In the midst of a transitional period of the workforce towards remote work and flexible employment situations, the traditional office building has been sent spiralling into an identity crisis. While debates play out over managing the future of the office building, some savvy developers are hoping to get ahead of the curve, and guide the industry towards the repurposing and adaptive reuse of these buildings, especially older ones that are harder to retrofit for the demands of today's businesses. In the Toronto context, this conversation has been circulating for some time, and an interesting proposal from H&R REIT for the redevelopment of the registered heritage building at 69 Yonge Street would bring such plans into practice.

The proposal hopes to convert a 15-storey Beaux Arts era office building in the Financial District into a mixed-use residential tower and, working with PARTISANS and heritage consultants ERA Architects, construct an infill addition that would increase the size of the floor-plate while adding another five storeys above the existing building. With the infill addition, the building would reach 21 storeys (including the existing 16th storey mechanical attic) with a total height of 89m, and deliver 127 new dwelling units as well as a new restaurant unit in the basement, while maintaining the existing retail space at grade. 

Looking southeast to the proposed redevelopment of the Canadian Pacific Building, image from submission to City of Toronto

The existing building, located at the southeast corner of Yonge and King Streets, is referred to as the Canadian Pacific Building and was built in 1913 as the headquarters for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. While the base is built to the property line on all sides, the building takes on an inverted L-shape from the third storey upwards, resulting in an irregular floor-plate dimension for the entirety of the building’s commercial area. Additional factors like lack of parking, amenity space, and no connection to the underground PATH system, have been cited as aspects that contribute to decreasing the building’s value to commercial tenants, and support the case for redevelopment. 

Aerial view shows irregular shape of the existing building to be infilled, image from submission to City of Toronto

The proposal documents also reference the current housing crisis as an underlying force that justifies a conversion of this nature. In the eyes of the proponents, meeting the growing demand for housing is more critical than “replacing office space that no longer suits the needs of the modern tenant.” This argument is made along with reference to the planning policies surrounding development in Major Transit Station Areas (MTSAs), which this site exists firmly within, to assert that a residential conversion is not only possible, but advised based on the City’s own targets for growth.  

Looking at the renderings for the proposal, it is difficult to evaluate the changes made within the heritage building when our focus is directed to the star of the show, the infill addition. While symmetry and order, pillars of the Beaux Arts style, make themselves known throughout the existing exterior, the Partisans design takes a different approach. Elongated vertical segments of curtain wall climb up the east elevation at different lengths and widths, and are topped off with arches that create a randomized display of curves and angles running up the tower. One could argue that, if any reference to the Beaux Arts style is found in the addition, it is in the grandiosity of the volume as a whole, rather than in any specific formal representations. 

Looking southwest to the Partisan's-designed infill addition, image from submission to City of Toronto

Inside the building, a demolition plan is outlined for all existing floors. In the 2-level basement, significant reconfiguration is required to create a commercial floorspace of nearly 4,000ft², while minimal work is required on the grade/mezzanine level retail unit. For the residential section of the building, a bike parking and amenity level occupies the second floor, and the subsequent floor-plan is relatively consistent from level 3 to 14, comprising 8 units each. 

The penthouse at level 15 features the building’s only 2-storey units that enjoy a loft space on the 16th floor, while the next floor above marks the first level of the 5-storey addition. At level 17, the suites have unique access to the roof of the heritage building in the form of a private terrace. Interestingly,  the three copper domes at the corners of the building, referred to as cupolas, would be repurposed into additional habitable space for the corner units.  

Drawing of upper west elevation shows 5-storey addition above the existing building, image from submission to City of Toronto

As for the heritage work, the proposal outlines a plan for the rehabilitation and restoration of the Canadian Pacific Building on site. The majority of the work to rehabilitate the primary elevations (north and west) involves recreating the entrances on Yonge and King Streets in a style that is true to their original form. The rehabilitation also involves installing new double-glazed windows with louvres for increased thermal performance. Restoration would be focussed on repairing the original stone and masonry, and reinstating the original “Canadian Pacific Building” signage with new metal letters. 

Drawing of west elevation details heritage work on western frontage, image from submission to City of Toronto

UrbanToronto will continue to follow progress on this development, but in the meantime, you can learn more about it from our Database file, 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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