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Is Bay & Bloor in danger of becoming a condo jungle?

Posted by Chris Bateman / April 15, 2014

toronto yorkvilleFour major residential towers planned for the south end of Yorkville, near Bloor and Bay, are putting the local area on course for a "disturbing" future, the chair of the city's Design Review Panel says.

The group of experts who advise city staff about how to blend new developments with the public realm is worried the size of condos proposed at 50 Bloor Street West, 2 Bloor Street West (which already has OMB approval,) 37 Yorkville Avenue, and 1 Yorkville Avenue could ruin the livability of the upscale neighbourhood.

The developments paint "a clear and disturbing picture" for Yorkville and the surrounding area, Gordon Stratford, the review panel chair, said in his summary of the Bloor-Yorkville Study in March (the details of the meeting were only made public yesterday.) "It shows a growing cumulative impact that puts this area of the city at serious risk."

toronto yorkvilleBloor between Yonge and Bay is a prime target for what planners call "intensification" - the practice of encouraging an area to grow vertically - because of its location at a major subway interchange, but with several tall buildings already in the area, including the Hudson's Bay Centre, the CIBC tower at 2 Bloor West, and the Four Seasons Hotel, the experts are getting nervous.

The members of the panel "felt the assembly of projects would not deliver in terms of complexity of experience, aesthetic pleasure, and quality of life," according to their report. "They expressed unanimous concern and caution about whether this was an appropriate direction for the development of the City, suggesting that they would result in an over-crowded and unpleasant environment, the consequences of which should be seriously considered."

The panel were also troubled by the anticipated lack of public space, parks, wind protection and natural sunlight if all of the projects were allowed to be built as currently designed. The wall created by the towers would cast places like Jessie Ketchum Park and Town Hall Square in shadow at peak times of the day, they said.

The 70-storey, 234-metre 1 Bloor East tower, currently under construction on the southeast corner of Yonge and Bloor, will also become a factor when it tops out in the next year or so.

50 YorkvilleIn response, the panel suggested the buildings that have yet to receive approval should be scaled back, reduced in density and lowered in height. The proposal for 50 Bloor Street West, which started out as an 83-storey behemoth, has been significantly trimmed and streamlined since the plans surfaced last April, judging from the latest images.

The panel also lamented "the 'first to the post' style of development" that has arisen without a proper planning framework for Yorkville. "This could end up compromising the very quality of the neighbourhood that currently makes it so attractive."

City staff will consider the Design Review Panel's findings as the proposals move through the approval process.

Are you concerned about the development near Bloor Street? Is the panel justified in their concern or should transit nodes like this be allowed to become dense with towers?

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

Images: Wallman Architects, Minto Group; R. Varacalli Architect Inc., NAK Design Group, ERA Architects; Pellow & Associates, Morguard Corp.

Discussion

30 Comments

Al / April 15, 2014 at 02:37 pm
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The area contains both intersections of the two main lines. If anywhere in the city can withstand density, that's the place.
BillyO / April 15, 2014 at 02:39 pm
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It's a whole lot of hot air...this is one part of downtown where tall buildings need to be. With that being said, how these buildings meet the street is important - I agree with the panel on that.
Barn / April 15, 2014 at 03:03 pm
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Remember that what made Yorkville was a 19th century village streetscape. That's almost all gone. And the notion that this is a good location for giant condo towers because it's on the subway is spurious: these are buildings for people who won't even live here, never mind ride a subway. Traffic is already gridlocked in the area thanks to 'progressive' initiatives: more crosswalks, more lights, the Yonge/Bloor X crossing. The snarl of Mercedes-Benz and BMW SUVS will only intensify.
... replying to a comment from Barn / April 15, 2014 at 03:11 pm
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Awww...someone sounds poor.
J / April 15, 2014 at 03:16 pm
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I think this is a little blown out of proportion. Most of these towers will likely greatly improve the existing conditions of their respective sites. The wallman tower is replacing an eyesore of a parking garage, the Holt Renfrew tower will no doubt be an improvement over cumberland terrace, and 1 Yorkville looks to be restoring a whole stretch of Yonge Street. If anything I think Yorkville proper could do with a little more regeneration - a good chunk of it's made up of pretty horrendous 70's architecture.
aporia replying to a comment from ... / April 15, 2014 at 03:21 pm
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Yay, and someone else sounds snarky. One need not be poor to look down on those who worship bling.
chester replying to a comment from ... / April 15, 2014 at 03:39 pm
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That was the best response to a nagging hipster rant lol.
N / April 15, 2014 at 03:43 pm
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I think 80 Bloor is also being forgotten.... http://urbantoronto.ca/news/2013/11/soaring-tower-proposed-80-bloor-street-west-bay
Rick / April 15, 2014 at 03:43 pm
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I live just south of this area, on Bay north of Wellesley and I think the area could definitely support more density. There are several subway stops nearby so it's basically perfect for tall residential buildings. I would like more parkland as well though.
Doug replying to a comment from J / April 15, 2014 at 03:49 pm
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Totally agree with your last statement... it's an uphill battle though with the NIMBYs and established interests - witness the proposal for York Square

