A proposal for a 15 and 39-storey mixed use development at 33 and 37 Parliament—immediately adjacent to Toronto's Distillery District—has now appeared before the City's Design Review Panel for the first time. Designed by architectsAlliance for Graywood Developments, the proposal would replace single-storey buildings and surface parking currently on the site. It also proposes retail at grade, a Privately-Owned-Public-Space (POPS), and 622 new residential units in a quickly intensifying area in the southeast corner of downtown. 

Site Plan of 33-37 Parliament, image via submission to the City of Toronto

33-37 Parliament and two adjacent proposals at 31 and 31R, are all located on the east side of the street immediately south of the Distillery District and north of the rail corridor, a wedge-shaped area known in planning circles as the Triangle Lands. Within the City's Downtown planning district, the site is designated as a Mixed Use Area, lying within the bounds of the King-Parliament Secondary Plan. Although the major objectives of the secondary plan do not specifically cover the Triangle Lands in their urban design guidelines, the City wants developments proposed here to ‘preserve and enhance’ the surrounding area, while creating a streetscape 'that draws on materials that are thematic of the surrounding area and its history'. The area is intended ‘to be improved in the future by others as a more pedestrian oriented open space’.

Looking southeast across Parliament towards the proposal, image via submission to the City of Toronto

The proposal consists of three integrated parts, with a site frontage of 61 metres along Parliament, and roughly 90 metres running along Distillery Lane. The bulk of the built form is concentrated on the southern and western edges of the site. According to the proponents, the development proposes a massing where the two towers appear 'to insert themselves through one another', creating a kind of ‘collaged’ or ‘colliding’ architecture. The 39-storey tower is located towards the western end of the site, adjacent to the Parliament Street frontage, while the 15-storey building protrudes from the tower’s edges, rising from an L-shaped 6-storey podium that forms the base of both volumes. Looking towards Distillery Lane across Parliament Street (as per the image below), the architects intend for the massing and materials to complement the local built form, becoming a kind of gateway into the Distillery. 

The podium and 15-storey masses are clad in brick, with staggered punched windows on alternating floors on their east and west faces, while inset balconies form most of the openings on the north and south sides. Retail space at grade is proposed to face the courtyard to the north and the linear mews to the south. The proposed building location and massing are designed to be adequately separated from nearby buildings. The proposal as it currently stands, is such that the podium is set back nine metres from the south property line, and the tower 12.5 metres.

 Looking southeast towards the podium and retail spaces, image via submission to the City of Toronto 

Amenity space for the development is proposed at various levels, including a wraparound terrace on the 7th level at the east end of the 15-storey volume. At the west end of the structure, an outdoor amenity terrace with outdoor pool is also proposed on the 7th floor atop the podium’s roof, overlooking the courtyard and Parliament Street below. At ground level, a bosque of trees in the planned POPS lends green space to the area. 

Looking west towards the proposal from the courtyard, image via submission to the City of Toronto 

Parking is proposed in a three-level underground garage to accommodate visitor, commercial and residential parking, as well as bicycle storage spaces. All parking access, as well as loading, moving, and garbage pick-up services would be accessed from and consolidated in the south-west corner of the site, along Parliament Street. The design proposes to hide all vehicles from the public realm, from which point on the site onward, the development is virtually accessed by pedestrians and cyclists only. The majority of the site’s perimeter is given to pedestrian, retail, and public realm use, which intends to establish a ‘muse lane’ for pedestrian use that surrounds the development and leads into the courtyard, and by extension into the Distillery District.

Looking northwest toward the 15-storey building from courtyard, image via submission to the City of Toronto

The Distillery District, now a thriving commercial and residential area of restored and readapted Victorian heritage buildings of the sprawling Gooderham & Worts Distillery at its heart, was all but abandoned until the turn of the millennium, occasionally used for movie shoots. Three 32 to 40-storey condominium towers and two 14-storey affordable mid-rise condos have since transformed the area—along with the commercial revitalization—over the last two decades. Recently, the redevelopment of brownfield sites around the edges of the District promise to knit it better into the fabric of the city.

31R Parliament, 49-storeys tall (at right) with ribbon building extending east, image courtesy of the City of Toronto

To the east of 33-37 Parliament, an OMB-approved residential tower and low-rise 'ribbon building' at 31R Parliament is to be developed with at-grade commercial uses. Originally proposed at 57 storeys, a settlement was reached between the developer and City for 49-storeys. To the south at 31 Parliament is another condominium proposed at 49 storeys, this one preparing for an OMB hearing, he appeal made based on the City's lack of a decision within the required time.

31R Parliament, 49-storeys tall (yellow) in context, 33 Parliament would rise in front, image courtesy of the City of Toronto

The two adjacent proposed towers create complications for the understanding of shadow impingements on the surroundings by 33 Parliament. Members of the Design Review Panel commented on this potential issue, stating that the proposal could be potentially problematic in overshadowing, and over-densifying the surrounding heritage site at the Distillery and the St. Lawrence neighbourhood. Some members also raised the issue of shadow, wind, and sky-view assessments on the public realm, particularly over and from the courtyard, given the ‘flux state’ of the proposed 31 Parliament tower and future development more generally within the Triangle.

To the extent that it is hard to assess the concerns at hand given a lack of information on surrounding development, all but one member of the Design Review Panel voted for ‘refinement’ of the proposal; namely, that it should go forward, but with deeper considerations for shadows, views of the sky, and encroachment on the public realm in relation to the development's neighbours. The other member voted for 'redesign'.

You can find out more from the database files for this proposal and the adjacent proposals, linked below. Click on the associated Forum thread links to get in on the discussion, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

Related Companies:  architectsAlliance, BDP Quadrangle, COUNTERPOINT ENGINEERING, Dream Unlimited, EQ Building Performance Inc., LEA Consulting, NAK Design Strategies, Vortex Fire Consulting Inc. , WND Associates Ltd