It was all Scarborough Centre at last week's Design Review Panel (DRP) session, as three major projects were presented that will drastically transform the suburban centre on the east side of Toronto in the coming decades. City staff revealed their preferred option for the Scarborough Centre Transportation Master Plan (SCTMP), followed by a presentation that offered a first look at the preliminary reference design concept for the new Scarborough Centre Subway Station. The massive project is envisioned as a multi-modal transit hub that will house the new terminus station of the Bloor-Danforth subway, as well as a sprawling TTC and GO bus terminal. The third project presented at the DRP, a development proposal adjacent to the subway station, will be covered separately in an upcoming story.

What is described below is in no way a final design for the station. The Scarborough subway project is a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with a long and complex design process. The client, which in this case is Infrastructure Ontario (IO), and their consultant team headed by AECOM, will produce Project-Specific Output Specifications (PSOS) that outline the basic requirements of the building and illustrate a basic massing envelope that the structure can fit within. Bidders will then use the PSOS to come up with a proposed design for the final structure, and IO will choose the preferred option from these proposals to build the actual station. What was presented at the DRP was an early iteration of a design that will be used to compose the PSOS, and at this point can only give us a sense of scale and massing that the City and IO are considering.

Site plan of proposed Scarborough Centre Subway Station and Triton Bus Terminal, image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

The new subway station will be located beneath Borough Drive at the intersection of Triton Road, stretching 231 metres in a north-south orientation at the southeast corner of the Scarborough Town Centre mall. But the subway station is not the largest component of the project: a 34-bay bus terminal is included that will stretch through an open-air trench eastward along Triton Road. The massive bus terminal extends a whopping 407 metres in length, with an additional 127 metres of service space stretching beyond that, meaning a walk from one end of the terminal to the other could take as much as five minutes. To give some perspective, the main building of the Eaton Centre stretches approximately 420 metres in length between Queen and Dundas Streets.

Plan of subway station and bus terminal at Triton Road level, image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

There are three entrances proposed for the subway station: the east side of Borough Drive at Triton Road, the west side of McCowan Road, and a north entrance located adjacent to the mall. The bus terminal will be located one level below grade, with Borough Drive bridging over top of it, while the concourse level of the subway will be located one level below that, underneath which will run the subway tracks one level further down. Despite the massive scale of the project, every effort is being made to keep it compact in order to preserve developable land around it, with much of the services stacked above, below, and adjacent to the public areas of the station in a Jenga-like configuration.

The signature feature of the station is a sprawling, organically-shaped canopy that stretches the length of the terminal and extends to the subway entrances to create a cohesive language. Its composition is still undecided, but the designers are leaning toward a mixture of transparent and opaque panels. The form of the canopy and its colour in the images inspired some Panel members to nickname it "The Blue Snake".

Plan of subway station and bus terminal at Borough Street level, image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

The Scarborough Centre Subway Station is part of a larger Transportation Master Plan for the area that has been in the works for the past year. Notable interventions proposed by the plan include the introduction of a finer-grained street network to chop up the predominantly large, uninviting blocks of Scarborough Centre; the lowering of Progress Avenue to grade at the McCowan Road interchange, creating a proper intersection; the realignment of Borough Drive at Progress Avenue; and a redesign of the streetscapes throughout to make them more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly, including a proposed shared street on a portion of Borough Drive in front of the Civic Centre. Presenters are also planning for better connections and increased access between the disparate precincts of Scarborough Centre, particularly across Triton Road, and the introduction of more public space as a way to bridge these gaps.

Preliminary diagram summarizing the proposals of the Transportation Master Plan, image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

Panel members were both impressed and concerned about the subway station proposal. They acknowledged the difficulty in working with such a large scope of work, but they cautioned that the design was too "concerned with itself", and did not offer enough connections between adjacent lands as recommended in the SCTMP. They lamented the lack of public realm improvements included in the design, and urged the team to think more about the structure's relationship with its surroundings. They suggested perhaps bridging over the trench with public space, much like Rail Deck Park, but the design team explained that this was extremely difficult due to structural requirements, the tight space required for services below, and above all, the added cost of doing such a thing. Panelists also suggested including more entrances to the subway station and more bridges across the trench as ways of creating connections.

Above all, Panel members stressed the importance of this project in defining the character of Scarborough Centre. They described it as a landmark project, akin to the New Toronto Courthouse downtown, that will create an identity for the area around which the neighbourhood will grow and evolve for decades to come. They urged the design team to not skimp on the architectural expression of the building, and to enshrine these principles in the PSOS in an effort to avoid what one Panelist described as a "race to the bottom", a reference to the often notorious value engineering that can occur in PPP projects.

The Panel voted unanimously for refinement of the current proposal, on the conditions that the design of the subway station and bus terminal be better synchronized with the SCTMP in terms of public realm improvements and connectivity, and that, acknowledging the constraints of a PPP project, the design team works to ensure design excellence in the final product.

The Scarborough Centre Subway Station is still in its very early stages of design and will inevitably evolve over this very lengthy process. But if the first images are any indication, the new multi-modal transit terminal will be a landmark hub that will define Scarborough Centre for generations to come. We will keep you updated with any developments with the design, but in the meantime, you can join in the conversation by checking out the associated Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.