http://www.blogto.com/city/2014/02/heritage_buildings_could_derail_yorkville_condo_project/
iSkyscraper / April 15, 2014 at 03:49 pm
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The DRP is undermining its own authority if it keeps saying "no" to everything. This is real world development, not a classroom studio assignment. If they are going to pooh-pooh density on top of the one major subway interchange in the city people will stop listening to them and any opportunity to make actual change will be lost.

If I was them I would focus on one or two elements I don't like that could reasonably be changed without disrupting the entire business model.
David G Elliott / April 15, 2014 at 03:50 pm
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This is a joke. Let the city BUILD for f's sake. These people and committees and studies are just a waste of time. No wonder nothing ever gets done in Toronto.
steve / April 15, 2014 at 04:04 pm
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Will never understand the need of some who think Toronto should be some kind of sleepy rural town that never changes. It is the fourth largest city in NA. If you want small, rural or whatever pleases you go build a life style a place that suits you.
W. K. Lis / April 15, 2014 at 05:02 pm
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Rochdale College reborn at a new location. With the new president coming on board after the October Civic election.
MS replying to a comment from Rick / April 15, 2014 at 05:22 pm
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> Rick said: "I would like more parkland as well though."

That makes you a NIMBY, Rick. Anyone who suggests anything other than maximum development density is one, according to BlogTO staff and commenters.



iliveattheverve / April 15, 2014 at 05:26 pm
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boohoo for the people already living in Yorkville. If they want park space, they can take their helicopters to their weekend homes in Muskoka. The rest of the city isn't immune to condos, so why should they be? If you build it, they will adjust.
toronto dude / April 15, 2014 at 05:42 pm
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as so many have commented...if there is an ideal spot for increased vertical density...this is it. just make sure that the Section 37 money is high enough that legacy parks can be created to increase the livability for all of us.
EW / April 15, 2014 at 05:47 pm
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I moved to Toronto a year and a half ago, and already I find myself saying enough with the fackin' condo projects. Seriously.
rob / April 15, 2014 at 06:54 pm
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PEOPLE we are a metropolis,get with the growth program. yonge an bloor is the gateway to the city an also considered a landmark
Brian / April 15, 2014 at 07:31 pm
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This article is asinine. Yorkville is supposed to be our 5th Ave. Ever been there? How many low->mid rise buildings did you see?

Look, intensification is often a bad thing in Toronto. We probably don't need more condos at Yonge & Eg, or Wilson and Bathurst, Yonge and Finch, on the Danforth, Sheppard East, etc etc etc. God knows we don't need any more on the Lakeshore.

That said, Bloor/Yonge is THE PERFECT place to put them. It is already filled with eyesores and uninspiring, soulless, architecture. It is supposed to be the centre of our bustling metropolis. We'd be fools not to expand vertically there.

