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Will new condo transform Yonge-Dundas Square?

Posted by Chris Bateman / February 15, 2013

toronto yonge dundas condoYonge-Dundas Square could be about to get its first mixed-use residential towers if Toronto and East York Community Council gives the go-ahead later this month. The 39-storey cluster of towers will sit between Victoria Street and O'Keefe Lane and provide one of the clearest views of Toronto's most famous intersection.

The project involves renovating two designated heritage properties on the south side of the square and demolishing a third between Victoria Street and O'Keefe Lane. The new towers would rise behind the remaining structures, known as the Hermant Buildings, and provide a mix of retail and office space at grade and residential units nearer the top.

toronto dundas squareThe Hermant Buildings, two art-deco inspired former factories, were built in 1913 and 1929 and will house office space. The smaller of the pair, located roughly midway between Victoria and Yonge streets, was briefly the tallest in Toronto though it stands at just nine floors.

Both were owned by Percy Hermant, founder of the Imperial Optical Company which was once the largest glasses and eyewear manufacturer in Canada. The business operated out of the buildings and carried the company's logo on its Dundas Street side for many years.

The pair are cited for the detailed exterior and decorative metalwork that will be restored under the construction conditions outlined by the city. The Section 37 agreements on the table would also provide public artwork and cash for new green spaces in the neighbourhood.toronto yonge dundasThe new structure will comprise several towers of different height towers, the tallest of which will feature a penthouse apartment with panoramic views of the city. Smaller 38- and 40-storey buildings will be built on the same site with entrances on Victoria Street.

"It has a huge profile, obviously it'll be visible from the square, so it has quite a cachet in that regard." says David Dow, principal of Diamond Schmitt Architects. "We've really tried to create a building that has a bit of a different look than many of the all-glass buildings out there. The pre-cast vertical panels on it will create a different look."

The design is a joint venture by Diamond and Schmitt and Page + Steele IBI Group on behalf the owner of the heritage buildings. "It's a project that's been in the works for quite a while so we're pretty enthused by it now," adds Dow. "We've got the working drawings complete and once the approvals are in place we're hoping to see things move quickly."

Here are some quick stats:

Height: 39 floors, 122.5 metres
Residential units: 362
Parking spaces: 70
Total gross floor area: 30,980 square metres
Total residential space: 21,800 sq. m.
Total office space: 8,150 sq. m.
Total retail space: 230 sq. m.

The rental units will be the latest to arrive in the area between Queen and Dundas since the giant Massey Condos were announced this time last year. Do you think more residential units on this section of Yonge will improve the neighbourhood? What do you think of the plans to keep the heritage buildings?

The site plan will go before Toronto and East York Community Council later this month with recommendations from the city planning division that the project be given the green light. If it's approved, the developers will be able to start construction immediately.toronto yonge dundas condoChris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Images: Diamond and Schmitt Architects and PAGE + STEELE IBI Group, Derek Flack/blogTO, City of Toronto and City of Toronto Archives

Discussion

42 Comments

JD / February 15, 2013 at 02:30 pm
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Ugly, boring, unimaginative, and no doubt, cheap - the Toronto School of Architecture. It actual looks like the backend of the building is facing the square. How can people who dedicate their lives to designing and building structures seem to fail so consistently. Are these architects or accountants?
Emz replying to a comment from JD / February 15, 2013 at 02:48 pm
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agreed.. for such a supposedly significant location in the city, could they not have come up with something more generic and utilitarian looking? Might as well go bold or don't go at all.. too much riding on that intersection
Khristopher / February 15, 2013 at 02:48 pm
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SO unbelievably boring! This should not be allowed. This area of town should be anything but boring architecture. It doesn't even compliment the HNR tower!
Aaron / February 15, 2013 at 02:54 pm
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"Ugly, boring, unimaginative, cheap"

