Several key revisions have been made to Freed Developments and ELAD Canada’s ‘Reimagine Galleria’ proposal to redevelop the site of Galleria Mall at Dupont and Dufferin streets in Toronto. Since our previous coverage of the redevelopment in 2016, the proponents alongside Urban Strategies Inc and Hariri Pontarini Architects have made eight key changes in a revised proposal to their former plan, following community consultations, and meetings with City of Toronto staff.
At the Design Review Panel in mid-December last year, the developers stressed that both the initial proposal, as well as the revisions presented, were guided by a 'holistic assessment of the area' and neighbourhoods surrounding the site; not just the site itself. ‘Building for intensity’, as they put it, is the primary motive for the shape of the development.
Four kinds of buildings and built elements, namely ‘podiums, base buildings, terraces, and tower elements’ comprise the development. These are designated within five ‘blocks’ as opposed to the formerly proposed seven blocks from the initial 2016 proposal, and will be intersected by 'The Diagonal', a south-east to north-west diagonal road that separates the built form from Wallace Emerson Park below. The development’s blocks are subdivided by vehicle and pedestrian streets that connect throughout the site. The changes to the street and block pattern on the site were made to allow for greater ‘porosity’ throughout the site, offering additional views to the park, Points Plaza—a large, privately-owned-public-space (POPS) near the centre of the site, and allowing more ‘prominence for the new community centre along Dupont’. Above all, the site’s walkability plays a central role in its design, intended to encourage lively pedestrian activity in the redeveloped public realm.
To address the concern of creating too much density in the area, the developers have revised their former proposal to build 11 towers, the tallest of which was 42 storeys, to 8 towers, now ranging between 19 and 35 storeys. Due to concerns over shadow reach, sky views and access to sunlight throughout the site and in particular, over neighbouring residential areas, a 19-storey tower along Dufferin has been re-designed to have a staggered roof, stepping back at a 45 degree plain from ground view.
The developers have taken a concerted and creative approach to the redevelopment of Wallace Emerson Park, a currently underused stretch of green space situated below the Galleria Mall along Dufferin. The revised proposal contributes 50% of the total site area to green space, while the remaining 50% will be used for private development and built form. A ‘land exchange’ will transplant the north-east corner of the park to the north-west corner of the site, enlarging the total green space of the park by 1.27 acres, and creating natural surroundings for a newly rebuilt Wallace Emerson Community Centre, the current faculty being one of the city’s most active and 'hard working’, and a well used meeting spot for many of the area’s immigrant communities. Additionally, POPS space for the site has been dedicated 895 m², which will also include the enlargement of ‘Point Plaza’, to act as a centralized, and community oriented focal point for the site’s public realm.
Focusing on and enhancing public realm is of primary concern in the revised proposal, to the extent that streetscapes have been ‘refined’, with a view towards creating a ‘distinct, safe, and walkable street network’. ‘The Diagonal’, the working name given to Public Street A, has changed since the 2016 proposal, now with a more pronounced focus on the pedestrian streetscape. The right-of-way is 18.5m wide, comprised of a 8.5m road for cars, plus two pedestrian boulevards—six and four metres wide respectively—with trees and street lights filling in ‘buffer’ space between. A cycling track had been previously proposed, but following consultation with the city’s Cycling Division, an ‘internal cycling track has been envisaged within the Wallace Emerson Park design’, but excluded from the current proposal for safety concerns. Additionally, some members of the design review panel expressed concern over excessive, peripheral POPS space being proposed in the northern corners of the site, as well as the proposed inclusion of cross-walks and traffic lights along Dupont. POPS space around the edges of the proposed site was considered a threat to pedestrian safety, given how busy Dupont Street is.
The revised proposal is also engaged in community building in as far as the diversity of residential and non-residential units are concerned. The former proposal put forward a total of 3,416 residential units, 9% set as bachelor units, 59% one bedrooms, 27% two bedrooms, and 5% three bedrooms. Of these, 150 units were to be allocated as affordable housing units. The revised proposal instead has gotten rid of bachelor units altogether, instead proposing 50% one bedroom units, 40% two bedrooms, and 10% three bedrooms, while still offering 150 units as affordable housing. Large and small non-residential units have been proposed alongside the development north of The Diagonal, set to accommodate a diverse mixture of commercial needs of the local community. Private amenity spaces have been proposed to the towers in the form of private terraces, green roofs, and indoor amenties, which in turn are to be located with ‘sufficient views of the parkland below’.
An assessment into the current mobility and public transit networks that service the area revealed that the north/south Dufferin bus route is one of the city’s busiest, as well as one of the longest; beginning at the 401 and travelling right down to Exhibition Place. After consultation with the TTC, the developers have suggested the possibility of a bus bay to be incorporated along The Diagonal, and an additional bus bay along Dufferin to service the site. Public transit access is a central focus in the Reimagine Galleria development with the site being over a kilometre from the Bloor Subway line, and with public transit having to service a much denser area in the future. At the Design Review Panel, members of the planning team suggested the possibility that the Dufferin bus route be ‘split in two’ at the mall, becoming a centre point between two routes - one that travels between the Bloor subway and the 401, and another that travels between the site and Exhibition Place.
The Galleria Mall site as it currently is may be spatially underused, but the developers have noted the aforementioned importance and high usage of both the existing community centre and mall to a diverse group of locals. As such, a ‘conceptual phasing strategy’ will underly the development timeline, primarily to achieve ‘zero displacement of the community centre’—which is set to be re-built in the first phase of development—and allowing for the extended use of public amenities, as the phased construction process begins. This will serve in not putting neighbourhoods into a long and extended construction project, and allow for a gradual realization of the site.
We'll keep you posted as further updates on this development arise. For now, get to know the proposal better by visiting our associated thread for the development. Leave a comment on this article, or pose your questions to the community!
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