191 college street

Canada's tallest wood tower was just proposed for Toronto

Toronto's real estate scene may be dominated by hulking concrete condo towers, but a developer is proposing to break the mould with a new plan to bring Canada's tallest wooden tower to the heart of the city at 191 College Street.

And here's the real kicker; instead of condos, developer Unix Housing wants to build hundreds of desperately-needed affordable rental units.

A development proposal from mid-May seeks to bring a 31-storey tower to the southwest corner of Henry Street and College Street, replacing a group of buildings at 191, through 199 College Street and 74 and 76 Henry Street.

The site is currently occupied by a group of four three-storey "house-form" semi-detached buildings, with three commercial buildings on College Street, and two residential buildings on Henry Street.

A number of businesses occupying these addresses would be displaced by the proposal, including the Prenup Pub, Katachi Coffee Bar, and a Chatime location.

Though the businesses along College would be replaced, the exteriors of the houses are proposed to live on within the base of the approximately 21,300 square-metre, ICON Architects-designed building.

This would include roughly 1,380 square metres of retail space behind the retained frontages.

191 college street

Looking southeast towards 191 College Street. Rendering by ICON Architects.

The majority of the floor area — at over 19,900 square meters — is proposed as residential space, with a total of 494 purpose-built residential rental units proposed throughout the building.

Out of the total unit count, 408 suites, or over 80 per cent of the total, will be provided and secured as affordable units for a minimum period of 40 years. The remaining units will be standard market rentals.

191 college street

Looking southeast towards the base of 191 College Street. Rendering by ICON Architects.

This massive injection of affordable housing into the critically-low supply of units is being supported by non-capital incentives through the City's 2021 Open Door program, which the developer applied for back in February.

In addition to the much-needed affordable housing, the project aims to set a new standard for high-rise wood construction in Canada.

Using Cross Laminated Timber ("CLT") construction in place of the traditional reinforced concrete method, the tower's sustainable building materials would allow it to cut over 3,300 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

If that isn't green enough for you, the project is also exploring the use of geothermal heating/cooling to reduce emissions.

Its 31-storey height would dwarf Canada's current tallest wood structure, Tallwood House, a student residence at the University of British Columbia that opened in 2017.

The 18-storey building was at the time the highest wood-frame building in the world, though it was surpassed in 2019 by the 85.4-metre Mjøstårnetm, in Brumunddal, Norway.

At approximately 90 metres, 191 College would bring the title of the world's tallest wood building back to Canada. However, the title may not last long, as much taller wood structures have been proposed elsewhere in the world.

Lead photo by

ICON Architects

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