This edition of our Growth to Watch For series ventures into the heart of the city, exploring the northern portion of Toronto's Downtown Core along the Yonge and Bay Street corridors between Bloor and College Streets. Covering an area of only 0.75km2 (75 hectares) in size, this region is slated for a huge influx of new residential buildings over the next 10 years, totalling tens of thousands of new residents in the already dense neighbourhood. Particularly along Yonge, the historic stretch between Bloor and College - considered by some to be in need of rejuvenation - has either a speculated development, a formal proposal, or a building under construction on nearly every block of the street. It is not without its controversy, however, as the City is pulling out all the stops in an effort to moderate the frenzied development boom, and many projects are being contested, as usual, at the OMB.
Our journey begins around the corner from where we last left off on Church Street, on Charles Street East, turning southward on Yonge down to College, before turning west and back north again up Bay, ending off in the western fringes of the University of Toronto campus. We will give an overview of all potential development sites in the area; all proposals working their way through the planning process; all buildings currently under construction; and all developments nearing completion as we tour one of the most exciting growth areas in the city.
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We start our tour of Downtown North heading west on Charles Street from Church Street, where we come to our first potential development site at 61-63 Charles East. Currently home to a 3-storey Art Deco apartment building, the property was apparently sold to a developer back in 2014 with the intent of building condos. No proposals have come forth since, however, the site may yield yet another tower in the crowded neighbourhood in the coming years.
Across the street, Cresford Developments' latest pair of Casa towers are now taking their place in the Yonge-Bloor skyline. Casa III Condos, the further east of the two, is currently under construction and rising quickly, with the concrete floor plates now reaching roughly two-thirds up the height of the tower, and the cladding installation keeping pace several floors below. At its final height, the architectsAlliance-designed tower will reach 55 storeys and will add 622 new condo units to the neighbourhood.
Just next door, the finishing touches are being put on Casa II Condos, the nearly identical twin of Casa III, which reached its full 56-storey height last year. The 447-unit tower has already made its presence felt on the skyline and is nearly complete, so look for construction crews to clear off the property in the coming months.
Two properties west, the effects of added density are being felt with the expansion and renovation of the parking garage at 20 Charles Street East, seen at the bottom of the image above. Two floors are being added to the existing garage to increase capacity, while the ground floor retail spaces are being renovated, with upgrades to all existing mechanical and ventilation systems throughout the entire structure.
We now come to the busy Yonge Street corridor, set to be transformed over the next decade into a promenade of towers through the Downtown Core. You will notice, however, that many of the developments to follow are either speculative sites or proposals that for several years have been dormant or at the OMB. This is in large part due to the Historic Yonge Heritage Conservation District (HCD), which was passed by City Council in March 2016 and aims to protect the remaining heritage buildings and character on the stretch of Yonge from Bloor to College. While the HCD was being prepared, a one-year moratorium on demolition was placed on the area in February 2015, and the City has since been refusing many demolition applications as the HCD is tied up at the OMB. Once passed, the document will continue to allow development to happen; however, it will introduce policies and guidelines that ensure the heritage character of the district is preserved, and that all new buildings are compatible with the existing built form at street level. Many developments in this district are awaiting the HCD to be settled at the OMB and officially come into the law before proceeding.
We start our southward journey down Yonge Street with a modest development at the southwest corner of Yonge and Charles with the renovation and expansion of 728 Yonge Street, formerly housing a Shoppers Drug Mart. Designed by Brook McIlroy, the project is restoring the historic facades of the existing 3-storey building, while constructing a contemporary 3-storey addition to the south. Work is already underway with scaffolding surrounding the exterior of the structure, and the interiors having been gutted down to the bare structure.
Across the street, a potential development site encompasses three low-rise structures on the southeast corner of Yonge and Charles, where a developer is rumoured to have purchased the properties at 671 Yonge Street back in 2013 with the intention of constructing a tower that wrapped around onto Charles Street. No proposals have come forward yet.