I implore GridTO to use more critical thinking when screening their submissions. I thought you aspired to be more than a glorified soap box for people who don't like to actually use their heads.
Christopher King replying to a comment from ... / April 15, 2014 at 08:13 pm
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awwwww. Someone sounds like a complete ass
Veal / April 15, 2014 at 08:25 pm
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Once again the Design Review Panel oversteps its bounds. This unelected unaccountable body should be shut down if they can't stick to their knitting.
Simon / April 15, 2014 at 08:49 pm
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If anything this is the perfect spot for condo development. The neighbourhood's already expensive, so no-one will get displaced by rising housing costs. It's next to the busiest interchange station in the subway system and within steps of thousands of financial jobs that the inhabitants of the new towers would occupy, so it wouldn't overcrowd the system with new commuters, and it already looks like shit that everyone avoids if at all possible so the impact of new towers at street level will be inconsequential. The yuppie infestation is a fact of life in Toronto. We should be looking toward containment strategies, and focusing new condo development on areas of the city which have either always been enclaves of the wealthy or are lost causes to gentrification is a more viable strategy for keeping the city liveable and affordable than running the risk of finding these towers with their thousands of moneyed residents landing in good, relatively affordable neighbourhoods in decent locations like Bloorcourt or Harbord Village. Quarantine the fuckers so they don't turn the whole city into Liberty Village. Thinking we can stall development in central locations will only cause it to bleed out to other neighbourhoods. Either they build these in Yorkville or they'll build them next to peoples' homes so that you and half the people you know can no longer afford the rent, or in the suburbs so that every seat on the train is taken by some dipshit wearing $600 sunglasses yammering away on his cellphone to investors. It's absurd to think that Yorkville is some quaint little hamlet. It's the busiest intersection in the country paved with solid gold.
John Labatt / April 16, 2014 at 12:12 am
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Lets build 6-8 more 85 story buildings within the same block and lets tear down these old buildings anything over 40 years old should be torn down immediately and replaced with condo's. Any green space remaining should be used for other things such as bars and restaurants and patios. Maybe the new buildings could be made with recycled tires to give it an urban feel.
Reggie / April 16, 2014 at 12:20 am
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Does Yonge and Bloor have a committee? Or even a BIA? It is a hub, a cross roads of downtown and uptown but were still its at risk of loosing it! It is a transit junction poit as well but still some thinkimg has to be put in around the long term of the area
F.W. replying to a comment from ... / April 16, 2014 at 10:00 am
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You say they must be poor like that's an insult. There are a lot more of the poor than there are of the rich, if I were in the latter category I would be worried about getting my comeuppance one of these days.
Jacob / April 16, 2014 at 10:41 am
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But grimy '70s/'80s Toronto was the best, amirite?
Peter / April 16, 2014 at 12:35 pm
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None of these idiots realize that in a number of years from now, the buildings will have to be expanded because the density of ALL areas of the city will continue to rise, you may as well create the infrastructure right now. No one thinks about that in toronto. It's why we still have a subway system that hasn't been updated since the 60s.
Andrew / August 13, 2014 at 03:26 pm
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What Toronto is really in danger of is aesthetically unattractive condos. Example: The first top pic in this article looks like a fairly attractive project (and so does the third). But the second, which is from a Yonge & Eglinton project, looks really depressing to me personally. And Toronto has way too much depressing architecture, with Uptown residences at Yonge & Bloor being a prime example of soulless eyesores. Please, Toronto is a cold city, it needs some warmth with sexy architecture like the U condos which are not even that complex in structure.
Reeskey / September 25, 2014 at 03:32 pm
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Well, I live right on yonge and bloor, precisely in one of Balmuto street new buildings, hence have a couple of thoughts too.

Personally, I love the area and wish it would develop more and more even becoming the hottest metropolitan area in the world, however, with current planning I don't think it's ever going to happen and if it will only after some major pitfalls. Thus, primarily this is due to mediocricity of developers themselves and narrow-mindness of city planners in the long run, in general.

First of all, I agree that the area is perfect place for high rise building development, however, with increasing traffic it would not able to sustain the same pace. Therefore, I do truly believe that there should be already projects to transform this area almost into 2nd level pedestrian space, same way it has been done in Hong Kong, in some aspects, and in NYC, leaving the lower level only for the cars without delayed traffic lights, maybe even for the highway in the future, however there should have been pasenger bridges/tunnels between 1 Bloor East and 1 Bloor West already designed as we speak as well as between 2 Bloor W and 2 Bloor E, accordingly, both heading towards the Holt's inside to the area where the Marriot hotel is now and, perhaps, even via pedestrian plazas/alleys similiar to the ones at TD towers.

Secondly, I really cant wait till all these crappy buildings south of Bloor on Yonge (both sides) will just finally vanish and be replaced with more appropriate ammenities. UofT both residence buildings, Marriott hotel, both old 70s office buildings on Y&B and even Manulife itself, should follow all right away asap too!

Obviously, by bringing up the second (or maybe even third, the second one would just act as walking tunnel) level and designing it as an urban area with parks, patios, squares and courts mixed with art statues or pedestal areas would make an overall area even more vivid and interesting for living. With current engineering technologies, planners could even create classic square areas for civilians with artificial fountains, little gardens and parks re-create originial yorkville image with a fusion 21st century avant garde. Most definitely such all inclusive design approach would attract a lot of creative people into the area too and would magnet perhaps more of a new wave theatres, ultra chic galleries, performance studios, maybe a new art schools, fashion, design/craft studios, exposition venues, auction houses as well as revive boutiques too by bringing some bohemian flare to a bourgeoisie public area...

Thirdly, I also strongly disapprove the idea of bringing up the same buildings as in the case of Casa and X condos. Like why copy and not create something more insteresting and new, instead of Casa type, glassy buildings over and over again. Is it not at least possible perhaps to make even one glassy building using red glass or chocolate color for a change? Or use green, blue, red ornament lighting to make buildings funkier? Obviously, it's more beneficial for the developer who only cares about profit and I dont blame them, however, do city planners really consider same type of building ansamble as well as city silhouette suitable in the long run?

Like I can go on forever, however, there are already very obvious problems with a systematic approach as we see it as there is essentially no conceptual approach of the city at all not even mentioning how it will all interact with traffic, people, living and environment and etc, so there is really no point to speculate here about yorkville if there are still not even highways through the city which imho should definitely be from allen road to gardiner and one accross the city, ie from dvp to 427, thus...

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