chinatown sign toronto

Elaborately-themed building planned for Toronto's Chinatown

A building in Toronto's Chinatown neighbourhood could soon be transformed into a new heavily-themed landmark for the area.

A significant renovation is planned for an existing commercial building at the southeast corner of Spadina and Dundas, presenting the biggest placemaking opportunity for the heart of the city's Chinese-Canadian community in a generation.

A 2023 signage application with the City of Toronto was the first indication that something unique was brewing at 283 Spadina Avenue, and a more recent application reveals that an entirely new design has been proposed that doubles down on Chinese-inspired theming.

chinatown sign toronto

The updated application explains that Kramer Design Associates (KDA) worked closely with the property landlord, Yong Jo, and the Chinatown Business Improvement Area (BIA) to create "a landmark gateway that celebrates this exciting and distinct district."

According to the document, renovations to the existing building include a projecting sign, two digital displays and a "distinctively themed building cladding system."

chinatown sign toronto

The cladding evolves from a similarly textured facade seen in the 2023 iteration. KDA describes the current proposed cladding system as "red, textural and faceted, creating a cohesive, refreshed image for the building that will be both distinctive and iconic."

The projecting sign is designed to read as a contemporary reinterpretation of classic Chinatown signage. Its lettering would be lit from within by a perforated glowing lantern-like structure, presenting the word "Chinatown" in both Traditional Chinese and English.

chinatown sign toronto

In addition to its role as a placemaking beacon for the neighbourhood, the project team also envisions the project's digital displays as hosting community event messages, including displays themed for the Chinese Lunar New Year and the annual summer Toronto Chinatown Festival, as well as advertising content.

chinatown sign toronto

As interesting as this plan may be, the document also notes that the site is being considered for a future redevelopment that would add a mixed-use building to this corner. This future redevelopment would also incorporate digital signage to promote the neighbourhood, though nothing anywhere near as flashy as the current renovation plan.

The proposed renovations follow the thematic cues of the Huron Street Public Square completed in 2018 on the block of Huron north of Dundas Street West, featuring Chinese art pieces, bronze Quilin and lighting to reflect the area's cultural character.

Photos by

KDA/City of Toronto


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