A previously approved proposal by Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) — formerly known as Ryerson University — to build a 44-storey institutional building inclusive of multiple levels of student residences in Toronto's downtown has recently been followed up with a Minor Variance Application that would remove the residential component of the development. The Toronto Metropolitan University Science Building designed by Copenhagen-based architects Henning Larsen with Toronto's Zeidler Partnership Architects was approved by Toronto Council to be built with a towering student residence atop it on the northwest corner of Dundas Street East and Jarvis Street. The site is currently home to a large surface parking lot. 

Existing parking lot on the site of the approved development, image via Google Street View

In late June, Councillor Robin Buxton Potts of Toronto Centre penned a letter for  consideration by Toronto's Committee of Adjustment explaining that the University was seeking a minor variance — a minor change to an aspect of the new development that falls under the Zoning By-law, and which are granted or denied by the Committee of Adjustment — as a minor variance application is required to allow this application to move forward, and that this City Council resolution is not intended to, and does not relay Council's endorsement of the merits of the minor variance application.

"As the proposal has been advancing through the site plan approval process," said Buxton Potts, "TMU has had the opportunity to better understand the current student housing market and has since revised the development program. Key modifications include the removal of the student residence and tower portion of the building, the addition of a new academic floor on the retained podium building at the 14th level, the addition of a partial floor at the northwest corner of the building above the fifth storey, and a reduction in the bicycle parking rate to align with a new campus-wide bike-parking strategy."

Formerly approved tower of The Toronto Metropolitan University Science Building (and Student Residence), image from submission to the City

The 30-storey reduction and loss of proposed student housing comes as a surprise to many, especially after TMU (formerly Ryerson University) had resubmitted development proposals in 2020 looking to make changes to create more student housing that it had originally planned. The resubmission asked for an increase in the tower height to 44 storeys from the original plan's 41 storeys to meet the programmatic needs of the building, as well as an increase in the proposed number of student beds through a reconfiguration of the originally proposed student dormitories – which would have created 126 new beds bringing the total up to 590 to serve the expanding student population.

Formerly approved tower of The Toronto Metropolitan University Science Building (and Student Residence), image from submission to the City

As it stands, the university has approximately 1,144 beds throughout three residence buildings on campus – which isn't many, considering that in the 2019–20 academic year, the university's student body included 44,400 full-time and part-time undergraduate students, and 2,950 full-time and part-time graduate students.

People have spoken out expressing confusion, including members on UrbanToronto's Forum, here and here, amongst others. 

UrbanToronto reached out last week to TMU for an explanation regarding the loss of the student accommodation in the development. While TMU did not respond in time for the original publication date of this article on July 11, we have since received their response.

Facilities Management and Development Services at TMU tells us that —

"the university had previously submitted an application to rezone a surface parking lot at 202 Jarvis Street so that TMU could build when funding became available. 

The original proposal included a mixed-use building that included an institutional base, a residential tower, and retail space on the ground floor. 

Recently TMU requested permission from Council to submit a minor variance application to no longer include residential space. 

The proposed changes were the result of a number of considerations:

  • As construction costs have increased drastically, the overall cost of the original proposal exceeded the available funding. 
  • Space was prioritized based on the Campus Master Plan, which identifies the need to increase classroom and research labs. 

We look forward to moving forward with the 202 Jarvis Street development as it provides a much-needed opportunity for state-of-the-art classroom and meeting space, research labs and departmental offices. We continue to explore more affordable methods to expand residence space on campus."

The new development would still play a role in helping the University achieve its growing demand for additional classroom and learning spaces, albeit without the 17,599m² that was dedicated to housing 590 units of student residences, a student dining hall with nearly 580 seats, and an amenity level housing an expanded multi-purpose amenity area, a laundry facility, and residence administration/support offices.

Base of the formerly approved Toronto Metropolitan University Science Building (and Student Residence), image from submission to the City

No new renderings have been shared of the new 14-storey institutional building at this time without the tower.

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This article is an updated version of the original published on July 11, 2022, now revised to include information from Facilities Management and Development Services at TMU.

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UrbanToronto will continue to follow updates for this development, but in the meantime, you can learn more from our Database file for the project, linked below. If you'd like, you can join in on the conversation in the associated Project Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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