Just like Yonge-Dundas Square!
CondoTO / February 15, 2013 at 03:04 pm
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"Boring, unimaginative" like many commenters on this site. Get a life, really. If you can do better, pitch your artistic renderings and stop complaining!
asdflkn / February 15, 2013 at 03:08 pm
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It should be 3 times higher. seems a bit conservative to me, for such a prominent location.
Greg / February 15, 2013 at 03:14 pm
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It's troubling that such an uninspiring building can be approved in such a prominent location. My main concern is shadows on Yonge Dundas Square from the building mid-day.
Rex / February 15, 2013 at 03:14 pm
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If there's ever a spot where a loud, brash, colourful tower belongs, it's this exact location. The 30-year-old office towers at the adjacent Eaton Centre are more exciting. This looks cheap and bland.
milo / February 15, 2013 at 03:16 pm
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i dunno why such ugly buildings are preserved.

there's a lot of beautiful ones we should keep obviously but the Hermant Buildings are not on that list.
Rob / February 15, 2013 at 03:16 pm
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It'll transform Y/D Square, for sure.

It'll transform it from a soulless, poorly-conceived facsimile of a genuine international center city public (really private though) square into a soulless, poorly-conceived facsimile of a genuine international center city public (really private though) square with cookie cutter uninspired condos jutting up against it.
architecutre replying to a comment from JD / February 15, 2013 at 03:20 pm
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" Ugly, boring, unimaginative, and no doubt, cheap - the Toronto School of Architecture."

Hardly any city in the world is immune from this, and in fact every North American city that exists has this problem. This is not unique to Toronto. Stop it.
qqwe / February 15, 2013 at 03:29 pm
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People actually like living next to noise?
Bubba / February 15, 2013 at 03:35 pm
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you want to improve Dundas Square, TARE IT DOWN and start over and ban all billboards and advertising in the square.
JL / February 15, 2013 at 03:52 pm
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Downtown is definitely becoming Vancouver-ized...there is nothing left for anyone without a tremendous amount of disposable income. With that said, knowing the area around Dundas Square, most affluent people aren't going to be interested in the noise, the lights, the crowds; why not (like what Vancouver is doing) micro-lofts for people getting on their feet, at this location? At least there would be one option for those without the money to afford one of the new high-end spaces to be built soon. And they would be within walking distance to entry-level jobs, services, and schools.
Todd Toronto replying to a comment from CondoTO / February 15, 2013 at 03:58 pm
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I also can't play hockey as well as any of the Maple Leafs. Therefore I (we) shouldn't complain when they're not playing well.
TorontoLove / February 15, 2013 at 04:09 pm
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Ugly, like the rest of Young and Dundas.
Chris! / February 15, 2013 at 04:21 pm
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Hey look, those heritage buildings are wearing a 1990s Marriott as a hat!
Jack / February 15, 2013 at 04:39 pm
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Why would you want to live there? It'll be like that Seinfeld episode with the neon red Kenny Rogers Chicken sign messing up Kramer's rods and cones!
Jeff Goebel / February 15, 2013 at 04:45 pm
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As long as somebody tells them, oh God I hope somebody tells them. It might be loud. Things happen here. I don't want to read 5 years from now the tenants complain the noise is too loud and could we please move Dundas Square. I think this is what is happening to all the people who bought Condo's in Toronto's club district. They want us to move the club district now. And are winning....
iSkyscraper / February 15, 2013 at 04:49 pm
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It is true that most of the commenters have literally zero knowledge of the economics of designing, constructing and selling a condo, which is of course the great handbrake on all design in piss-poor Toronto, but hey, don't that stop you from whining about the appearance of the building based on a single distant elevation.

It might also be noted that Toronto is somewhat spoiled by all of the condo construction and pretty much any other city on the continent (except perhaps Vancouver) would be drooling over the prospect of such a building at such a location no matter what the style.

As to living at Yonge-Dundas, there is a market for everything. There are recent condo building in Times Square in New York too, go figure.

Diamond and Schmitt and Page + Steele in a JV? Wow, what an odd arranged marriage that must be. Let's hope that DS handles the envelope and public details while P+S does the units.
steve replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / February 15, 2013 at 05:40 pm
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For every new proposal the usual whiners come out of the woodwork with the same litany of complaints.
A drab boring city living in the past seems to be their agenda. Everything they see is a bland boring glass box.
Aaron replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / February 15, 2013 at 05:58 pm
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"It might also be noted that Toronto is somewhat spoiled by all of the condo construction and pretty much any other city on the continent (except perhaps Vancouver) would be drooling over the prospect of such a building at such a location no matter what the style."

