In Toronto's real estate frenzy, owning a property with municipal address 2 Bloor West would be comparable to sitting on a gold mine. But despite being at one of the most desirable locales in the city, this property is home to the 1970s-built tower on the northwest corner of the intersection, along with the tired two-storey retail and commercial structure, known as Cumberland Terrace, stretching the full block along Cumberland between Yonge and Bay; hardly an optimal use of the site.

Diagram showing location of the site, image courtesy of KingSett.

Since 2001, several different owners have tried but failed to produce a redevelopment of this valuable property, though one proposal got as far as receiving approval for rezoning in 2008. Four very different tower designs have come and gone in those 18 years, none of which saw the light of day (a detailed proposal history can be found in a previously published article, here). Now, fifth time's the charm, as KingSett Capital brought forth a new proposal for the site late last year under the name Cumberland Square. This latest iteration was recently presented to the Toronto Design Review Panel for their comment and feedback.

Rendering of Cumberland Square, image courtesy of KingSett.

Cumberland Square proposes three towers stretching along Cumberland Avenue, as well as a new public square, replacing the entire length of the existing two-storey Cumberland Terrace. The existing tower at the corner of Yonge and Bloor would remain untouched. The buildings would contain a combined total of 1,507 residential units, with retail at ground level and below-grade, just over 7,100 square metres of office space, and above-grade parking within the western podium. Giannone Petricone Associates are the architects for the project, while Janet Rosenberg + Studio are tasked with designing the public realm.

Rendering looking east along Cumberland, image courtesy of KingSett.

The tallest tower, located at the corner of Cumberland and Yonge, would rise 75 storeys and would feature a unique pixellated aesthetic. The other two towers are designed as a pair, sitting atop a shared podium at the corner of Cumberland and Bay, and would rise 61 and 50 storeys with a more subdued, modern aesthetic. The towers have been slightly adjusted from the original submission last year, which proposed heights of 69, 66, and 50 storeys.

Site plan, image courtesy of KingSett.

The site is a difficult one, being incredibly narrow and having the Bloor-Danforth subway line pass along its entire length directly below. As a result, the development can only accommodate one below-grade floor, which will contain both retail and community uses, acting as a concourse level integrated into the local PATH network. The design team is still working on how this level will be designed, but it is envisioned to have more community-oriented uses.

Concourse level plan, image courtesy of KingSett.

Rendering of the concourse level, image courtesy of KingSett.

In between the towers lies perhaps the most significant aspect of the project: a new public square stretching along Cumberland at the centre of the site, which comprises a whopping 31% on-site dedication of public space. The square is part of a network of connected laneways and open spaces that the City's Urban Design department has been sculpting through Yorkville over the past few years, working with the various landowners of new developments to reshape the neighbourhood's public realm.

Rendering of the public square, image courtesy of KingSett.

Cumberland Square's new public square creates a significant endpoint for a pair of laneways that extend to the north, one of which will lead to Town Hall Square behind the 8 Cumberland and 1 Yorkville developments, and the other of which will align with the heritage tower of the Yorkville Fire Hall, next to the Four Seasons' Rose Garden, as part of the 33 Yorkville development.

Rendering looking north from the public square toward the Yorkville Fire Hall, image courtesy of KingSett.

As well, a laneway connecting from the new public square to Bloor Street to the south is proposed to be redesigned and widened as part of the neighbouring 50 Bloor West proposal.

Rendering looking north from the laneway connecting to the Bloor, image courtesy of KingSett.

A new POPS along Yonge between the existing tower at 2 Bloor West and the new 75-storey tower accounts for another 3% of on-site dedication.

Rendering of the POPS on Yonge, image courtesy of KingSett.

Since this is only a rezoning application, the designs of the towers and public space are considered preliminary. But the design team indicated several notable aspects of the public square that are likely to remain, such as the central reflecting pool and the canopy of lights stretching over the space.

The designers are also exploring different options for the expression of the buildings at ground level, showing preference for a playful arched facade running along Cumberland and the public square. 

Rendering looking east along Cumberland, image courtesy of KingSett.

The Design Review Panel was very pleased with the proposal, calling it a "fantastic" and "remarkable" project, particularly with regards to the quality of its public realm. In a nod to the Panel's oft-repeated adage that 'if you ask for a lot, you have to give a lot back', the Panel remarked that the Cumberland Square was "a big ask, but also a really big give".

Rendering looking south across Cumberland toward the public square, image courtesy of KingSett.

They praised the new public square, saying it would be an excellent addition to the neighbourhood, and also offered some ideas on how to make it even better. They wondered if the architecture of the buildings surrounding the square could somehow respond in a better way to the open space, with a greater depth and playfulness that could help define the public realm. They also suggested that, from a sustainability point of view, there was a lot of hardscaping in the plaza that could lead to issues with stormwater management, and it might be better to introduce some more greenery. They also pushed for the design team to consider year-round uses and activation of the square in its design.

Rendering of the public square at night, image courtesy of KingSett.

In terms of the quality of the public realm, they noted that pedestrian comfort needs to be considered along Cumberland Avenue in terms of access to sunlight and wind mitigation. They also noted that the public square would be in shadow for a considerable portion of the day.

Rendering looking east toward Cumberland from Bay, image courtesy of KingSett.

With respect to the architecture of the buildings, the Panel was generally in agreement with the massing, but were limited in their comments on the design as it is still early on in the process. They did, however, support the design team's proposal to have the pair of western towers articulated in a similar manner to appear related, while the eastern tower would have its own unique design.

Regarding the below-grade concourse, the Panel asked for more sectional studies rather than focusing on plans, as a way to help define the space and perhaps introduce some natural light below.

Axonometric diagram of the concourse level, image courtesy of KingSett.

Overall, the Panel was happy with the proposal, stating that it "meets all of Urban Design's goals" with a "very strong public realm". They voted unanimously in favour of the project.

Rendering looking west toward Cumberland from Yonge, image courtesy of KingSett.

We will keep you updated as Cumberland Square continues to evolve throughout the planning process, but in the meantime, you can tell us what you think by checking out the database file and associated Forum thread, linked below, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.

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Related Companies:  Giannone Petricone Associates, Grounded Engineering Inc., Janet Rosenberg & Studio