the removal of parkland. Nonetheless, the presence of taller new buildings—and more residents—would undoubtedly have a strong impact on the area.
In a city still dominated by condominium development, meanwhile, the project's infusion of rental supply is also a notable factor. Nonetheless, the proposal joins a growing number of purpose-built rental plans across Toronto, with projects such as Westbank Corp's Mirvish Village and GWL's own neighbouring Grenadier Square (below) part of a resurgent wave of proposed rental development.
Finally, the inclusion of street-level retail (which is limited to 'Tower A') and a somewhat more compact urban grid—arguably accomplished by breaking up the block with a new driveway—bears the hallmarks of more contemporary planning practices. In that regard, the proposal would see the tower-in-the-park community re-shaped with slightly more urban characteristics.
Given the scope of a project that would more than double the residential density of the site, however, the development is sure to be subject to a lively—and contentious—planning and community consultation process.
We will keep you updated as more information becomes available, and the planning process commences. In the meantime, more information is available via our dataBase file, linked below. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment in the space on this page, or join the conversation in our Forum.