It has been over a year since we last covered the massive Wynford Green master plan proposed for the intersection of Don Mills and Eglinton on the current Celestica site, and much has transpired since.
First, the master plan has been approved for rezoning by City Council, with an LPAT hearing settling the matter back in June 2018. The master plan was first proposed by Diamond Corp, Lifetime Developments, and Context Developments in 2016 with a team of designers that included Hariri Pontarini Architects, Sweeny&Co Architects, TACT Architecture, Giannone Petricone Architects, MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, NAK Design Group, Public Work, and Urban Strategies. The redevelopment will add almost 5,000 residential units with commercial and retail space spread throughout nine towers ranging in height from 15 to 44 storeys, three mid-rises of 8 and 9 storeys, and numerous blocks of 3- and 4-storey townhouses.
Next, and perhaps more significantly, the entire site—master plan and all—was sold to Aspen Ridge Homes, who is now proceeding with the next steps in the planning process. Appearing at Toronto's Design Review Panel last week, Aspen Ridge presented the first phase of Wynford Green prior to submitting their first Site Plan Approval application, revealing some slight changes from the previous master plan.
The first phase of the master plan will be Block 12, located at the southwestern tip of the site. Block 12 is comprised of three high-rise residential towers of 32, 24, and 39 storeys located within the footprint of the former Parkin building; one 8-storey residential mid-rise just to the north of the towers; and a single 4-storey townhouse block on the eastern edge of the parcel.
The designers for this phase are now Core Architects, replacing in part Hariri Pontarini Architects, who had previously presented the tower designs for rezoning. While the height, massing, and unit count of the buildings have not significantly changed, Core are proposing several notable revisions to the design and articulation of the buildings of Block 12.
First, with the three towers along the southern edge of the site, the cladding and architectural expression of the buildings has been modified. Core felt that there was too much glazing in the previous iteration, and wanted to propose something that responded a bit more closely to the retained heritage facade of the shared podium.
On the south and north facades, black vertical metal fins extend the full height of the towers, meant to evoke the pattern of narrow vertical windows on the heritage building.
On the east and west facade, the building sports a more contemporary look, with alternating extruded and recessed rectangular volumes clad in black metal panels that are meant to maximize views to the ravine and city skyline beyond.
Finally, at the podium level, the previous design of the towers had placed lockers, parking, and other inward-looking features where the heritage facades are located. Core has instead proposed to move these functions below grade and replace them with residential units on these podium levels. This, however, has created some issues of its own; since the heritage facades have large expanses of solid brick walls, and the narrow fenestration pattern is not necessarily conducive to residential uses, Core has proposed punching some simple windows into the solid brick portions to fit the residential units in.
The mid-rise condo building at the northwestern corner of Block 12 has perhaps seen the most substantial change from the master plan. Previously proposed as an irregular L-shaped building that followed the street grid, Core has instead replaced it with a much more organically-shaped curving volume that is slightly set back from the corner.
Fondly referred to as the "fish building", the mid-rise is clad with "scales" of angled and rotated boxes that follow the curve of the building. The short face of the boxes is clad with darker grey metal panels, while the long face of the boxes is clad with white metal panels, such that when a car approaches from the south and rounds the corner to the east, the building appears to change colour.
Finally, the block of townhouses at the northeast corner of the site feature a slightly different aesthetic, with oversized gable elements giving a cheeky nod to Toronto's historic gabled townhouses.
The Panel was pleased overall with the designs presented, saying it was an improvement on what was proposed for the original master plan. Panelists applauded the "diversity of form" and stated that there is "much to admire about what [the design team is] proposing". But as is their duty, they offered some suggestions to further improve upon the design.
Panel members thought that the north and south elevations of the towers worked really well with the heritage facade at the base, and they found the design of the east and west facades "handsome in their own right", but they felt that perhaps the two looked a bit too busy when put together. They suggested that the design team find a way to "turn the corners" or to somehow simplify the expression of the towers. Some Panel members also took issue with the elevator penthouses on the roof, claiming that they interrupted the pure expression of the south facades and should perhaps be moved or diminished in appearance in some way.
With regards to the retained heritage facade, Panel members felt that the design team was too timid with their punched out windows in the brick walls, suggesting that a more expressive form of fenestration that is complementary to and inspired by the heritage windows would be more appropriate. They also encouraged the designers to rework the floor plans of the residential units in the podium to lessen the need for so many new windows and awkwardly-shaped rooms.
Panel members were split in their opinion of the portion of the heritage facade that will be left freestanding. Some felt that the steel structure supporting the wall "looks like a leftover from construction that was never taken down", and urged the design team to simplify the bracing. Others liked the freestanding wall as it was presented, while one Panelist even suggested tearing that part of the wall down, saying that the remnant was more a disservice to the heritage, as "it used to be a building, not a screen".
The Panel complimented the new design of the mid-rise and did not have many changes to propose for that building. They were divided in their opinion of the townhouses, with most approving of the design but some saying that the gable roofs felt slightly out of place in relation to the other buildings.
In the end, the Panel expressed their enthusiasm for the project, stressing the importance of getting the design right as it is the first phase of the master plan that will set the tone for the development of the remainder of the site. They voted unanimously in support of the project.
We will keep you updated as designs for Wynford Green 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.