This is hilarious! Who 'drools' over cheap, POS buildings? Who feels 'spoiled' by the proliferation of condos? Maybe teenaged development nerds, skyscraper freaks or skyline dorks - the types who spend their free time taking photos of construction sites and posting them online for all their little buddies to masturbate over? But what about the other 99.9% of the population - the women, the adult men who don't rely on the girth and height of their 'ahem' skyline in order to feel 'manly' lol

If there are people who would actually drool over the 'prospect' of this.. thing.. lol... I hope they get help they need, and keep their drooling asses the fuck away from me!
Kumar OMalley / February 15, 2013 at 06:41 pm
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Historic eyeglass factory becomes vertical douchebag storage facility #2,346. Film at 11.
JMac replying to a comment from Aaron / February 15, 2013 at 06:55 pm
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iSkyscraper is right. And it's not just skyscraper nerds (like him) who would be drooling over development like this in most other North American cities.

How about all the people who work in the trades and construction who would be out of work if it weren't for this huge construction boom?

Or people living in the sprawling cities in the US where everyone leaves downtown after 5 PM and no one wants to live there?

I really don't understand all the hating on condos. We're really lucky to live in a city with a booming, intensifying downtown.
jameson / February 15, 2013 at 07:13 pm
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Just googling this quickly, I notice that Urban Toronto ran a similar article in 2011

http://urbantoronto.ca/news/2011/03/new-39-storey-mixed-use-building-coming-21-dundas-square

Look at the renderings. I think that the insistence on preserving these heritage buildings has made the builder sacrifice finish on the new building. It's a shame. To me, I question the heritage value of these buildings.
Jimmy / February 15, 2013 at 07:28 pm
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Condos are like women: they're never pretty and affordable. They are one or the other. Just like my woman, she is affordable but not pretty.
Brian / February 15, 2013 at 07:40 pm
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Lets steal a great idea.
Mona Lisa spiral towers from Mississauga.

They would be ore iconic yonge dundas
Alex / February 15, 2013 at 09:11 pm
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One by one, at a quick pace, Toronto continues to be ripped apart. If things are being replaced and upgraded, there is no effort here whatsoever in coming up with beauty or something replicating the real Toronto. Toronto is really close to finished.
JahWobble / February 15, 2013 at 10:21 pm
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Does Yonge and Dundas really need to be transfomed? I think its pretty good the way it is UNLESS your gonna take it back to the 80's-90's when there was stuff like Mr. Jerk, Head Shops, Flea Markets, Arcades, it was grittier but it was Yonge and Dundas.
Juda / February 15, 2013 at 10:31 pm
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We should do something really ground breaking, really noticable at Yonge and Dundas to put it on the map. Something that people will want to say they've experienced like worlds tallest casino, topless casino, revolving casino, fastest monorail, Canadian Wildlife Zoo/Sanctuary with Bears, Birds, Horses, Deer, everything would be in cages but it would all be native to Canada so as a visitor or a city dweller you'd get to experience some of Canada's amazing wildlife without leaving the city...
Aaron replying to a comment from JMac / February 15, 2013 at 11:05 pm
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Really? And when unrelenting condo construction becomes a false economy, what then? What happens when supply far outstrips demand, when the cheapest possible POS buildings are literally barfed up - not because there's any real demand - but only because flippers and speckers think they can make a quick buck off of them due to the availability of almost free money? Are those sustainable jobs - dependant upon never-ending condo construction?

And seriously, if you're going to drool over this mundane, could-be-anywhere, piece of crap, you must be drooling full time, every time you pass any nondescript cheapo building in any city, or anywhere in the GTA.

I'll bet there were a lot of drooolers in Miami back in 2007. Ask them if they're still drooling.
Jack Augh / February 16, 2013 at 12:26 am
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Yet another ugly glass box in the Tdot. When will Torontonians ever learn?
Flo / February 16, 2013 at 10:11 am
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UGLY!! Where is the WOW factor? It looks cheap.
JudaOogaboogabooga replying to a comment from Juda / February 16, 2013 at 12:07 pm
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Okay, clearly Juda is crazy, but she has a point. Something really wild/fascinating at this location is desperately needed. Even if say there was one floor mid way up that was a simple aquarium. (Okay...now I'VE been smoking whatever Juda's been into). Or, like the suggestion of the 'Marilyn Monroe' buildings...something iconic has to be there to truly define the square. Like say the flatiron bldgs in NYC, etc.
JMac replying to a comment from Aaron / February 16, 2013 at 02:38 pm
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Ok so your main complaint is that these condos are too drab. I'm guessing you want something a little fancier and creative. Doesn't that make you the skyscraper nerd that you were complaining about earlier?

