As we near the end of our Growth to Watch For series, we finally make it to the epicentre of the city, exploring all of the activity in Toronto's Downtown Core and Financial District. Representing one of the fastest growing areas of the city, the Downtown region is set to welcome thousands of new residents and millions of square feet of new office space over the next few years as the already dense core further densifies. Playing host to some of the tallest proposals and some of the most high-profile projects in the city, there is no shortage of intriguing developments taking place in the heart of Toronto.
The area covered in this story is bounded by Gerrard Street to the north, Victoria Street to the east, the rail corridor to the south, and Simcoe Street/University Avenue to the west. Our route will explore the Yonge, Bay, and University corridors, zigzagging southward through the region along each east-west artery. Along the way, we will summarize every project nearing completion, every development currently under construction, and every proposal or speculative site currently working its way through the design and planning process.
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Last time, we ended off at Dundas and McCaul streets, so continuing north on McCaul, east on Elm Street, and north on University Avenue, we start our journey at Mount Sinai Hospital, where a multi-year multi-phase renovation is set to continue this year. Beginning back in 2008 with a 6-storey addition to the building, the project is now in Phase 3, which will include the redevelopment of the Critical Care Unit; the expansion and redesign of the Emergency Department, Operating Rooms and Surgical Services; and the redesign of some of the Ambulatory Care areas. The project will also include the redevelopment of a full-service, in-house Medical Devices Reprocessing Department and an increased capacity for the Medical/Surgery Inpatients. Four pre-qualified bidders were selected last summer for the project, and the winner is expected to be announced this spring. Construction is expected to begin shortly after.
Heading eastward on Gerrard Street, a surface parking lot at the northeast corner of Elizabeth Street will provide a development site for Toronto General Hospital at some point. Formerly the location of the Residence College Hotel, for which onlookers enjoyed an extended 20-month demolition of the 19-storey Brutalist building back in 2012-13, there was speculation that a low-rise hospital/university lecture hall would be constructed on the property, but to much dismay, no formal proposal ever came forth and the site was paved over for a parking lot. Given the effort needed to take down the tower, it has been speculated that something substantial would be planned to replace it, but in the meantime, we will just have to wait.
Across the street, a revised proposal from KingSett Capital for 700 Bay Street (also known as LuCliff Place) is seeking site plan approval at the City. The project would see a 32-storey rental apartment tower constructed at the west end of the existing building, replacing a two-storey podium at the southeast corner of Gerrard and Elizabeth Streets. Designed by Quadrangle Architects, the new tower would abut against the existing tower, and would also add an additional four storeys atop the existing building, totalling 274 new residential units. The development would also include improvements to the sidewalk and public realm, and expanded retail on the ground floor.
Continuing east, GWL Realty's new rental apartment tower at 43 Gerrard West on the southeast corner of Gerrard and Bay is now rising out of the ground, with construction of the concrete structure having reached the fifth floor of the podium. Designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, the building will rise 43 storeys and will add 594 new rental units to the area. As construction on the podium is now wrapping up, look for the tower to rise into the sky over the course of the year.
As we approach the intersection of Yonge and Gerrard, a handful of proposals clustered in the four blocks around the intersection has the potential to create the tallest height node in the city, all of which rely on the precedent set by the 78-storey Aura completed in 2014. Several of the towers approach the supertall designation, calling into question whether or not this area can handle this much concentrated density. It will remain to be seen what actually gets built, but nevertheless, Yonge-Gerrard has a very exhilarating, for some even terrifying, future.
We begin with one of the more talked-about proposals in the city adjacent to the aforementioned 43 Gerrard West, with Great Eagle Holdings' redevelopment of the Chelsea Eaton Hotel, now dubbed Chelsea Green. Currently in the planning process, the design has been evolving since it was first announced back in 2015, and now includes three towers of 88, 88, and 49 storeys. Designed by architectsAlliance, the entire development would comprise a whopping total of 2,135 residential units, the majority of which are condos with some rentals included, as well as a 350-suite hotel to replace the existing 1,590-room hotel. The project would also provide retail and office spaces integrated into the podiums of the buildings, and a 2-storey commercial and retail building in the southwest quadrant of the site. Public realm improvements and a new privately-owned public space (POPS) are also included. The proposal is currently making its way through the planning process, so stay tuned for updates as news becomes available.
