Earlier today, representatives from Waterfront Toronto, developer Hines, and all three levels of government gathered in the East Bayfront area to celebrate the start of construction on a mass-timber office complex known as T3 Bayside, located on Queens Quay East, just west of Parliament Street. With the "T3" moniker representing "timber, talent, and technology," the innovative project from developer Hines, with a design by Danish architects 3XN working with local firm WZMH Architects, will for a time take the crown of the city's tallest wood-frame building. It may, in fact, be the tallest wood-frame office building in North America upon its completion.

Looking southwest to T3 Bayside, image courtesy of Hines

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, limited attendance was permitted at this morning's event, with a livestream provided in compensation. Those on hand included project representatives Avi Tesciuba, Senior Managing Director and Country Head, Hines Canada, and George Zegarac, President and CEO, Waterfront Toronto, who were joined by members of all three levels of government: Catherine McKenna, Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities; Laurie Scott, Ontario Minister of Infrastructure; and Toronto Mayor John Tory.

Emceeing the event, Hines' Avi Tesciuba kicked off the ground breaking by welcoming attendees and dignitaries, stating that "the world has taken note of Waterfront Toronto's unprecedented 2,000-acre revitalization plan, the largest such initiative anywhere currently, and we're humbled to have all three levels of government join us alongside Waterfront Toronto for today's ceremony. It's a testament to the continued attention and excitement Waterfront Toronto's revitalization generates in our city."

Avi Tesciuba, Senior Managing Director and Country Head, Hines Canada at T3 Bayside ground breaking, image via Waterfront Toronto livestream


Catherine McKenna, Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, spoke next, stating "it's exciting to see Canada adopting mass timber construction, a huge competitive advantage for Canada, and to see the sustainable new method of wood building construction going up here in Toronto where innovation is so vital to economic growth."

Catherine McKenna, Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities at T3 Bayside ground breaking, image via Waterfront Toronto livestream


She was followed by Laurie Scott, Ontario Minister of Infrastructure, stating "this an innovative and creative approach to construction, sustainable, and a natural insulator that reduces greenhouse gases. Investments made to date on Toronto's waterfront have already realized considerable economic returns. They support job creation and contribute to the growth of our local, provincial, and national economies, and this particular project will be no different."

Laurie Scott, Ontario Minister of Infrastructure at T3 Bayside ground breaking, image via Waterfront Toronto livestream

Mayor John Tory was next to take the podium, speaking about the wider Bayside revitalization progressing through trying times. "I'm just filled with optimism and confidence when I look around, not withstanding the time we've been through this year, because you can see the number of cranes, the number of projects, just standing right here—a small little quarter of the city." 

Mayor John Tory at T3 Bayside ground breaking, image via Waterfront Toronto livestream

The event was cut short when protesters stepped onto the stage behind Mayor Tory to protest the newly-passed Ontario Bill 184, Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act, 2020. Mayor Tory presented the protesters the option to discuss their concerns after the conclusion of the event, but a fracas ensued and further ceremony was called off.

Soon afterwards, Mayor Tory released a statement that addressed the incident, including a section reading "Today's groundbreaking which was disrupted by protesters was for a building which includes 20 per cent affordable housing and a child care centre, and through its construction will create much-needed jobs," possibly referring to another component in the wider Bayside community, as T3 Bayside contains no affordable housing nor child care elements. Tory's statement continues "I am willing to work with anyone who wants to constructively work with us to help the residents of Toronto. I repeatedly offered today to meet with the protesters after the announcement to hear their concerns but they chose to continue their public protest instead and not let the event proceed."

Interruption aside, today's ground breaking represents the ceremonial start of work for the first of two ten-storey office buildings, with actual construction activity by general contractor Eastern Construction awaiting the finalization of a shoring and excavation permit, expected to be issued in the coming weeks.

Phase I will bring 251,000 ft² of office space to the East Bayfront area, expected to wrap up construction in early 2023. In a show of confidence, Hines is building "on spec," counting on the draw of the building's unique design, sustainability, and amenities to bring in tenants. Avi Tesciuba of Hines Canada tells us that “We feel strongly that T3 Bayside’s timber structure, prime waterfront location and market-leading amenity offering, provides tenants an unparalleled experience in the Toronto market, giving us the confidence to launch this development without any confirmed pre-leasing.”

Looking northwest over Bayside community including T3, image courtesy of Hines

The project is at the forefront of a wave of timber construction developments that require site-specific exemptions to exceed the Ontario Building Code's six-storey cap for such projects. T3 Bayside's exemption was recently granted, while Hines is already pursuing another timber-framed office building under their T3 brand on Sterling Road. Other major projects elsewhere in the city are seeking even loftier heights with timber construction, like the University of Toronto's planned Academic Wood Tower, which would rise 14 storeys.

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 below.

* * *

UrbanToronto has a new way you can track projects through the planning process on a daily basis. Sign up for a free trial of our New Development Insider here.

Related Companies:  Eastern Construction, EQ Building Performance Inc., Hines, Janet Rosenberg & Studio, The Mitchell Partnership Inc., Vortex Fire Consulting Inc. , WZMH Architects