You win some, you lose some. With the unrelenting tide of tower developments in Toronto, City Planning have been swamped with applications in recent years, and as such, must choose their battles when the process goes awry and the development ends up at the LPAT. More often than not, the hearings reach an amicable conclusion, but once in a while a particularly thorny proposal will see itself through to the bitter end. This was the case concerning Humbold Properties' 217 Adelaide West in the Entertainment District, which the City has opposed since it first appeared 5 years ago, and which was finally settled with the LPAT ruling in the developer's favour.
The proposal in question sits along the south side of Adelaide West between Duncan and Simcoe Streets, and stretches the full depth of the block with frontage on Pearl Street to the south. The tower features a curvilinear design from Kirkor Architects with distinctive red cladding that sets it apart from the other Entertainment District towers. Originally proposed at 56 storeys and 180 metres with residential and hotel uses, the project went through four subsequent revisions, arriving at its current form of 21 storeys and 98.8 metres with only office uses. The building was approved for rezoning by the LPAT at its 21-storey height.
UrbanToronto previously wrote a story in early 2019 regarding the knot of density proposed on this block, and the conundrum this has created for the City. 217 Adelaide is immediately adjacent to three other developments of 58 and 59 storeys all on the same block, one of which is currently under construction at 19 Duncan. Other large-scale developments proposed, under construction, or completed on the surrounding blocks further crowd the area with density.
The Decision handed down by the LPAT details the saga and the various issues involved. According to the document, the drastic reduction in height occurred after the two developments to the west at 19 Duncan and 150 Pearl were both approved at 58 storeys, which restricted potential development at 217 Adelaide. Humbold had reportedly asked the City for a block context plan which was never conducted, and following the adjacent approvals, they removed all residential uses from the proposal and reduced its height and scale to make the tower more feasible.
The City opposed the development right from the start, and their position remained unchanged even with the significant revisions to the proposal. According to the Decision, "the City argued that the tower would create unacceptable impacts on residents in the developments approved west of the subject site, and on the future employees in the subject office building, because views would be impeded, light would be blocked, and privacy compromised". They also argued that the tower would impede sky views from street level, and stated that they felt a mid-rise would be most appropriate for this site.
The applicant team countered the City's arguments with a floor-by-floor analysis of the impact on light, views, and privacy in the tower, concluding that these conditions were adequate. They also pointed out that since 19 Duncan and 150 Pearl were oriented east-west, most units were not facing onto 217 Adelaide and thus the impact was minimal. They concluded that, "very few units would be affected, and that analysis did not take into consideration the use of blinds or other window coverings, which would further mitigate any impact". The LPAT sided with the developer, explaining that they thought their arguments were more thorough and demonstrative than the City's generalizations, which the LPAT stipulated did not completely prove their claims.
The City also argued that 217 Adelaide was in contradiction of both the Provincial Policy Statements of the Growth Plan and the policies of the King-Spadina Secondary Plan, saying that the proposal was not compatible or harmonious with its surrounding context, which is stated as a requirement in both documents. They argued that the site was simply not appropriate for a tall building given its confined mid-block location. The LPAT, however, disagreed, and sided with the applicant's team, saying the proposal complied with both policy documents due to the site's proximity to transit, its location within a designated growth area, and the fact that the numbers given in the Tall Building Design Guidelines - which the City frequently uses to assess applications - are not rigid but flexible in their application.
Several concessions were made in the revision of the proposal by the applicant that the City did agree with. A new POPS is now incorporated at the front of the building along Adelaide, while a stepback was introduced at the fifth storey to reduce the massing of the podium. As well, the developer has agreed to produce a Construction Management Plan to address concerns raised by both the Royal Alexandra Theatre and the local residents' association about the impact of construction on the daily operations of Pearl Street.
217 Adelaide West has now cleared a major hurdle in achieving rezoning approval, but there is still much to do before shovels get in the ground. Humbold will now need to submit a site plan application for the City's approval, and if that goes smoothly, construction can only begin after receiving all the necessary permits.
We will keep you updated as 217 Adelaide West continues to work its way through the planning process. In the meantime, you can find more information in our Database file for the project, linked below, and join in on the discussion by checking out the associated Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.
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