A high-profile development application has been submitted to the City of Toronto, detailing plans to transform the low-rise retail properties at 15 and 19 Bloor Street West into a new ‘supertall’ tower. Coming from the development team of Reserve Properties and Westdale Properties, the proposal would see the construction of a soaring 94-storey residential tower located immediately to the west of The One, achieving ‘supertall’ status with a total height of 301.8 metres. Designed by IBI Group, the tower would deliver 1,262 new dwelling units and become a significant contributor to the City’s desired Yonge - Bloor height peak, situating the tallest structures in the area in close proximity to the prominent intersection.

Looking south t0 the proposed 94-storey 15 Bloor West in context, image from submission to City of Toronto

Currently occupied by a pair of low-rise retail buildings with frontage on the south side of Bloor Street West, the site enjoys a total area of 1,273m², with property lines also along Balmuto Street to the west, a public laneway to the south, and The One’s western lot line to the east. Seeking approval of applications for Official Plan Amendment, Zoning Bylaw Amendment, and Site Plan Approval, the proponents argue that the proposal follows in the policy footsteps of The One, with the goal of delivering new housing in a well served transit node through the development of a landmark tower. 

Looking southwest at the site of 19 Bloor Street West (left), image from Google Maps

The design of the project is characterized by a lack of step-backs, delivering a tower that conveys its verticality openly as a defining quality. Unlike many areas where high-rise development has proliferated across the city, the proponents state that the City has allowed some buildings to be built along this particular stretch of Bloor Street West that rise directly above the street without the use of podiums, creating a ‘canyon effect.' The massing of 19 Bloor West’s design enhances the canyon effect on Bloor, remaining remarkably unchanged for the extent of its 94 floors, while stepping back only on the south and east sides at the third and tenth storeys to offer outdoor amenity spaces.

3D model of future skyline shows the proposal (yellow) in the context of the Bloor Street canyon, image by UrbanToronto Forum contributor steveve

Another key aspect of the design is seen at the very top of the tower, where a sloped crown is used to conceal the rooftop mechanical facilities. This angled volume is the only deviation from the otherwise orthogonal character of the tower’s design, and adds some nuance to the profile of a structure that will take on a prominent role in the northern Downtown skyline. 

As for the tower’s exterior finishes, the architectural drawings indicate that concrete is not featured in the building’s exterior expression, despite its central role as a finishing material in the surrounding context. Instead, white metal panelling is the cladding of choice for the extent of the tower, employed to create the offset rectangular pattern that defines the facade expression on all sides. Meanwhile, vision glass and spandrel glass comprise the bulk of the building envelope.

Looking south to the exterior expression of the tower, image from submission to City of Toronto

While aligning with the City’s goals for residential intensification in Major Transit Station Areas (MTSAs), however, some aspects of the proposal may make it susceptible to project-altering criticisms from the City, the separation distances between the proposed tower and its neighbouring structures likely to be a point of contention. With a distance of just 14.75 metres separating it from 35 Balmuto Street to the south, and 15 metres to the taller The One to the immediate east, the project falls well short of the City’s standard minimum of 25 metres. The proponents argue, however, that smaller separation distances have been allowed in this specific area.

The cause for the smaller separation distances, the proponents state, comes from the design of the tower, which has been drafted with a floor-plate of 898m² in order to accommodate the “necessary functions of the building” — the larger elevator core, stairs, and structural systems needed in such a tall structure. For years now, the City has made a point to limit tower floor-plates to an area of 750m² in the interest of minimizing shadow impacts, but do recognize that taller structures can exceed that standard minimum. With the City's vague wording in this regard, it remains to be seen whether a reduction to the proposal's floor-plate could be a request from the City in order to improve the separation distances. 

Plan view shows tight separation distances between neighbouring towers, image from submission to City of Toronto

Additionally, the project may run into trouble over the ratio of elevators to units. The plans indicate that the tower would be served by a total of eight elevators, representing a ratio of 157.75 units per elevator. While the City has not yet established a minimum standard for elevator ratios, generally 100 units per elevator is taken as a benchmark, with higher numbers of units per elevator resulting in increasing wait times that can be costly for residents. 

The Floor Space Index, or FSI, is also to be noted here; at 61.87 times the lot coverage, it is the highest we have seen on a proposal in Toronto. The only other proposal with a number close to that is 1200 Bay, only a block away on the northwest corner of Bloor and Bay streets. Its FSI request is 61.68 times coverage of the lot area. That proposal is not approved, but for reasons beyond just FSI. The next highest FSI requests we see are for 399 Yonge Street at 51.7 times lot coverage, 295 Jarvis Street at 48.86 times lot coverage, and on down with several proposals in the 40x range, as well as several in the 30x range. The One, immediately to the east and with a larger lot, has an FSI of 30.1 for the expanded version, if it is approved. These numbers come from UTPro data

The proposal is the first new development application of this year that is seeking approval for a ‘supertall’ tower. How the City and proponents work through potential points of contention will be an interesting story to follow. 

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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UrbanToronto has a research service, UrbanToronto Pro, that provides comprehensive data on construction projects in the Greater Toronto Area—from proposal through to completion. We also offer Instant Reports, downloadable snapshots based on location, and a daily subscription newsletter, New Development Insider, that tracks projects from initial application.

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