For decades, the windswept intersection of Yonge and Eglinton has been dominated by the pair of office towers at the southwest corner known as Canada Square, mostly experienced through their unforgiving wall of glass and concrete along Yonge. Behind that sprawls the bus terminal servicing Eglinton subway station, an area largely inaccessible from the street. This rather inhospitable environment is set to change, however, as Oxford Properties and CT REIT unveiled plans in December, 2020 to redevelop the 9.2-acre site at 2180 Yonge into a high-rise, mixed-use community. In March, 2021, it made its first appearance before the Toronto Design Review Panel.

Rendering of 2180 Yonge, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

The master plan came as a surprise to many, but plans to redevelop the property have been in the works since 2005, when the City engaged in its first study that resulted in a master plan proposing 6 new towers on the site in addition to the retention of the existing Canada Square buildings. Only one of those towers was built - in the southwest corner at Duplex and Berwick - but those plans heavily influenced the current proposal for the property. Much has changed since then, namely with the construction of the Crosstown LRT line and the desire to demolish the existing towers, but many of the objectives of that master plan were carried forward.

Comparison of the previous and current master plans for the site, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

The 2020 Oxford and CT REIT master plan seeks to demolish the two Canada Square towers, parking garage, and Eglinton bus terminal and replace them with 5 mixed-use towers at heights of 70, 60, 60, 55, and 45 storeys along with a new bus terminal at the north end of the site. The proposal calls for a total of 2,701 residential units; 60,704 m² of non-residential GFA; roughly 1,000 m² of community space; and two hectares of open space, representing roughly 50% of the total site area.

Site plan, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

The project would be constructed in two phases, with the first phase comprising the northern half of the site. Here, a single 60-storey mixed-use tower designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects would rise above a new Eglinton bus terminal. The second phase involves the southern half of the site, where four residential towers designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects would be constructed. The two phases are separated by a large open space, with a complete public realm to be delivered with both phases.

Other consultants on the project include Adamson Associates as project architects across both phases, Urban Strategies as planners, and OJB Landscape Architecture who are designing the public realm.

Diagram showing phasing of the development, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

The Design Review Panel appreciated the effort put into the project given the complexities of the site, with the underground transit infrastructure and a 6.5-metre grade change across the property providing many obstacles to work around. They commended the team on what would become a "landmark site", saying it vastly improved what was existing there now.

Rendering looking north along Yonge, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

They also applauded the amount of open space provided on the site, saying that "this is the amount of space this project needs." Indeed, given the flurry of development activity in the Yonge-Eglinton district, the several acres of public space stands out as significant among the crowd.

Aerial rendering showing public realm, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

However, their positive comments ended there; while they loved the quantity of public space provided, they questioned the quality.

The programming of the open space became a hot topic at the Panel. Currently, the large public space between the two phases of the project is bisected by a change in grade, which the designers are imagining to have playful infrastructure, which may include cascading rocks to climb on and perhaps a water feature.

Rendering of the central open space, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

The Panel, however, questioned whether dividing the open space in two was a wise move, instead wondering if a more unified public realm would be more successful. They also felt that smaller, more intimate spaces needed to be considered, and that amenities like a dog park, playground, or more treed areas should be included to make it more family-friendly.

Rendering of the central open space, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

Another issue raised was how much of the open space was a POPS as opposed to a public park. Currently, the vast majority of the public realm would be privately-owned, with a small portion on the west edge of the site being maintained and operated by the City. This inevitably has an impact on the design, amenities, and function of the space. The Panel also pointed out that, since the central open space is above an underground structure, it would need to be completely dug up and redone in a few decades, and questioned whether more of the site should be proper public parkland.

Rendering of the central open space, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

Panelists also felt that the built form did little to help define the open spaces. Some critiques stated that the north tower did not define nor activate the edges of the public realm very well, and that the south residential portion of the site was too confined and not porous enough.

Rendering of the residential courtyard, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

Sustainability was also brought up by the Panel. They commended the design team for presenting a thorough sustainability plan, but pointed out a few items that might warrant further consideration. First, the Panel noted that two very large office towers were being demolished, and questioned whether the impacts of embodied carbon were ever considered, or whether some form of adaptive reuse could be included. They also commented that an analysis of the microclimate was missing from the presentation and that it should be a significant factor in the design of the master plan.

Existing site conditions, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

One Panel member brought up the issue of community resilience, and stated that there simply was not enough community space and social infrastructure for the proposed development. This was echoed by several other Panelists, stating that, "if this is truly going to be a multi-generational site, community space needs to take up a much larger piece".

Rendering looking southwest from Yonge and Eglinton, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

A final comment from the Panel was with regards to the TTC pavilion, which is situated in the central open space along Yonge and is intended to be a stand-alone structure providing direct access to the subway. Currently the pavilion is a bit of a placeholder, but the Panel strongly urged the design team that this needs to be the "jewel" of the master plan, that it needs to stand out and better engage with the street.

Rendering of the Yonge Street frontage and TTC pavilion, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

It seems that the local community agrees with many of the Panel's comments, as recently there has been some resistance against the development, including from local Councillor Josh Matlow. The concerns from the locals are that there is not enough community space included, and that the quality of the proposed public space and the fact that it is mostly a POPS is unacceptable. They are also pushing for a school to be included in the master plan, as Yonge-Eglinton is growing rapidly and is already faced with the problem of local schools exceeding capacity.

Rendering looking south down Yonge, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

Overall, the Panel was encouraged by the master plan and its ambitions, but felt that it had some ways to go before becoming a truly successful development. There was no vote on the project.

Rendering looking east, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

We will keep you updated as the Canada Square redevelopment continues 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.

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Related Companies:  Adamson Associates Architects, Entuitive, Hariri Pontarini Architects, OJB Landscape Architecture, The Mitchell Partnership Inc., Urban Strategies Inc.