Moving south, we come to a controversial site at 10 St. Mary Street, an 8-storey Modernist office building on the northwest corner of Yonge and St. Mary. Back in 2014, Lifetime Developments had purchased the site and ruffled a few feathers with demolition and rezoning applications, hoping to construct a Core Architects-designed 42-storey 255-unit residential tower on the property. However, City staff objected to the demolition and designated the building as Part IV under the Ontario Heritage Act in 2015. Lifetime appealed to the OMB in November 2015 where they have battled with the City since, however, a recent revised proposal has gained the City's approval, and two weeks ago City Council endorsed a settlement with the owners to finally end the OMB saga.
The site is rumoured to have been sold to Castlepoint Numa last year, and now includes the properties to the north at 79-85 St. Nicholas Street and 718 Yonge Street, all of which are listed or designated heritage properties. The revised proposal is from architectsAlliance, and would see a 51-storey residential tower constructed at the centre of the property that would preserve all or most of each of the heritage buildings save for 79 St. Nicholas. The new revisions are quite recent, and at the moment information is scarce as the project awaits its final OMB hearing in May, but we will keep you updated of any news as it becomes available.
On the south side of St. Mary Street, the Church of Scientology Building has sat vacant since 2013, slowly deteriorating as it faces an uncertain future. Initially, the cult planned to completely renovate and reclad the building, turning it into a flagship facility with a glazed curtain wall featuring red spandrels on the exterior. The organization still intends to follow through with the renovations, however, a recent rendering indicates that the project has been scaled back to a restoration of the current facade, and recent financial difficulties have put the initiative in doubt.
South of the Church of Scientology, rumours circulated in 2012 that a developer was assembling the historic properties from 664-682 Yonge Street, a row of storefronts at the foot of Isabella Street. No proposals have come forward yet, but this presents yet another speculated development site.
Across the street, a proposal at 625-637 Yonge on the southeast corner of Yonge and Isabella Streets was approved at the OMB in January 2015, however, there has been no movement on the development since. The approved project was for a 46-storey 354-unit condo tower designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects that would replace the existing buildings on site, and would feature a stepped back form with retail at grade level. A rendering of the project appeared on Edenshaw Homes' website in September 2015, however, any reference to the proposal has since been removed, so the future of this is uncertain.
Continuing south, we come to 8 Gloucester Street, a proposal by Angel Developments for a 34-storey tower on the northeast corner of Yonge and Gloucester. Designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects, the 252-unit condo building would preserve the heritage Gloucester Mews in its entirety, and would maintain the pair of historic houses on Gloucester Street. Other than some updated renderings discovered on the architect's website early last year, there has been no movement on this proposal since being approved by City Council in 2013, so it is unclear whether or not this development will materialize.
Across Gloucester Street to the south, excavation and shoring is now underway for The Clover on Yonge, a 44-storey condo tower by Cresford Developments that will stretch the entire block along Yonge between Gloucester and Dundonald Streets. Designed by architectsAlliance, the tower will add 528 new condo units to the area, with office and retail integrated into the podium. With the dig down having begun, look for construction to get underway later this year.
Just off of this busy stretch of Yonge, Totem Condos is under construction at 17 Dundonald Street, where Worsley Urban's 18-storey tower is set to rise. Featuring architecture from RAW Design, the building will add 120 new condo units to the neighbourhood while recreating the facade of the 3-storey Modernist building previously on site. Most notably, it will also feature a brand new second entrance to Wellesley subway station in its podium. Construction is currently underway on the below-grade levels of the building, so look for the tower to rise out of the ground in the coming months.
Moving one block south, we come to the rapidly densifying Yonge and Wellesley intersection, where a pair of side-by-side towers are about to make their mark on the downtown skyline. The first tower is Cresford Developments' Vox Condominiums located at 40 Wellesley East, a 33-storey condo building designed by architectsAlliance. Construction on the tower floor plates is just now peaking above grade, so look for the building to rise into the sky in the coming months.