Directly south of Chelsea Green, on a site abutting against the aforementioned project, a highly contentious proposal from a subsidiary of The Pemberton Group at 8 Elm Street has a battle brewing against the City as it heads to the OMB. The development would see an 80-storey tower designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects constructed on a tiny 658m2 (7,083 sq. ft.) site - featuring a sky-high floor space index (FSI) of 45.6 - comprising 469 residential units and a modified three-storey heritage facade at its base. First proposed in July of last year, the project has been met with resistance from residents, planners, and Councillors alike, and was emphatically rejected by City Council a mere 3 months after the application was submitted. However, the developer went straight to the OMB and filed an appeal in February, setting up a showdown against the City in the coming months.
On the southeast corner of Yonge and Gerrard, Cresford Developments unveiled plans for the tallest building in Canada last month (second only to the CN Tower) with the 98-storey YSL Residences rising to a height of 343.9 metres (1,128 feet). The proposal replaces a previous two-tower development on the site from KingSett Capital that was revealed back in 2015. Designed by New York-based Kohn Pederson Fox Associates in partnership with architectsAlliance, the tower would house retail in two below-grade levels and the first three floors of the podium, while office uses would be incorporated in the remainder of the podium up to the eighth floor. In the tower portion above, 957 condo units would be housed in a variety of sizes, with outdoor terraces on the podium roof and on the 42nd floor. At the base, the building would retain the facades of two heritage structures at the north and south ends of the site, while replacing the existing low-rise buildings in between. More details of the proposal can be found here.
Continuing east on Gerrard, we come to a project of a much smaller scale with an expansion currently underway to house the new Ryerson Centre for Urban Innovation at 44 Gerrard East. The project involves 3- and 5-storey additions to the existing 3-storey heritage building that fronts onto both Gerrard and the residential McGill Street to the north. Featuring a boxy design from Moriyama & Teshima Architects, construction has already begun, with site clearing and drilling underway in the former parking lot on the north side of the building.
We now turn south onto Victoria Street, passing through the Ryerson University campus. A block to the south at Dundas and Victoria streets is another potential development site on the northeast corner. The three-storey building has been abandoned and boarded up since 2014, and has a surface parking lot adjacent to it on the irregularly-shaped site. There have been no proposals put forth for this property, despite its prominent location at the edge of Yonge-Dundas Square.
Continuing to the south side of Dundas, HNR Properties' Velocity at the Square is wrapping up construction, with the finishing touches being applied to the 40-storey tower. Designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, the new tower adds 245 rental units to the busy Yonge-Dundas area, and also restored the heritage Art Deco towers on the property.
Moving south on Victoria Street, we come to the iconic Massey Hall, where a comprehensive 7-year revitalization is currently ongoing on the heritage concert venue. The revitalization, which kicked off in 2015, includes a 6-storey addition at the rear of the building designed by KPMB Architects, whose below-grade levels were constructed last year. Just today it was announced that The Slaight Family Foundation is donating $5 million to the revitalization.In appreciation, the stage at Massey Hall will be named the Allan Slaight Stage in hour of the Canadian broadcaster, arts and music supported, and philanthropist.
Following completion of the basement-level concrete structure, the ground level slab is now being used as a staging area for the construction of the neighbouring Massey Tower Condos, highlighted next. Expect construction on the Massey Hall addition to resume once Massey Tower is largely complete. Also as part of the revitalization project, Massey Hall will temporarily shut down for 18-24 months in 2019 in order to restore the historic building, but until then, the venerable concert hall will operate as normal.
Just to the west of Massey Hall, fronting onto Yonge Street, the Massey Tower Condos is now rising out of the ground, as MOD Developments is adding a 60-storey 699-unit condo building along the popular stretch of Yonge between Shuter and Queen Streets. Designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects, the angular forms of the building are now apparent as construction of the concrete floor plates has reached the tower floors, topping off on the 9-storey podium that will contain parking and amenities. The building also preserves the historic bank building fronting on Yonge, which will serve as the building's grand entrance. Look for the tower to pierce the sky by the end of the year.
Turning north on Yonge Street, we will skip the Eaton Centre for now, planning to return to it later. North of Dundas on the west side, we come to the Atrium on Bay, the sometimes overlooked mall and office complex. The building's owners, H&R REIT, recently submitted to the City for a minor variance that would allow an expansion of the complex to take place, which would see 5 and 6-storey additions to the existing 14 and 13-storey towers, along with a one-storey addition to the shorter mid-block volume. Featuring a design from Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, the interior atrium would be cut off from the lower retail levels, while the exterior of the additions would have curved extruding volumes, breaking from the regular bay pattern of the existing structure.
