20 front street west toronto

Massive tower could permanently alter an iconic postcard view of Toronto

A freshly-proposed tower in the heart of Toronto's Financial District might forever change the popular postcard view of the city skyline set against the historic flatiron Gooderham Building.

A development application landed on the desks of city planners last week, seeking amendments to the city's Official Plan and zoning by-laws that would permit a 51-storey residential tower to rise from a site at 20-22 Front Street West, just next door from the Hockey Hall of Fame.

20 front street west toronto
The site is currently occupied by a 14-storey office building containing sports bar The Bottom Line on its ground floor along Front Street.

Owner Brookfield Properties intends to salvage the eight-storey south facade of this tower and build out the site with a newer and much taller building containing almost 600 purpose-built rental units and ground-floor retail.

In an interesting twist, this case of facadectomy would mark the second such time this old office tower — constructed as the Gowans Kent Building in 1923 — is reintegrated into a newer and taller build. The current building roughly doubled in size with a vertical from the mid-1980s, which has already outlived the value of the land it sits on.

20 front street west toronto

A heritage report states that the plan involves the in-situ retention of the lower portion of the Gowans Kent Building's south facade, with the levels above to be dismantled, catalogued, salvaged, and later reinstated into the base of the new build.

Renderings show off a tower above featuring a punched window design from KPMB Architects that matches the gridded window pattern of the complex's existing office buildings — eschewing the balconies-everywhere mentality common to residential developments in the city.

The new addition would, unfortunately, block out a large portion of the iconic TD-Canada Trust tower in views from the east.

One of the renderings included in the submission visualizes the effects of this big change, showing the new proposal would become the most prominent building in the iconic Gooderham/Flatiron Building view of Toronto.

20 front street west toronto

The plans represent a reimagining of a long-shelved proposal to construct a third-phase office tower in the Brookfield Place complex that would have closely matched the Postmodern design of the existing TD-Canada Trust and Bay-Wellington Towers.

The market has shifted in the decades since the original complex opened as BCE Place, and owner Brookfield Properties has opted to instead move forward with a residential rental tower in its place.

A rendering of the original 1990 complex offers an idea of what could have been.

20 front street west toronto

The complex's unbuilt third office tower has had zoning approved for decades, but it is now safe to say it will never materialize, as the demand for residential units in the core of the city greatly outpaces the need for office space.

The current proposal, though a departure from the earlier clone of the Brookfield Place office towers, does at least manage to keep in character with the complex's original Postmodern design.

Still, it closes the book on the complex's original vision, which is kind of a shame.

Photos by

KPMB Architects

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