For a while now I’ve been trying to wrap my head around exactly what the plans are for the Queen West Triangle. While the slew of developments slotted for the area have been on my radar, it’s been such a flurry I’ve been having a hard time both keeping them straight and understanding how they relate to one another. In order to aid the public understanding of this contentious group of developments, I have thrown together the following image. While based on material obtained from the City, it is entirely my own interpretation. It is a key — more detailed information follows, below.
Running briefly through the developments…
1171 Queen Street West:
Developed by Baywood Homes, this is the Bohemian Embassy. The images here are sourced directly from the BE website. The settlement with the City allows for two buildings, one on Queen Street which will be eight storeys, and a tower to the Southwest which will be 19 storeys. The lower building will sport a tower element immediately opposite Northcote Avenue with an archway to allow pedestrian traffic through to the “mews” behind. Baywood is offering half a million dollars towards community and arts facilities located in the Triangle.
1181 Queen Street West:
This project is also by Baywood Homes and will be related in form to the Bohemian Embassy. The zoning approval application was only submitted on July 26th of this year. Retail at the base and residential above, it will be eight storeys tall and feature some sort of tower element at the corner of Queen and the proposed Sudbury Street extension.
1155 Queen Street West:
Another project by Baywood Homes, also only recently applied for (August 1st). This will be a nine-storey building with retail at grade and residential above.
The famous 48 Abell loft, long a vibrant community hub for artists, is being developed by Veridoc. The new project will consist of a terraced eight-storey building along the “mews,” anchored by a 14-storey tower to the east, and a 18-storey tower to the west. The buildings will be mixed-use, with retail and workshops at grade and residential above. Of the residential units, 190 will be designated as affordable housing. The west building will be largely affordable and will feature a shared workshop on the ground floor.
photo, taken behind 48 Abell, is by Kevin Steele
150 Sudbury Street
This empty lot will soon be the “Westside Lofts,” developed by Urbancorp. Following Urbancorp’s victory at the OMB, the City was going to take the decision before the Divisional Court. The deal they reached with the developer in October, however, includes dropping the appeal. Although a revised site plan has not yet been approved, the project shall broadly consist of two buildings, one to the west which shall be seven storeys in total, and one to the east which shall be 18 storeys at its highest. The deal secured the land for the Sudbury and Abell Street extensions as well as space for a generous shared courtyard between the 150 Sudbury and 48 Abell developments. In addition, Urbancorp is putting a total of $1.25 million towards moving the Toronto Public Health offices into a new space and the conversion of the grand old Carnegie library on Queen into a “performing arts hub.” Urbancorp will also sell 56,000 square feet of rental units to Artscape, the not-for-profit landlord for artists, at the cost of construction. This will provide over 52 affordable artist live/work studios.
photo by Kevin Steele
45 Lisgar Street
The final settlement between the developer, Medallion Corp, and the City, designates this proposed building as mixed-use, intended for rental. The site shall pretty much be covered with a four-storey base, which will step up to seven storeys to the north, and 14 storeys to the south. The boon of the agreement is that Medallion shall provide free space for a period of 50 years for the Public Health offices soon to be displaced from the Carnegie Library.
Here you can expect another mixed-use building with four-storey facades on both Queen and Gladstone, but stepping up to a total of
eught seven storeys at the rear of the property. City Council approved zoning bylaw bills to this effect in October.
1093 Queen Street West
Also mixed-use, this building will have a “horseshoe” configuration, stepping back from both Queen and Dovercourt. At its highest,
it will the developer would like it to be nine storeys tall, although the city intends to limit the height to 8 storeys.
What I think
First of all, I think the City should be proud of itself for sticking with this and fighting every step of the way to create an excellent neighbourhood. Toronto is so shy of excellence in its urbanism, and often the blame for this lies with the City. In cities there is a constant discussion going on about place, and for most of the history of this city the government has only been a faint whisper in this discussion. The time has come for the City to decisively step up its contribution to placemaking; their contribution to this neighbourhood, especially the deal reached with 150 Sudbury, indicates to me that they are taking an earnest and active interest, something we should be really happy about.
Of course, there are problems to be faced here as well. The design for the Westside Lofts may be okay, but the designs presented for the Bohemian Embassy are an utter embarrassment, and they are going to be right up front-and-centre on Queen. Further, the same developer owns the lands immediately to the east and west of the BE, which does not bode well. The idea of one developer being responsible for three buildings in a row always makes me feel a bit queasy, but if all three are going to be in the vein of the BE, which judging from their initial drawings they are, then this is a seriously bad idea. It seems that steps should be taken to shake this developer out of its apparent thirst for mediocrity. I’m not sure how this is done, but maybe take them to a few art galleries?
Despite the best intentions of the City, I’m afraid I have a feeling of impending doom about all of this. The attempts to retain spaces for artists and affordable housing are honest and well-intentioned. The result, however, will necessarily be the replacement of a vibrant, incidental place which harboured a vibrant culture, with a designed, manufactured place which will be home to a designed, manufactured culture. I wish this was not true, and maybe it isn’t. Hopefully, time will prove me wrong and the Disneyfication that I fear will not come to fruition.