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83-storey condo atop Holt Renfrew creeps toward reality

Posted by Chris Bateman / April 4, 2013

toronto bloor westThe Holt Renfrew Centre at 50 Bloor Street West is due for a serious makeover in the next couple of years. If developers get their way, the existing low-rise shopping centre will be renovated, expanded and topped by a gigantic residential tower so tall it could pip the Aura project under construction at Yonge and Gerrard as the tallest condo in the city.

The designs, recently chewed over by Toronto's Design Review Panel, call for a new 83-storey condo - five metres taller than Aura's projected height - and a totally reworked street-level facade. The familiar concrete edifice between Bay and Yonge streets will be radically altered by the addition of new retail space and other architectural embellishments, including large helpings of glass.

toronto bloor westThe DRP praised the design for its "jewel box" look and the glazed "portal" that would terminate Balmuto Street. The size of the building, while huge even compared to surrounding buildings, was considered appropriate for its location between two major intersections on a busy artery.

The panel felt the building fell short in its proximity to neighbouring towers and potential shadow impact on the Jesse Ketchum Schoolyard on Davenport Road (yep, it's that tall). There was also criticism of the "overly grand" vehicle loading area off Mayfair Mews and lack of a mid-block pedestrian connection between Bloor and Cumberland Street.

The exterior roof deck above the mixed-use podium will be publicly accessible but the DRP thought there needed to be a clearer way to access it from Bloor Street. In the end, the group voted unanimously for refinements, not a total overhaul of the design.toronto bloor westWhat do you think of the new look for Bloor between Bay and Yonge. Is this an appropriate place for what could be Toronto's tallest residential tower? Is this an improvement on the existing Holt Renfrew Centre?


Projected height: 277 metres
Number of floors: 83
Podium height: 36 metres
Podium floors: 8
Total floor area: 111,660 square metres
Non-residential floor area: 41,080 square metres
Bloor Street facade length: 115 metres
Residential units: 600
Bachelor units: 75
1-bedroom units: 275
2-bedroom units: 200
3-bedroom units: 50
Parking spaces: 620 (below grade)
Bike spaces: 292 (8th floor)

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Images: Sweeny Sterling Finlayson & Co. Architects Inc.



BillyO / April 4, 2013 at 10:35 am
The height of the tower is fine, given what is already built (new Four Seasons) and what's to come (1 Bloor at 75 stories) nearby. The public elected park is fantastic and will be unlike anything ever seen in toronto. Rather than concerning ourselves with the height (it won't be that much taller than 1 Bloor) they should fix how the parking garage meets the street, making it more pedestrian friendly.
Al / April 4, 2013 at 10:39 am
Didn't the Jessie Ketchum School already get a big payoff from another condo that cast shadows on them? If they get paid off again, they'll be the best funded school in the city.
kdiddy / April 4, 2013 at 10:57 am
beautiful. when can i move in?
GRAARG / April 4, 2013 at 11:06 am
Awesome. Let's make a dozen more 80 storey condos. And let's put them all in areas where the tarffic is totally maxed out and the subway stations are already complete sardine factories. Y'know Yonge and Bloor (both the roads and the subway) has sooo much excess capacity we should increase density more.
Dan replying to a comment from GRAARG / April 4, 2013 at 12:03 pm
Yonge & Bloor subway station is maxed out going south in the morning rush. Why would someone who lives at Yonge & Bloor need to take the subway south when it is an easy walk or bike ride? The overloading on our subway system is caused by people who live outside the core coming into it. We should be encouraging more people to live in the core, and build the appropriate infrastructure to allow them to walk or bike to work and amenities.
what / April 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm
Concern over a "lack of a mid-block pedestrian connection between Bloor and Cumberland Street."

What? Why?

It already exists

You just have to walk inside, down a flight of stairs, walk a hundred feet, walk up a flight of stairs, go the f outside onto Cumberland - that nobody does, ever.
Robert replying to a comment from what / April 4, 2013 at 01:38 pm
Cumberland Terrace is also being redeveloped. good thing too.
G / April 4, 2013 at 01:46 pm
The public rooftop park is a brilliant way to retrofit dense neighbourhoods with green space. I hope this becomes a trend (or even a requirement) in Toronto.
What replying to a comment from Robert / April 4, 2013 at 02:22 pm
Ahhhh I see. I see that I am not paying attention.

The south side of that underground was fine. The food court = depressing hellhole.
John Labat / April 4, 2013 at 03:49 pm
Its nice place to live when the bills start rolling in there will be a lot of people swan diving off the 83rd floor.
iSkyscraper / April 4, 2013 at 04:31 pm
anon / April 4, 2013 at 05:16 pm
I'm glad that the design review panel actually is looking at things like the impact on the pedestrian realm. It's too bad they have no teeth. It's also too bad Toronto doesn't have any rules about cohesive neighbourhoods - Yorkville is a historic neighbourhood with it's own character, and while change and growth are inevitable, it would be nice if new builds could fit in stylistically or pay some sort of nod to what was. Otherwise we'll just become a bland city of identical glass facades.
Architect / April 5, 2013 at 06:31 am
Being an architect, I can see some amateur errors in the design. A. It seems wider at the top judging by the photograph and B. during construction, adequate pedestrian safety will have to be considered and clearly thought out prior to occupant, being an architect and one familiar with the HR building, the roof will need significant strengthening to withhold the proposed amount of residential flooring.
yyz123 / April 5, 2013 at 11:25 am
I wish the sidewalk is wider. This is a common problem of Toronto as a city.
Donovan / April 5, 2013 at 11:47 pm
Architect: You don't sound like an architect. They will be demo'ing HR haha NOT building on top of it lol. That made me laugh so hard. Thank you! :)
JP / April 6, 2013 at 03:23 am
Not a boring box, and in a place where more density is a good thing. I approve.

Condos can be gross if they're ugly or poorly placed, but having more people live downtown is good for Toronto. Lively dense streetscape, safer, better for the environment and better for highway traffic (as fewer people will be commuting from the burbs).

Just get the DRL built, and we'll all feel much better about 80 story buildings going up.
cr / June 17, 2013 at 11:50 am
Holt Renfrew will stay open during the condo construction. The store will also be renovating in two years.
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Jansje Stramwasser / March 10, 2016 at 12:23 pm
I am excited about the buildings going up on 1 Bloor East and 1 Bloor West and eventually the tower above HR. It will allow people to live in the heart of the city with PATH access to shopping, cinemas and above all public transportation. That's the way to go Toronto - living downtown that way means that one does not need a car and occasional rental of one will do.
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