Across Yonge Street a vacant plot of land at the southeast corner with Gould Street presents a potentially exciting development opportunity. Located directly across from the much-loved Ryerson Student Learning Centre, the lot has been empty since the former building on the site burned down in 2011. A proposal from the Lalani Group in 2013 speculated on the construction of a 5-storey retail building, either standalone or as a podium for a tower, to gauge interest in the development, but plans were never followed through. The site has since played host to a temporary market while it awaits a more permanent use. Now that HMV is closing immediately to the south, no doubt there will be more speculation as to what form of redevelopment may come to this corner.
Turning west onto Edward Street, to the north of the Atrium, Panda Condominiums is coming to the empty lot at 20 Edward Street, formerly home to the World's Biggest Bookstore. Headed by Lifetime Developments and designed by architectsAlliance, the 30-storey tower will add 572 new condo units to the area, with retail on the concourse, ground, and second floors and office space on the third floor of the podium. The building will also feature a new entrance to Dundas subway station at its base. Having recently been approved at City Council, some details are still to be worked out at the OMB. Marketing has begun, and the building will soon be in sales.
Moving westward on Edward Street, we cross Bay Street and come to one of the few large remaining surface parking lots left in the Downtown Core, where the Conservatory Group is proposing to build a pair of condo towers which, for convenience, we have dubbed Bay and Edward Condos. Designed by Richmond Architects, the two towers would rise 22 and 19 storeys on the L-shaped site—limited in height by the nearby hospital helicopter's flight path—and would contain a total of 527 condo units. The project is currently seeking rezoning at the City.
Continuing two short blocks west on Edward Street, a redevelopment proposal by Davpart for the whole of the block bounded by Edward, Centre, Dundas and University is currently on hold. No activity has taken place on 481 University Avenue since being approved by City Council in 2014. The development is designed by B+H Architects and would see a 55-storey tower constructed on the site while maintaining the existing heritage facades at its base, comprising a total of 748 condo units with office space maintained in the podium. We will keep you updated if any news surfaces on this development.
Across University Avenue from 481 is one of the more fascinating projects in the City, one which has been followed quite closely on our Forum. Amexon's The Residences of 488 University Avenue is currently under construction at the northwest corner of University and Dundas Street, where the former Brutalist Global House was stripped of its precast concrete cladding and replaced with steel cross-bracing and glazing in preparation for a 37-storey addition on top. The renovation and addition is designed by Core Architects and, once complete, will rise a total of 55 storeys with 453 new condo units while maintaing the office use on the original 18 floors of the building. The recladding of the existing building is mostly complete, with preparation for construction of the new tower addition currently underway.
Further south, and just to the east of University Avenue, a surface parking lot bordered by Centre, Armoury, and Chestnut Streets is slated to be the site of a New Toronto Courthouse complex. Overseen by Infrastructure Ontario, the unique vertical courthouse building will consolidate most of the city's courtrooms in one building, and will represent a landmark addition to what is being called the Civic Precinct, with the site located directly northwest of City Hall. Currently, two teams are in the running for the design-build project, with a winner expected to be selected late summer or fall 2017. Construction will get underway shortly after, with a projected completion date in 2021. At the moment, the archaeological dig concluded last year, with minor excavation works being carried out to the clear the site of obstructions in preparation for the new building.
Continuing south and turning east on Queen Street, we come to Nathan Phillips Square, where a revitalization project of the important civic space was carried out by Perkins + Will with Plant Architect. Despite being declared as complete last year, we have included the revitalization in our Growth to Watch For because of the notable items that were omitted from the project due to budget overruns. These include the rehabilitation of the elevated walkways; demolition of the Sheraton bridge; a revamp of the ramp leading to the green roof; a redesign and re-connection of the eastern edge along Bay Street; and a new use for the empty gravel patch at the west end of the square, which was previously earmarked for a now-cancelled restaurant. Some of these items were simply postponed until funds become available, while others were scratched off the list altogether. An in-depth look of what is complete and still to come at Nathan Phillips Square can be found here.
Just kitty corner to Nathan Phillips Square, at the southeast corner of Bay and Queen Streets, the recladding of The Simpson's Tower at 401 Bay is currently underway. Headed by Cadillac Fairview and designed by Pellow Architects and WZMH Architects, the Modernist office tower's precast concrete exterior is giving way to glazed spandrels of a brighter hue, giving the building a completely new aesthetic. Recladding has begun on the west facade of the tower portion, and is now roughly halfway up the building, so look for the project to progress over the course of the year.
