Not quite Liberty Village, and not quite Parkdale, the intersection of King and Dufferin is one of Toronto's transitional spaces. Hemmed in by rail tracks to the north, with mature neighbourhoods to the east and west, the low-rise intersection could be re-made with a pair of residential towers, planned for the northeast and southwest corners.
Led by Lifetime Developments, plans for the Core Architects-designed development first came to light in 2015, when a rezoning proposal to allow 21- and 19-storey condominium towers at 1182 & 1221 King Street West. Featuring a total of 741 units, the buildings would both be fronted by retail space, replacing two of Downtown Toronto's last car oriented—though simultaneously quite fine-grained—strip malls with more pedestrian friendly development.
Presented to the community in a public meeting in late 2015, the project was touted as a "high-end" development, with the luxurious buildings receiving at best a mixed response from area residents. While concerns about the long-term socio-economic impacts of introducing more expensive housing were prominently voiced, the contention that the 21- and 19- storey towers were too tall for the area was also a frequent refrain.
Resubmitted to the City this March, the new application advances a scaled down iteration of the 2015 proposal, with the tower heights brought down to 17 and 14 storeys. A total of 701 units are now planned, representing a relatively minor reduction from the 741 suites originally tabled.
Core's design language has also evolved significantly since the preliminary concept was presented. Initial renderings—which may have served predominantly to illustrate massing, rather than design—showed two glassy high-rises re-shaping the corner. Meeting the street with flat base structures, the grey brick framing the tower podiums added one of the few notes of material variety to the exteriors.
Redesigned with greater emphasis on materiality and surrounding context, the interplay of brick and glass is now a more prominent element of both towers. In an attempt to better reflect the area's 19th-century industrial heritage (Liberty Village is just to the east), red brick cladding is a conspicuous design feature, with the aesthetic contrast between brick and glass also lending the frontages—which remain relatively flat—a stronger semblance of articulation.
On the north side of King, the building at 1182 King West meets the corner with a 17-storey, glazed tower volume. To the east, a 13-storey brick volume stretches east along King Street, while a four-storey base structure lands the building.
At street level, five retail units are planned, replacing the nine storefronts that currently occupy the site. The 408 units are planned in a mix of 283 one-bedroom (69%), 62 two-bedroom (15%), and 63 three-bedroom(16%) suites. 337 parking spots are also included across three underground levels.
Kitty-corner from the 17-storey tower, the new 14-storey building at 1221 King Street West would leave the historic bank building fronting the southwest corner fully intact, in keeping with the project's earlier iteration. As in the slightly larger building planned across the street, the building would be 'landed' via a four-storey brick podium (both base structures were initially planned at six storeys), giving way to somewhat bulky glass and brick volumes above.
In keeping with the unit mix at 1182 to the east, the majority of 1221 King West's 293 residential suites are planned as one-bedroom homes. The 214 one-bedroom units (73%) would be joined by 49 two-bedroom (17%), and 30 three-bedroom (15%) suites. While the development meets the City's minimum 10% guidelines for three-bedroom homes, over 70% of the 701 suites would be one-bedroom units. Like its neighbour, the building would contribute five new retail units, though in this case replacing only three stores—including a large McDonald's with drive-through—that currently occupy the site. 224 underground parking spaces are planned.
A 1.5-metre sliver of the south end of the site would be given over to the City as an on-site parkland dedication, with the 308 m² area set to be absorbed into the neighbouring King-Dufferin Parkette. As it stands, the south and west ends of the site are occupied by surface parking and drive-through access, with the north and east sides of the 1182 King site (which features a Burger King) given over to the same uses.
Along with the changes to massing, density, and architectural expression, a number of more minor revisions to both buildings—including increased setbacks and slightly widened sidewalks—have also been tabled, responding to City and community input. Notably, a new mid-block connection is now planned at the west end of the 1221 King site, providing access to the King-Dufferin Parkette from King Street.
In terms of the density, programming, and—to a lesser extent—height, the scope of the project remains largely in keeping with the 2015 submission, which was met with some community concerns. A number of attendees at the October 2015 meetings complained that the more luxurious new buildings would threaten the affordability of the neighbourhood, precipitating gentrification and rising prices. At the same time, the infusion of new housing supply can play a crucial role in easing demand pressures and thereby regulating prices, creating a complex planning context where city-wide factors of supply and demand encounter the risk of locally concentrated price inflation.
Unsurprisingly, height and shadowing were also frequently voiced concerns. As the sites are not zoned for high-rise development, many residents argued that the project would be inappropriate for the area. However, the development is also located between two established high-rise contexts. Immediately to the west, Parkdale's 20th-century density stretches out across smaller streets—recently celebrated by the Toronto Star's Shawn Micallef—while to the east the 21st century's Liberty Village makeover continues to expand. At the major intersection that bridges the two neighbourhoods, then, the existing low-slung but fine-grained suburban context is a somewhat awkward fit in its own right.
We will keep you updated as the project continues to advance through the City's planning process. In the meantime, more information is available via our recently updated 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.