Just next door, excavation is complete and the tower crane installed for Plaza's 50 at Wellesley Station, a 37-storey Quadrangle Architects-designed condo building. The tower will add 365 new units to the area, and will rise alongside both Vox and Totem Condominiums. Look for construction to begin shortly on the below-grade levels, with the concrete structure likely reaching grade before the end of the year.
Returning to Yonge and heading south one block, we come to TeaHouse 501 Yonge Condominiums, a project by Lanterra that stretches the entire block along Yonge between Maitland and Alexander Streets. Excavation is currently well underway for the pair of architectsAlliance-designed towers that will rise 52 and 25 storeys atop a shared podium. The entire development comprises 608 new condo units. The dig down has exposed the subway tunnel that crosses the site diagonally, where they are doing mechanical ventilation upgrades to the tunnel before spanning the building's foundations across and reburying it.
We are now approaching the intersection of Yonge and College, where the proposed and under construction projects have ramped up in height and density significantly over the past couple years. Across the street from TeaHouse, another potential development site is located at 506-512 Yonge Street, where KingSett Capital is rumoured to have purchased the properties back in 2012. No proposals have been put forth as of yet, but along with much of the Historic Yonge stretch, we may see something materialize soon once the HCD is in place.
On the southwest corner of Yonge and Grosvenor Street, Cresford Developments is planning yet another tower on the busy stretch with Halo Residences on Yonge, a 38-storey condo building with retail integrated into the podium. Designed by architectsAlliance, the tower will add 451 new units while preserving and restoring the historic fire hall clock tower on the site, which is best known for being part of the St. Charles Tavern, a former LGBT bar that was central to the civil rights movements in the 1970s and 80s. Cresford has begun to market the project. Could demolition crews move onto the site this year?
East of Halo and south of TeaHouse, KingSett Capital made waves last year with their proposed redevelopment of the Courtyard Marriott at 475 Yonge featuring a design from Quadrangle Architects. The proposal would see the existing 9 and 16-storey hotel towers, which span the full block on Yonge between Alexander and Wood Streets, replaced with a pair of condo towers rising 45 and 65 storeys atop a shared 5-storey podium. The development would comprise a total of 988 new condo units with a 289-room hotel component to replace the existing use, as well as retail integrated at grade level. The proposal is currently making its way through the planning process.
Across the street at the southwest corner of Yonge and Grenville Streets, Canderel's YC Condos is rising quickly out of the ground, with construction of the concrete floor plates having now reached the fifth floor. Designed by Graziani + Corazza Architects, the tower will rise 66 storeys and will comprise a total of 600 new condo units, with office and retail integrated into the 5-storey podium. Look for this building to rise into the skyline over the course of the year as construction will accelerate once crews reach the repetitive tower floor plates.
Just to the south of YC Condos, a renovation and addition is in the works for the prominent historic Oddfellows Hall at the northwest corner of Yonge and College Streets. Designed by ERA Architects, the project would see a 5-storey addition constructed on top of the building, set back from the two street facades, that would include additional commercial space. First proposed back in 2014, the project is still seeking site plan approval at the City.
On the northeast corner of Yonge and Carlton Streets, a buzzworthy proposal from Northam Realty came forward last year to replace the existing 18-storey office tower at 2 Carlton with a pair of 72-storey IBI Group-designed towers. Reaching a height of 233 metres, the controversial project would add 1,100 new condo units to the area with grade-level retail in the shared podium, and would fill the entire block of Yonge between Wood and Carlton Streets. The Modernist building currently occupying the site is listed on the Toronto Heritage Register, however, the Historic Yonge HCD did not list it as a contributing property in its pre-OMB document adopted by City Council. The development is currently seeking rezoning at the City.