Across the street from Massey Tower Condos is the Toronto Eaton Centre, whose multi-year makeover by Cadillac Fairview is nearing completion. 2016 was a big year for the mall, which saw the grand opening of flagship retailers Nordstrom, Uniqlo, and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as the unveiling of H&M's bright new light facade. A couple big changes are still to come to the busy mall, including the rebuild of the pedestrian link across Queen Street designed by Wilkinson Eyre—being done in conjunction with the TTC's temporary removal of streetcars from Queen this summer—as well as the occupation of the final retail space in the former Sears location on the ground floor at Yonge and Dundas, which has yet to have a major tenant announced for it. Stay tuned as these exciting projects further along the mall's extensive remake.
Continuing east on Queen Street, we come to 2 Queen West at the northwest corner of Queen and Yonge, where a revised proposal was submitted last year by Cadillac Fairview for a restoration and addition to the existing heritage building. Scrapping previous plans for a 65-storey rental tower, the proposal from Zeidler Partnership Architects and ERA Architects would remove the 1980s cladding from the heritage building and restore the exterior, while adding three glass-clad floors atop the structure. The basement, main, and second floors would house retail, while floors three through six would house office space, finishing with a restaurant on the stepped-back seventh floor. The project, with new documents submitted last month, is currently seeking Site Plan Approval at the City.
A block further east on Queen, the expansion of St. Michael's Hospital at the corner of Queen and Victoria Streets is progressing towards completion, with the majority of the exterior cladding now installed on the new 17-storey tower. Designed by NORR Architects and Diamond Schmitt Architects, the expansion will add 250,000 square feet of new space for the hospital, and is scheduled for completion late this year. A following phase will begin sometime in 2018 to build a new emergency department at the southwest corner of Shuter and Bond streets.
Turning south on Victoria Street, we come to the site of Great Gulf's Yonge & Rich Condominiums, a 45-storey L-shaped tower planned for the southwest corner of Victoria and Richmond Streets. Designed by architectsAlliance, the tower will comprise a total of 669 new condo units with retail at grade level, featuring a design with massing broken down to read as two distinct towers. Excavation and shoring is now ongoing on the site, so look for construction of the below-grade levels to begin before the end of the year.
Following Richmond Street westward, we cross Yonge Street and come to the site of a potential Phase 3 for the Bay-Adelaide Centre. On the south side of Richmond, it would be the North Tower at the complex. It has already been approved as part of the tower cluster from Brookfield, to be located to the west of the Cloud Gardens, would rise 32 storeys, and be more rectangular in volume than its sister towers. However, the tower is awaiting a major tenant before proceeding, so it is unknown when we will see any activity happening with this development.
At Bay we turn south, then follow Adelaide westbound. Just past Sheppard Street, Oxford Properties' EY Tower is inching closer to completion with an expected opening later this year. Designed by Kohn Pederson Fox Associates with WZMH Architects, the 40-storey office tower features some dramatic angles piercing the skyline, and also features the restored facade of the Art Deco Concourse Building at its base.
The EY Tower is part of the Richmond Adelaide Centre, the quintet of towers occupying the block, another two of which are being proposed for a comprehensive makeover. To the immediate west of EY is where plans were recently announced by Oxford Properties to reclad the 26 and 33-storey towers at 120 and 130 Adelaide Street West. Built in the mid-1960s to late-1970s, the pair of Modernist towers will be stripped of their grey and black cladding and refinished with a new glazed curtain wall system designed by WZMH Architects. The re-skinning of buildings is a recent trend that is picking up steam as, following in the footsteps of First Canadian Place and 401 Bay, Downtown Toronto is increasingly shedding its mid-century aesthetic for a contemporary blue-tinted look.
We continue west on Adelaide until we come to 100 Simcoe, on the southwest corner in the busy district. Proposed here by Sun Life is a 59-storey, mixed-use tower with 524 residential suites above a half-dozen floors of offices. The building is designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects and would replace the existing historic structure on the site, which was recently listed on the heritage register by the City.
- George Baird, an éminence grise of Canada's architectural community, recently spoke at a public consultation regarding the 100 Simcoe proposal, illustrating how the 1910-built structure has been significantly altered multiple times over the years, including changes recently approved by the City and carried out just last year. Owing to the alterations over time, Baird disputed claims of the building's enduring heritage value. No members of the audience raised any concerns regarding the structure's potential loss. No representatives of Preservation Services were present at the meeting.
