mini midrise

This is what homes in Toronto could look like in the future

Barely a week goes by in Toronto these days without seeing a new condo plan. The future of the city seems crowded but one architect has an alternative to the massive towers popping up everywhere in the city.

Main streets could see more intensification without condo towers, says Naama Blonder, architect and urban designer with Smart Density, and there is a need for affordable housing and density on main streets.

Smart Density came up with the conceptual idea of a mini midrise, which is a six-storey building on a single lot with 10 residential units and a retail or commercial unit on the ground floor.

Typically, condo developments require six lots, making it cost prohibitive. Blonder calls the mini midrise a "fresh approach within the Missing Middle framework."

Toronto building regulations mean a mini midrise must be built on a main street such as Yonge, College, Dundas or Bloor. Smart Density came up with a conceptual design for a real property on Dundas Street near Kensington Market and won the Ontario Association of Architects SHIFT2021 Resiliency/Architecture Challenge.

The concept is a very narrow-looking building.

"That's because the property was narrow, very narrow but it's part of its charm," says Blonder.

It is six storeys because that is what is allowed on many main streets in Toronto. The concept design, while narrow, is also deep, allowing for two or three bedroom units at about 750 to 1,000 square feet.

The award drew the attention of developers looking to build a mini midrise, Blonder says. But so far there hasn't been a solid plan to move forward.

"We are currently reviewing several properties with several partners to see how we can implement it," she says.

She presented the concept to the City of Toronto, which liked the idea, but there are a few challenges to getting one built.

"Land is very expensive, for example," she says.

The concept also didn't include parking because it is on a main street close to transit but some developers may see that as a drawback.

And while she thought the idea might appeal to small "mom and pop" businesses, so far around five to 10 developers have contacted Smart Density.

"You don't need to be the big guys to do this and, and that's why I mentioned the moms and pops who own a two storey or one storey building on a main street could have developed without that same access to capital," she says.

Blonder believes a mini midrise will be built soon in Toronto.

"We hope to see one of them in the next few years come to reality."

Lead photo by

Smart Density


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