With all of the development happening in the area, access to public space is becoming increasingly important, and the City is addressing this need with the revitalization of Barbara Ann Scott Park, one of a string of park and public space rehabilitations taking place across town. Tucked in behind College Park at the southwest corner of Yonge and College Streets, RAW Design and the MBTW Group are overseeing the complete remake of the park, which will include a new skating trail and accompanying service building, new green space, and increased connections to the surrounding streets. Construction began last spring and is scheduled for completion late 2017.
Crossing west through the park, we end up at the corner of Collage and Bay, ready to check out the Bay Street corridor. Less busy than its parallel artery, the Bay corridor still presents a batch of intriguing projects and densification that will continue the rapid transformation of the Downtown Core.
North two blocks on Bay, we come to the site of a former Ontario Government building on the northwest corner of Bay and Grosvenor Streets. Back in 2010, the City approved a proposal to replace the existing 6-storey office building with a 45-storey WZMH Architects-designed office tower. However, the 880 Bay project was subsequently shelved and has not seen any activity until recently, when demolition of the existing building was carried out over the past few months and is now complete. There is still no active proposal for the site, however, it is believed that the provincial government still plans to redevelop the property in the future at an undetermined date.
Just to the north of 880 Bay, the Government of Ontario announced last year plans to renovate the Macdonald Block Complex, which comprises four Modernist towers constructed in the late 1960s and the Art Deco Whitney Block. The major multi-year project will get started with employees beginning to vacate the complex in 2018, and construction scheduled for 2019-2023, followed by completed occupation in 2024. The Macdonald Block is the highest concentration of Ontario government employees in the province and is home to 12 cabinet ministers, 15 government ministries, and 3,600 employees. The 880 Bay site immediately south of it will be used for construction staging during the lengthy Macdoanld Block renovation process.
Just to the east on Wellesley Street, construction is in full swing at Wellesley on the Park, a 60-storey 742-unit condo tower from Lanterra that includes a new 1.5-acre public park occupying the majority of the site. Designed by KPMB Architects and Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, construction on the building is now just poking above grade, so look for the tower to rise into the sky over the course of the year. The park is still in its design phases, and will be installed once construction on the tower is complete, likely in 2019.
Heading back to Bay Street, Lanterra is adding another fixture to the busy corridor with The Britt Condos at the northeast corner of Bay and Wellesley. The project is designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects and involves the complete recladding of the former Sutton Place Hotel and subsequent conversion into condo units, with the addition of an 8-storey podium and an additional 8-storeys on top of the existing structure, bringing the final height to 41 storeys. The project will add 727 new residential units to the area, with grade-level retail integrated into the new podium. Rental replacement units will be built fronting Phipps Street on the north side of the project. Construction is well underway, with the existing building stripped down to its concrete structure, and the cladding now being installed on the new podium. Look for significant progress to be made on the building over the course of the year.
Continuing north on Bay we pass by the two towers and townhomes of the recently completed U Condos. On the northwest corner of Bay and St. Mary is 55 Charles Street West, the taller of two towers that were completed in 1980. Having been acquired by the Azuria Group in recent years, the 32-storey rental apartment tower has been undergoing renovations to modernize it, most obvious on the outside through the new windows that have been installed on the south side of the building. Renovations will continue through 2017.
Turning west onto St. Mary Street, we come to our final project of the tour with 70 St. Mary, where plans for the construction of a 40-storey tower to replace the Modernist Loretto College currently on the site were approved back in 2014. The 40-storey tower is designed by architectsAlliance and would serve as a new 70-suite dormitory for students of the college, with 220 condo units housed on the upper floors of the building. Additional college space would occupy the two-storey podium, including 8 suites for the Loretto Sisters who administer the college. There has been no recent movement on this proposal, and it is uncertain when development might start.
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Our next Growth to Watch For story will head into the University of Toronto campus and then explore all of the developments happening on this northwest side of Downtown, cutting through a diverse range of neighbourhoods on the Bloor, College, Dundas, and Spadina corridors, including Chinatown. 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!