- Located on the block bordered by Simcoe, Pearl, Duncan, and Adelaide Streets, this relatively compact slice of the city has a remarkable four active tower proposals located within its boundaries, two of which are currently at the OMB, and all of which range from 56-59 storeys in height. The three other developments were covered in our Growth to Watch For 2017: Entertainment District story. Stay tuned for updates as they become available to see how the planning saga plays out for 100 Simcoe and its three neighbours.
Heading south on Simcoe down to Front Street, another office tower is awaiting a major tenant. Cadillac Fairview's 160 Front West is located at the northeast corner of Simcoe and Front streets, and has been dormant for a while since receiving rezoning approval in 2014, but resurfaced last summer with a slight revision to the design now being reviewed for Site Plan Approval at the City. Featuring a curved profile from AS + GG Architecture with B+H Architects, the tower was shrunk down from 54 to 46 storeys, and now has a slightly squatter profile than its slimmer predecessor. The tower would preserve the heritage facade at its base, while replacing the other buildings currently on the site.
Across the street to the south, another office proposal is still in the works with Allied's Union Centre, a 48-storey tower designed by Sweeny &Co Architects and located at the corner of Lower Simcoe and Station Streets. Much like its neighbour at 160 Front West, the Union Centre was approved for rezoning in 2014 and had been dormant since, until new renderings surfaced on the architect's website in 2015, and last year Allied alluded to being in talks with several major tenants for the new building. While it is still seeking site plan approval, there is a possibility that this development may still move forward in the near future.
Heading eastbound on Front Street, we pass by the landmark Union Station, whose ongoing multi-year multi-phase Revitalization Project is in full swing. Despite delays and budget overruns, progress is being made on the restoration and rehabilitation of the main station building, overseen by NORR Architects and EVOQ Architecture (formerly FGMDA Architects). Work in the Bay Concourse is progressing with the dig down having been completed, while restoration work is continuing in both the Great Hall and VIA Concourse, as well as on the exterior limestone facades. Meanwhile, Osmington is moving to add much-needed retail spaces in the York Concourse, Front Street Promenade, West Wing, and Great Hall, with Dialog Architects and PARTISANS as lead designers and architects of the retail units. Keep checking back for updates on Union Station as the busiest train station in Canada continues its transformation.
Continuing east on Front, we scoot one block north on Yonge to Wellington Street, and turn east to 88 Scott, a 58-storey 525-unit condo tower from Concert Properties that has now taken its place in the Toronto skyline. Designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, the building is now topped off, with cladding installation nearing the full height of the tower. The building will add retail and office use behind the retained heritage facade of its podium, and will make significant progress toward occupation through the year.
Kitty corner from 88 Scott, the revitalization of Berczy Park is nearly complete, with the hardscapes finished late last year and opened to public access. The finishing touches of Claude Cormier + Associés' design are being applied throughout the park, with the last few pieces of furniture and the few remaining dog statues still waiting to be installed before the fountain is turned on. Look for the last of the fencing to come down and the ribbon to be cut in the spring or summer as the new Berczy Park officially opens to the public this year.
Heading south on Scott Street to The Esplanade, we turn west toward Yonge and come to Backstage On The Esplanade, a 36-storey 284-unit condo tower from Cityzen, Fernbrook Homes, and Castlepoint Numa. Designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, the finishing touches are being applied as the majority of the occupants have now moved in, so look for construction crews to clear the site in the coming months.
View of Backstage (left) and LTower (right), image by Forum contributor ADRM.
Across the street, Toronto's perennial candidate for longest construction project, Daniel Libeskind's L Tower makes yet another appearance in our annual Growth to Watch For series, we hope its last. Headed by Cityzen, Fernbrook Homes, and Castlepoint Numa, the finishing touches are still being applied to the base of the tower, while the small derrick on the roof awaits the building maintenance unit before being disassembled. Despite occupation of the building, and the recent opening of the exterior plaza, some work still needs to be done before declaring the L-Tower complete.
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Next up, our final Growth to Watch For story of 2017 will head south under the rail corridor and explore all of the development happening on Toronto's Central Waterfront. In the meantime, make sure to check out the dataBase files and associated Forum threads for each of the projects mentioned above for more information. You can tell us what you think of all the developments happening in the city by joining the discussions in the threads, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page!