When one thinks of rapid intensification and development in Toronto, the neighbourhood of Agincourt in central Scarborough might not come immediately to mind for most. But this odd little pocket of density along Kennedy Road between Highway 401 and Sheppard Avenue East has a surprising total of 17 condo towers and 7,200 new residential units either built or in the development pipeline. Tridel's Metrogate community has found great success at Kennedy and the 401, and so it follows that earlier this year, Gemterra jumped in with a multi-tower proposal of their own just to the north.

Diagram showing developments along Kennedy Road between 401 and Sheppard, image courtesy of Gemterra.

Cowdray Court, named for the cul-de-sac around which this master plan will evolve, was presented to the Design Review Panel last month and received a mostly positive review. Designed by Teeple Architects, the proposal would see 5 residential towers of 18, 25, 27, 30, and 40 storeys along with two office mid-rises, both reaching 8 storeys in height. In total, the project includes 2,319 residential units and roughly 32,700 m² of office space. A 1.4 ha expansion of the neighbouring Collingwood Park is also included in the master plan, which comes with improved floodplain protection from West Highland Creek.

Rendering of Cowdray Court, image courtesy of Gemterra.

Currently on Cowdray Court are three commercial and industrial buildings—a car dealership, a Montessori school, and a courier depot—all of which will be demolished for the development. To the south is the CP Rail corridor that separates Cowdray Court from the Metrogate community, and to the north is a community of roughly 30 single-family detached homes occupying the southeast corner of the Kennedy and Sheppard intersection. Agincourt GO station is within an 800-metre radius of the site, and Scarborough Centre is just on the south side of the 401, with the future Sheppard East LRT-or-maybe-subway passing to the north.

Diagram showing site context, image courtesy of Gemterra.

The existing conditions may pose an infrastructural problem for city planners: both Metrogate and Cowdray Court have each only a single exit road, both connected to Kennedy as their thoroughfare. To mitigate this, the Cowdray master plan proposes a road connection beneath the rail corridor to Metrogate, located in the eastern half of the development.

Along with the southerly extension of Cowdray Court itself, another new road is planned for the site, creating smaller blocks within it. Three blocks contain the residential portions, each containing towers sprouting from a continuous shared podium that runs around the perimeter of the site ranging in height from 7 to 10 storeys. The podiums are terraced to give a staggered effect, with plenty of green roof space and outdoor amenities. On the larger central and western blocks, the podiums encircle a central courtyard.

Site plan, image courtesy of Gemterra.

Due to a high water table on the site, parking is proposed to be above grade; to mitigate this, the designers have placed the parking at the centre of each block and have wrapped it with residential and retail uses. This means the courtyards are raised at the centre of each block to the fifth floor, accessible to residents of each block.

The master plan is organized into phases for its construction. Phase One would see the construction of Block 6, the easternmost block, along with site service upgrades, a realignment of Cowdray Court, and the construction of the new 'Public Road A'. Phase Two involves the expansion of Collingwood Park, public roads 'B' and 'C', and Block 4, the central residential block. Phase Three would see the westernmost residential block, Block 2, constructed along Kennedy, with the public space improvements added alongside the CP Rail corridor. Finally, Phase 4 would see the two office mid-rises constructed on the northern edge of the site.

Diagram showing blocks of Cowdray Court, image courtesy of Gemterra.

The Design Review Panel weighed in on the proposal, voicing their opinion on the work completed so far and offering some advice on how to improve it.

The most common adjective used to describe the master plan was 'rational', which was used in both a positive and a negative sense. Beginning with the positive spin, some Panel members praised the design team for a master plan that "seemed rational compared to what's around it". As one Panelist put it, Cowdray Court is "a good planning approach compared to Metrogate. Metrogate was very poorly planned and is a fairly horrible spot, and I'm not sure it’s getting any better. [Cowdray Court] is better because of its built form, more diversity of form, its use, open space, and public space". In reference to Metrogate, they added that "towers around a pocket park does not a community make".

The term rational was used with a negative spin when several Panelists agreed that the master plan perhaps "seems too straight-forward...make a park, and then create blocks". Referring to the expansion of Collingwood Park as 'SLOIP'—Space Left Over In Planning—the Panel felt that the park could be more useful in connecting the different blocks of the master plan with more open spaces spread throughout. Panelists felt that the public realm component of the plan was missing, and urged the design team to provide smaller, more intimate public spaces throughout in addition to the park expansion. They also felt that the enclosed courtyard model does not create very inviting atmospheres.

Rendering from within the park, image courtesy of Gemterra.

Connections to the surrounding neighbourhoods were a hot topic as well, with many Panelists expressing concern over the insular planning of the development. They stated that the southern connecting road to Metrogate would mostly benefit the Metrogate community, and that a connection to the north would be more important for Cowdray. Panelists were also quick to point out that the suburban community to the north is unlikely to last much longer with so much development activity around, which is a scenario the master plan should consider. They felt that "only cars and pedestrians were considered", and that the design team should accommodate other modes of transportation—cyclists and connections to nearby transit—within their scheme.

Regarding the built form, the Panel was split in their opinion. Some Panelists thought that there is "merit in this alternating cascading language" as it "breaks down the scale, brands it as different, and starts to feel like more of an integrated community". One Panelist added that they were a "fan of blurring the line of the podium...as a counterpoint to the Metrogate tower-and-podium model". On the other hand, some Panel members called the podiums wrapping the perimeters of the blocks "relentless", saying that it was the penalty to pay for having above-grade parking. In conjunction with the transportation remarks mentioned above, the Panel also questioned if the amount of parking could be reduced to help with some of these issues.

Rendering from Kennedy Road, image courtesy of Gemterra.

After giving both positive and negative feedback, the Panel generally felt that the proposal was headed in the right direction, and voted 8-1 in favour of support for continued development of the current design on the condition that the design team re-examine the parking requirements for the project.

We will keep you updated as Cowdray Court continues to evolve, but in the meantime, additional information and images can be found in our database file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.

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Related Companies:  Schollen & Company, Urban Strategies Inc.