At last week's meeting, the Toronto Design Review Panel (DRP) got a glimpse of the latest version of Pinnacle Etobicoke, one of two massive multi-tower redevelopments currently underway along Dundas Street west of Kipling subway station. In a rare occurrence, Panel members were nearly unanimous in their criticisms of the project, expressing a rather lacklustre reaction to the project.

Rendering of Pinnacle Etobicoke, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

Headed by Pinnacle International and designed by Turner Fleischer Architects, Pinnacle Etobicoke proposes to build 9 towers ranging in height from 25 to 43 storeys, containing a total of over 3,100 residential units, office and retail spaces, and two new public parks. (One tower, 'Cypress', greyed out to the left of the highlighted towers in the image above, is already under construction and not subject to this design review.)

A previous iteration had been approved for rezoning several years ago, but in 2017 Pinnacle resubmitted for rezoning to increase the density of the remaining 8 towers. That resubmission has been scaled down and revised, and it is this revised version that was presented to the Panel for feedback. A Site Plan Approval application for Building 2, the two furthest left of the highlighted towers in the image above, has also been submitted, which is being reviewed concurrently with the rezoning resubmission.

The master plan for the site includes six residential towers ranging in height from 34 to 43 storeys aligned in a row along the south edge of the site. To the south of the row of towers, a linear park stretches ove r a transit reserve, held by the TTC for a future westward extension of the Bloor-Danforth line. To the northwest of the row of towers, two more residential towers of 25 and 27 storeys sit atop an 8-storey office and retail podium. (In the northeast, the 25-storey Cypress tower is currently under construction beside Concert Properties' recently completed first tower at The Kip District.) Between these is a new 6,377-square-metre public park, bisected down the middle by a public street.

Site plan, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

The Panel members were all in favour of redeveloping this site with more density, and generally supported a mixed-use multi-tower development at this location. They were also pleased with the quantity of public parkland provided in the master plan. But their supportive comments stopped there, as they largely criticized the lack of character and variety in the proposal, saying that the project had all the right ingredients but fell short on the execution.

Rendering looking east across north park, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

First, Panelists were rather displeased with the "overbearing sameness" of all the towers. Claiming that it is "the same type of tower plate that is just repeated, stamped across the site, delivering a lot of the same type of unit", they encouraged the designers to "shake things up a bit" and "grant some relief in the typical tower-podium format". They suggested that the design team differentiate the architecture of the towers at different scales, providing more diversity in the materiality of the buildings, in the heights of the buildings, and in their placement on the site.

Rendering looking south from Dundas, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

Another issue brought up by the Panel was the lack of diversity of residential unit types. The current unit mix features 1,781 one-bedroom units (62.19%), 1,076 two-bedroom units (37.57%), and a mere 7 three-bedroom units (0.24%). Panelists expressed disappointment in the lack of larger three-bedroom units, and asked for more variety in the types and sizes of dwellings offered. As one Panel member put it, "If you want to encourage mixed use, you also have to have mixed demographics, it's not just residential, office, retail….you need to have more larger units".

Rendering looking east from Shorncliffe Road, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

The largest criticism from the Panel was the lack of character in the master plan, and the lack of a central organizing idea that would be used to distinguish this neighbourhood from others. "This is what you do when you meet all the minimums", one Panel member stated, claiming that it felt like a planning exercise that simply checked all the right boxes of the Tall Building Design Guidelines, but lacked consideration of the human experience. As another Panelist commented, "The monoculture aspect of it is hitting me the most...there's no discernment, no hierarchy, no distinctions to be made...there's too much engineering and not enough architecture". The Panel lamented simply that, "the project needs some heart".

Rendering looking southeast from Dundas toward Building 2, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

With regards to the public realm, the Panel encouraged the design team and the City to move the road that divides the north park in two, instead combining it into one larger park. They also pointed out that with the row of towers to the south, this park will be covered in shadow for significant portions of the day. With respect to the southern linear park, they felt that there was not enough of a strong connection between it and the rest of the site, as the grand space simply ends unceremoniously at narrow passages leading to the north.

Rendering looking west from park, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

Finally, in terms of density, several Panel members felt that there was one tower too many, and that perhaps removing one or two might help solve some of the issues previously stated.

In the end, the Panel voted unanimously for a redesign, suggesting that the project head back to the drawing board to come up with a more engaging concept.

Rendering looking south through park, image courtesy of Pinnacle International.

We will keep you posted as plans for Pinnacle Etobicoke continue to evolve, but in the meantime, you can tell us what you think by checking out the associated Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.

Related Companies:  NAK Design Strategies, Pinnacle International, Turner Fleischer Architects