At last month's Toronto Design Review Panel, panelists were treated to a rare triple presentation, as three tower proposals along Eglinton East located between Yonge and Mount Pleasant were presented together as part of one combined review. Seeking to take a more holistic approach to the frantic development around Yonge and Eglinton, the City combined the proposals of 55 Eglinton East, 90 Eglinton East, and 150 Eglinton East into one presentation, but the bulk of the resulting discussion focused more on a City-initiated public realm proposal rather than the towers themselves.

Rendering of 55 Eglinton East, image courtesy of State Building Group.

The three projects are each designed by a different team, so it is notable that the City managed to gather them all together in the same room. Located on the south side of the street between Holly and Dunfield, 55 Eglinton East is a 50-storey 461-unit condo tower headed by State Building Group and designed by Kirkor Architects. Just across the street, at the foot of Dunfield, 90 Eglinton East is proposed to rise 55 storeys with 502 condo units, and is led by Madison Group with Teeple Architects.

Rendering of 90 Eglinton East, image courtesy of Madison Group.

Finally, just to the east, 150 Eglinton East is another Madison Group proposal that would see a 46-storey 429-unit condo tower designed by Quadrangle constructed at the foot of Lillian Street.

Rendering of 150 Eglinton East, image courtesy of Madison Group.

While each of the proposals were presented individually to the Panel, the main feature was the proposed 'Green Line' that connects all these buildings together. Conceived as part of the City's Midtown in Focus study of the Yonge-Eglinton area, the Green Line is a linear public space running along the north side of Eglinton from Yonge to Mount Pleasant, comprised of a series of connected privately-owned publicly-accessible spaces (POPS). The initiative is a response to the lack of green space in the immediate area, combined with the massive influx of thousands of new residents to the area projected over the 10+ years.

Conceptual diagram of the Eglinton Green Line, image courtesy of Madison Group.

Those familiar with this stretch of Eglinton will note that currently there is not enough room to fit a linear public space along the north side of Eglinton. The City plans to implement the Green Line incrementally as each plot of land is developed by requiring new buildings to have a 12-metre setback from the lot line. This piecemeal approach would be coupled with an already planned makeover of Eglinton in conjunction with the Crosstown LRT construction, which would eventually see wider sidewalks and bike lanes added to the major thoroughfare. Given this approach, the Green Line is an aspirational idea that would likely not be fully realized for at least another 15-20 years. The first two projects to kickstart the Green Line would be 90 and 150 Eglinton East.

Rendering of the Green Line outside 150 Eglinton East, image courtesy of Madison Group.

Given the incremental development of the Green Line, the City is considering an approach that does not establish any prescriptive design guidelines. Instead, each property owner would develop their portion of the Green Line as they see fit, so long as it does not block access to the neighbouring properties and maintains the continuity of the space along Eglinton. Described as "a series of outdoor rooms that carry strong narratives", the sequence of POPS would ideally contain a mix of seating, public art, gathering spaces, and other public uses, while each feature different pavings, materials, and overall design identities.

Rendering of the base of 90 Eglinton East, image courtesy of Madison Group.

The Panel latched onto the idea of the Green Line, barely mentioning the design of the towers themselves other than a stray comment on the job well done or the need for improvement, and offered some strong words of encouragement, criticism, and caution regarding the new linear public space.

Rendering of the Green Line at 90 Eglinton East, image courtesy of Madison Group.

While a few Panel members appreciated the inconsistency of the incremental approach, most stressed the need for some common element or theme that ties each of these POPS together. While appreciating the "joyful chaos" this might create along the streetscape, they advocated for an overriding framework that would provide some logic to the series of spaces. Panel members offered up examples of successful heterogeneous streetscapes elsewhere in the city that were unified under common elements or an overarching theme, including the redesign of St. George Street; the makeover of Queens Quay; the public spaces implemented as part of the King Street Pilot Project; or even something as simple as the lamp posts on Palmerston Boulevard.

Rendering of the Green Line at 150 Eglinton East, image courtesy of Madison Group.

Panelists also stressed the importance of the ground floor design of the buildings as having a significant impact on what the Green Line will eventually become and how it will appear. They criticized the renderings presented by the design teams for having "sheets of sterile glass on the ground level retail that take away from the joyful chaos", and that, "slapping a retail sign on [the flat glass facades] would be doing a huge disservice to our streets". The discussion then shifted to a larger general critique of the use of uniform flat glass retail frontages along the ground floor of new buildings that "gives a sanitized experience that helps neither the retail nor the pedestrian".

Ground floor plan of 150 Eglinton East, image courtesy of Madison Group.

The Panel further cautioned the City and the design teams against the encroachment of retail spaces into the public realm of the Green Line. They noted that the current designs "seem to be all about spill-out for retail and restaurants and then a clearway for pedestrians, and not necessarily park space", warning that there is a "danger that the spill-out spaces get used more for private use than public use". They stressed that a common framework and guidelines would prevent the Green Line from simply becoming a wide sidewalk with a series of patios, and would allow it to have the potential to become something more.

Ground floor plan of 90 Eglinton East, image courtesy of Madison Group.

While acknowledging that green space and the requirements of retail outlets do not necessarily mix well, one Panel member offered some wise advice to change the design approach: "See the Green Line as a quality designed space that will attract people to it rather than seeing it as something that will hinder retail. Make the space unique first, and then the retail will follow".

Rendering of the Green Line outside 150 Eglinton East, image courtesy of Madison Group.

Overall, the Panel viewed the Green Line as an excellent opportunity to enliven the public realm around Yonge-Eglinton and to create a city-wide destination, but they urged the City to further define their intentions for the space and to create a unifying framework that allowed designers to create a truly unique experience along Eglinton.

We will keep you posted as the three projects mentioned above as well as the Green Line proposal advance through the planning process. In the meantime, you can tell us what you think my checking out the associated Forum threads or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.

Related Companies:  Ferris + Associates Inc., Kirkor Architects Planners, Madison Group, Quadrangle, State Building Group, Teeple Architects, The MBTW Group | W Architect Inc, WND Associates Ltd