By today's standards, the intersection of Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue isn't much to speak about, other than providing a frustrating stoplight that thousands of drivers get caught at on their way to some other destination in the city. But with the impending opening of the Crosstown LRT in 4 years, a consortium of developers are reimagining the area as a complete community with the Wynford Green master plan, a redevelopment of the current Celestica property on the northwest corner of the intersection.
Wynford Green is led by Diamond Corp, Lifetime Developments and Context Development with a comprehensive design team that includes: TACT Architecture, for master planning and residential architecture; Giannone Petricone Associates, for mixed-use residential architecture; Sweeny &Co Architects, for mixed-use office architecture; MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, for the arena and community hubs; NAK Design Group, for landscape architecture; Public Work, for public realm and landscape design; and Urban Strategies, for urban design. New to the design team this time around is Hariri Pontarini Architects, who have been brought on to tackle the reuse and redevelopment of the Modernist heritage building by John B. Parkin at 1150 Eglinton Avenue East.
We first got a detailed look at the evolving master plan at a Design Review Panel (DRP) session earlier this year, where Panel members were encouraged by what they saw, but pushed the design team to develop more innovative approaches to the public realm, heritage retention, and massing of the built form. A full recount of the first Panel session can be found here. This time around, the Wynford Green team offered a rejigged plan, as well as further details on its future implementation.
The main revisions to the proposal involved some shuffling around of the massing of the buildings, a tweaking of the design of the public realm, and adjustments to the incorporation of the heritage buildings in the development. Some reorganization of the street grid was done as a result of these changes. The majority of the main components remained the same, such as the community hub, retail Main Street, and low-rise townhouse development, with slight adjustments to their size and form.
The incorporation of the heritage elements has changed significantly since the last iteration of the master plan. Currently existing on the site is the 1954-built Celestica building at 844 Don Mills Road, formerly the head offices of IBM and currently a listed building on the Toronto Heritage Register, as well as a second office building constructed in 1967 by Modernist architect John B. Parkin located at 1150 Eglinton Avenue East. The previous proposal would have retained the two main entrance portals of 844 Don Mills and relocated them to Wynford Drive, where they would have acted as a gateway into the neighbourhood, while a small portion of 1150 Eglinton would have been retained to house a community hub.
The two entrance portals of 844 Don Mills have now been incorporated into the podiums of the towers on the east side of the site, located along the private retail street envisioned as the 'Main Street' of the neighbourhood.
At 1150 Eglinton, the entire south facade of the building is being retained, and will act as cladding for the podium of three new towers that will fit within the footprint of the previous structure. Portions of the retained facade will be freestanding, creating a permeable wall between the public spaces in the courtyards and the street, framing the view of the city skyline to the south.
The design of the towers rising above takes inspiration from the heritage facade at their base. The design team has also left open the possibility to potentially mark the footprint of the Parkin building elsewhere on the property.
As a result of the reconfiguration of the heritage structures, the public realm has also been modified and expanded. The retention of the facade of the Parkin building has created new courtyard spaces between the towers that spill out into the ravine, while to the north, Street 'D' and Street 'C' have been reconfigured such that the road on the north side of the three towers only acts as a driveway to access the parking garages, and is more pedestrian-friendly. The public 'Blufftops' park at the southwest corner of the site overlooking the ravine has been shifted eastward to be more central to the neighbourhood, while still providing connections to the new courtyards which lead down into the ravine.
A new element to the project is a cycling bridge over the train tracks along the north side of the site, which will connect the Leaside Spur Trail - which currently dead ends on the north side of the tracks - to Wynford Drive, and onward along a new path leading down into the ravine. The main public park has remained in its original position at the northeast corner of the site, adjacent to the new arena and community complex and at the northern terminus of the private retail street, so as to capitalize on the programmatic opportunities. As well, the public plaza at the southeast corner of the site has been kept in its original location, albeit reconfigured and expanded.
The final major change to the master plan is a reorganization of the massing. As previously mentioned, three towers are located on the site of the Parkin building where previously there was one, rising to 20, 42, and 52 storeys. The towers and mid-rises on the east side of the proposal have remained relatively intact, with some adjustments to building and podium heights to provide a better transition to the adjacent low-rise buildings. In response to the Panel's previous comments on incorporating more mid-rises into the development, a new mid-rise building has been located along Eglinton Avenue to the south, which would continue the mid-rise border of the site beginning on Don Mills Road.
As a result of the new massing, the number of residential units has increased from 3,887 up to 4,594, over half of which will be one-bedrooms, with the remainder as two- and three-plus-bedroom units. Total retail GFA has decreased marginally to 112,000 sq. ft., office GFA has increased slightly to 686,500 sq. ft., and total community GFA has decreased slightly to 132,000 sq. ft. The area is projected to house roughly 10,000 new residents and workers, with roughly 6 acres of new public park space.
The Wynford Green team's presentation also gave some insight into the block division and phasing of the project. Phase 1 includes the western portion of the site, encompassing the three new towers atop the heritage facade, the townhouses north of that, the reconstruction of the access road from Eglinton, and the construction of Celestica's new offices at the corner of Don Mills and Eglinton. Phase 2 includes the mid-rise component at the south end of the site, the townhouses on the north half of the site, the new arena and community hub, and the new public park at the northeast corner of the site. Phase 3 includes the 'Main Street' retail promenade along with its bordering towers and mid-rise buildings, while Phase 4 would be the final mid-rise office building to the east along Don Mills Road.
The Panel members applauded the design team, heaping nearly unanimous praise for their hard work in creating a complete, livable community. However, Panelists also offered some words of advice on how to make the proposal even better, suggesting some adjustments that would improve the design and quality of life in the area.
The architecture of the buildings were brought into question, with some Panel members underwhelmed by the design of the towers that appear in the renderings. "On the subject of an idealized city, the next big challenge that you have is to bring to the architecture what you have brought to the planning," one Panelist remarked. Another Panelist went further, criticizing the use of balconies as architecture, and commenting on a recent trend where, "balconies are often used more as an architectural feature of the building, rather than an actual amenity for people to use". They urged designers to evolve the tall building typology beyond simply using sculptural balconies as the main architectural expression.
The master plan was praised for its "numerous opportunities to go from park, to parkette, to main street, to local street, to dramatic landscapes, to regional public transit" all in one, with several Panelists claiming it would be "a great place to raise a family". One Panel member urged designers to "not just create a complete community in itself, but to create something that draws people in from outside". They elaborated further and suggested including smaller parkettes and plazas sprinkled throughout the public realm, rather than focusing solely on large, centralizing public parks, as these would provide a greater diversity of spaces and uses for the local residents. They would be a "huge addition and boon to the livability of the site and its prosperity" and are the elements that "can really make a community that's home".
Other suggestions included the addition of more mid-rise components, particularly to the north of the three towers on the site of the Parkin building, and further focusing on and developing the character of the various streets throughout the proposal. It was also suggested to create more meaningful gateways to the neighbourhood at its entry points.
We will keep you posted as Wynford Green continues to evolve throughout the design and planning process. In the meantime, you can compare the new ideas with images from the initial design by checking out our database file for the project, linked below. You can get in on the discussion by checking out the associated Forum thread or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.