At the northeast corner of Yonge and Davisville, the 1894 Davisville General Store and Post Office building—now home to one of Midtown Toronto's many Starbucks outposts—could come to be surrounded by new high-rises. Proposed at heights of 25 and 34 storeys, the Times Group's two towers would conspicuously transform the corner's urban context, stretching Yonge & Eglinton's high-rise character further south while linking Davisville's existing community of residential towers to Yonge.
Rising above their surroundings, the paired 1951 Yonge towers would join what is already one of Toronto's more contested development nodes. Bringing the complexities of heritage preservation and urban intensification into sharp relief, a pair of projects re-making 1 Belsize Drive and—potentially—the Davisville Junior Public School building have inspired debate about the politics of heritage preservation and local character, while more general concerns about the impacts of height and shadowing are equally commonplace.
Wrapping around a row of six properties—including the heritage-designated 1894 building—on the northeast corner of Yonge and Davisville, the proposed development at 1951 Yonge would add another 450 units to the area. On the north side of the site, a 25-storey tower would front Yonge, with its taller 34-storey counterpart facing Davisville to the southeast.
While the Yonge Street frontage will be animated with three new double-height retail units and a commercial lobby, a residential lobby and one of the vehicle accesses will face the quieter Davisville Avenue. Finally, a small 390 m² parkland dedication is planned at the northeast corner of the site, on Millwood Road. West of the parkette, the Millwood frontage would be occupied by vehicle access space, the other residential lobby (serving the north tower), with one of the three retail spaces fronting the building's northwest corner.
Above the relatively fine-grained, street-friendly retail units fronting Yonge (and ranging in size between 165 and 220 m²), the second level will be occupied by larger commercial retailers. Replacing the low-slung suburban liquor store that previously occupied much of the site, a new 1,000 m² LCBO is planned for the second floor, along with a 760 m² Shoppers Drug Mart, and a 1,275 m² grocery store. The three retailers would be accessed via the shared commercial lobby on Yonge Street.
The project's 450 units would come in a mix of 16 bachelor (2%), 185 one-bedroom (41%), 155 two-bedroom (34%), and 94 three-bedroom (21%) suites. 268 vehicle parking spaces are also planned across a four-level underground garage, with the uppermost of the levels reserved for retail customers. Finally, 656 bicycle spots are set to be housed at the south end of the site.
Given the site's proximity to the Davisville Junior Public School playground, the shared podium structure only reaches a height of three storeys, with the uppermost level given over to a 3,330 m² fitness centre amenity space. Breaking up into two tower volumes above, the north tower's massing is characterized by a further Yonge Street setback at the ninth floor. The north tower podium meets the general scale of surrounding office buildings, as well as the under-construction condo at 1 Belsize—marketed as J Davis House—immediately to the north.
Designed by Core Architects, the project would rise well above its immediate surroundings, requiring re-zoning and an Official Plan Amendment (OPA). Exemplified by the completed 10-storey Allure Condos and the under-construction nine-storey J Davis House, the recent and ongoing developments fronting Yonge Street's Davisville stretch are significantly shorter. Nonetheless, a mid-century complex of tower-in-the-park apartment buildings characterizes the are immediately to the east, while Yonge & Eglinton's 58-storey E Condos height peak is under construction six blocks to the north.
Beyond the broad concerns about neighbourhood character and what constitutes appropriate height, the site is centred between the Yonge subway's Davisville Station to the west and Davisville Junior Public School immediately to the east. Ready-made arguments for and against the increased height and density sit on either side of the lot. Combined with the proximity to larger hubs at Eglinton and St. Clair, this centrality places the site within a very well-connected urban environment. By contrast, however, the neighbouring school is likely to prompt concerns about excessive shadowing and an overly imposing presence.
North of Eglinton, the 35-storey OMB-approved project at 18-30 Erskine Avenue offers a potential precedent of the discourse to come. Situated immediately west of John Fisher Public School, the KG Group tower's proximity to the school prompted outrage from parents and local Councillors Jaye Robinson and Josh Matlow.
On Erskine, the permanent shadowing and temporary disruptions caused by construction are top of mind for many parents, while the OMB approvals process—which can be used to circumvent and sometimes overrule City-led decision-making—drew the public ire of Councillors Robinson and Matlow. At Yonge and Davisville, the context is at least relatively similar, with the high-rise project (significantly taller than even its more recent neighbours) set to have significant permanent shadowing impacts, while bringing a noisy construction site next door to a school.
Like John Fisher to the north, the building housing Davisville Junior Public School and Spectrum Alternative School may be replaced. While John Fisher faces outright closure and relocation—a result of the TDSB's general under-enrolment—the Davisville school is set to be demolished, with a new school and community centre to be built on another part of its site.
Over capacity and in generally poor condition, the 1962 building is also a prominent example of Toronto's bolder mid-century architectural imagination. In February, the Globe and Mail's Alex Bozikovic highlighted the school's under-appreciated heritage value, describing the modern building's rhythm of "syncopated windows and hyperbolic paraboloids" as an inspired counterpoint to the decades of far more conservative institutional architecture that followed.
Although the school's pending demolition has attracted some criticism, Bozikovic compared the relatively limited public—and political—opposition to the school demolition with the justified "uproar" that met the removal of a handsome 1920s bank building that until recently occupied part of the neighbouring J Davis House site. Why is one demolition a simple necessity if the other is so regrettable?
Boasting the sort of social clout that can drive concerns about development and demolition to the front pages, Davisville's relatively well-publicized planning controversies present a neat microcosm of the larger, interconnected debates about city-building priorities. What kind of heritage matters? How should concerns about contextually excessive height and density be balanced with the benefits of new housing supply—and commercial uses—along the city's main artery? To what should Toronto's schools be insulated from the changing urban realities that surround them?
There aren't any easy, ready-made answers, but the questions at least take on a more critical context when they're concentrated, and effectively pitted against one another, within the span of a few blocks. And although discourse surrounding new development rarely balances all the costs and benefits particularly neatly, the kind of buildings that are demolished and constructed end up providing de facto answers to the questions of what does—and doesn't—matter.
We will keep you updated as more information—including a look at the design—becomes available, and the proposed development at 1951 Yonge makes its way through the planning process. In the meantime, you can learn more by checking out our newly established dataBase file, linked below. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment on this page, or join the ongoing conversation in our associated Forum thread.