First and foremost condos are housing. Entertaining and inspiring passers by is secondary. There are actually very few places in the world where the majority of housing is beautiful with very high quality materials - Manhattan is one example. Sure, in Toronto there are some beautiful buildings like the new Four Seasons, Shangri La, L Tower, etc., and that's great. But these are incredibly expensive and condos shouldn't just be for the ultra rich. They're an accessible form of home ownership compared to single family houses which are out of reach in the GTA for almost anyone.

This building is a fine looking building, and it fits in nicely in a city (based on the rendering here anyway - I'd be curious to see its base and other details), even if it wouldn't in an architecture gallery.

As for the condo market, there are some key differences between Toronto now and Miami circa 2007 - they're not comparable. Will there be a market correction? Maybe. But that's not a reason to hate the condo boom, and I think basically everyone working in the construction industry would agree. People who are looking to purchase a home in the city would also agree.
Don / February 16, 2013 at 05:51 pm
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agree with JMac..a person with thoughtful restraint. Over-reaction here to what might just be sensible planning.
gbenji / February 16, 2013 at 10:21 pm
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says David Dow, principal of Diamond Schmitt Architects. "We've really tried to create a building that has a bit of a different look than many of the all-glass buildings out there. The pre-cast vertical panels on it will create a different look."

How sad this architect thinks vertical strip of pre-cast makes this building somehow unique and interesting. This city really needs to raise the bar - incredibly banel, lacking in imagination, creativity and innovation.
Rob / February 17, 2013 at 09:46 am
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Get 'er up cheap, sell 'er to some foreign scumbag at a heavy discount, jack up the price for Torontonians once they've pre-sold.

Rinse, repeat. This city sucks.
Alex / February 19, 2013 at 11:00 am
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I think it looks nice. An iconic tower would be great, but then nobody could afford it, that stuff is expensive. Toronto is expensive enough to live in as it is, we need some cheap(relative) housing for normal people to live in too, and buildings like this help cover that. Hope the people living in it buy really thick curtains and some noise blockers though.
McKegs / February 20, 2013 at 12:12 am
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Needs a Starbucks on top.
iSkyscraper replying to a comment from Aaron / February 21, 2013 at 11:35 am
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You might want to pick better references for your arguments. Miami real estate market is doing extremely well in 2013 precisely because all those buildings got built and tipped the scales in terms of spurring further development (retail, restaurants, institutional, transport upgrades, etc.) and made the city more livable. Downtown Miami used to be a ghost town - go look at it now. Sure their speculation bubble burst but the city is benefiting in the long run.

JMac is not entirely correct -- there are many, many shoddy buildings in Manhattan, especially residential, but that's not the point. As he notes, mo' buildings equals mo' housing, and mo' housing equals mo' city. It would not take long for me to google search a dozen cities where they practically throw a parade at the prospect of a single residential building being built in their barren downtowns. And I'm not talking Buffalo or Detroit, I'm talking real cities. For example, the fact that downtown Dallas tripled its entire residential population from 2,198 in 2000 to 6,069 in 2010 was cause for a major newspaper article there -- over what would be a rounding error at CityPlace. That's the drool. But anyone who has ever spent time in other cities would realize this, it's so obvious.

As I said, Toronto is spoiled. Big picture, it's great to see these condos continuing to pop up. Fine tune the urbanity of the buildings, sure, but on the whole this will be looked back on as a great golden period for the development of the city.
R Prize replying to a comment from JD / May 29, 2013 at 01:04 pm
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21 Dundas Square is one of the most toxic buildings in Toronto. Hazmat teams used to visit there regularly; maybe they still do. Spend 20 or so years working in that building, and tell me what you finish off with - cancer, Parkinson's, it's not historic at all, but they don't want to tear it down because of the pollution it would create downtown. It was used during the war to manufacture radium instruments, and that's what made it toxic.

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