Last year, a rezoning application was submitted for a pair of towers at 351 Queen East (also referred to as 161 Parliament) within the quickly densifying King-Parliament district east of Downtown Toronto. Headed by ONE Properties and designed by Kirkor Architects, the previous 16 and 29-storey tower proposal filled the block at the southeast corner of Queen and Parliament. Stretching east to Power Street, it contained 584 residential units with retail in its base. Since revised and slightly scaled back in size, the new proposal was presented to Toronto's Design Review Panel (DRP) at their most recent session.
The new proposal for 351 Queen East is now comprised of a single 34-storey tower atop two 11-storey mid-rise volumes and a 3-storey base. The massing has been significantly altered to fit within the various zoning requirements, including a 12.5-metre setback from the south property line and a 45-degree angular plane from Queen Street.
The number of residential units has been reduced to 425, but the retail component remains at grade, with a large-format grocery store proposed to occupy the second floor. A small 300-square-metre park is proposed at the northeast corner of the site, carved out of the building's massing in order to afford a vista toward the tower of the neighbouring St. Paul's Basilica.
The architectural expression of the building was also significantly altered. The tower now sports a brick and metal panel facade with darker hues around the base of the building and lighter hues on the upper portions. A barcode aesthetic is employed to break up the massing. Several options are being explored for the expression of the retail podium, ranging from a distinct sculptural object to a continuation of the architectural language used on the remainder of the building.
Other building features include loading and parking access situated at the centre of the site, accessed via a through-block porte-cochere that removes these otherwise unpleasant features from the sidewalk, and several outdoor terraces and green roofs located on the various cascading roof levels.
City Planning openly stated that they were opposed to the height of the building, as it is significantly taller than all of the buildings in the immediate vicinity, and also stated that they were concerned about the impact of the building to the neighbouring heritage structures, namely St. Paul's Basilica to the east and 339 Queen East to the west.
The Panel was divided in their response to the revised proposal. All Panel members agreed that this version was an improvement on its previous form, however, they raised several key issues that should still be resolved before moving forward with the development.
A major concern echoed by all Panel members was the quality of the public realm around the building. The Panel urged the design team that what was shown in the plans and renderings was not adequate for important arteries like Queen and Parliament, and more attention needed to be paid to what happens at the ground level around the building.
They also unanimously agreed that the proposed park at the northeast corner of the site would not be a very successful intervention. Pointing out that it would be in shadow for most of the year, Panelists expressed doubt that the park would be a welcoming space, and also criticized that it interrupted the continuous street wall along Queen. They suggested that pulling back the entire facade of the building at grade, instead of carving out a corner, could also work to allow views to the neighbouring church's tower without creating residual dead space along Queen.
Panel members also expressed concern over the Power Street facade, which is more or less a straight wall up with a small 1.5-metre stepback. They suggested that this facade was unsympathetic to the neighbouring heritage church and overwhelmed the relatively small side street, encouraging designers to think about what pedestrians would experience walking by the building. They also pointed out that this facade would be highly visible when entering Downtown from the east, providing a gateway along Queen Street. One suggestion was to adjust the location of the tower component, shifting it westward away from Power Street, to break up the eastern facade.
Finally, the new architectural expression was critiqued by the Panel. Some members approved of the new design, while others were not so convinced. One member stated that the architectural expression was "more appropriate for a 15-storey building" and that the "intense patterning on the upper levels was not helping". Another Panelist echoed those comments, claiming that it was "the same cladding as suburban projects...which are brought into the city and all look the same, they are all cut from the same cloth". They urged designers to clarify and simplify the architectural expression, perhaps having each component - low-rise, mid-rise, and tower - distinctly respond to its context and be articulated appropriately.
In the end, the Panel was more or less divided, with 4 members voting in support of the development and 3 members voting to oppose it. They encouraged the design team to continue working on the building, pointing out its importance as a gateway tower at a key transition point in the city.
We will keep you updated as the designs for 351 Queen East continue to evolve, but in the meantime, you can join in the discussion by checking out the associated Forum thread or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.
|Related Companies:||Bousfields, Forrec, Kirkor Architects Planners, ONE Properties|