WATERFRONToronto unveils design for East Bayfront development

A “milestone day in the effort to revitalise Toronto’s waterfront”, according to John Campbell, President and CEO of Waterfront Toronto, as the design for the Parkside development was unveiled. Although the item was held in Council earlier in the day and an initial press conference with the architect and Mayor Miller was cancelled, the design is expected to be approved by the end of the current session.

The mixed-use development, designed by internationally-renowned architect, Moshe Safdie, with developer Great Gulf Group, will be a premier residential and commercial building of approximately 36-storeys, rising from a 38-metre high podium base. It will also be the first private sector development in the East Bayfront neighbourhood . Sitting at the bottom of Lower Sherbourne Street, facing Sherbourne park, the tower will extend from Queens Quay, to the South, to Lake Shore Boulevard, to the North. The new building will join the future Corus Entertainment headquarters and the new George Brown College’s Centre for Health Sciences in the first stages of this large scale redevelopment plan.

“The vision for the project”, according to Safdie, “is ‘gardens in the sky’,” who has incorporated various levels of roof gardens and terraces into the scheme. By using a traditional masonry frame, which allows for both recessed glass and areas of floor to ceiling glass, Safdie has been able to maintain a sense of transparency, which he feels many all-glass buildings can lack. While the building has physical transparency, it has also been designed with conceptual transparency in mind, by enabling local residents, workers and visitors to pass through the building and connect to Sherbourne Park, Lake Shore Boulevard or Queens Quay, using walkways in and around the development. This sense of openness is intended to promote a sustainable and liveable community, in combination with ground floor retail, which will run along the edge facing Sherbourne Park.

Safdie says that, for him, ” ‘wow’ is not a criteria for excellence” and believes the profession of architecture is “suffering from capricious and arbitrary wows.” Rather, for his design the first criteria was “What is [the building] offering to those that live in it and what is it offering the City in terms of contributing to the public realm.” His objective is simply, “to create a wonderful environment.”

This is Safdie’s second residential building in Canada (the first being the famous Habitat ’67, his innovative housing scheme from Expo ’67), and second building in Toronto (his first was the expansion of Lester B. Pearson Airport) , although, as he points out, “not that I haven’t tried a few times.” The project design team for the Parkside development also includes Les Klein and Sheldon Levitt of Quadrangle Architects Ltd, Janet Rosenberg of Janet Rosenberg + Associates Landscape Design and Anna Simone of Cecconi Simone Inc.

Images by Moshe Safdie and Associates Inc.


  1. Seems like a nice concept but the problem will be the ridiculous price of this condo.

  2. How exciting, another Condo with ground floor retail. Visitors from around the world will be compelled to bring their dry cleaning to Toronto!

    It is a sorry fact that Rutherford road has more commercial activity than the Harbourfront.

  3. I really like Safdie’s commitment to making the building and grounds transparent to the public. I would suggest at least a couple more bridges over the long pond, though, as it forms an effective barrier to east-west movement between the park and the building.

    I like the building overall. But I don’t like the pillared colonnade, particularly on the Queen’s Quay frontage. The colonnade hides the retail from the street, leaving the streetscape sterile, and the merchants without much walk-in trade.

  4. Uninspiring, just like the Corus building. It’s more of the same design by numbers box building that’s far too prevalent int his city already. But I don’t know why so many people are in a knot about it being a condo. What’s wrong with having people live on the waterfront? If it was a tower of rental units would people still complain?

  5. “Radiant Garden City anyone?”

    “so basically a tower in a park.”

    Good calls, both. Considering ‘Habitat’, I have to wonder why his design is so banal. The market? Zoning?

    It doesn’t matter to me. With the lack of street-life, auto-centrism, and isolation of Queens Quay, it’s part of the 905: this will fit in fine.

  6. I quite like the building itself. The challenge is, as most cynical commenters have already noted, is how to activate the ground level. Since this will face onto the lake there is a good chance it will be better off than the condos facing only onto Queens Quay.

  7. safdie has designed more than two residential projects. you should check out his website.

  8. Cannot see the back(front?)of the building but I am curious as to how it interfaces with the grand boulevard scheme for Lakeshore, considering the multitude of ramps in this area that would have to be created for a Gardiner down scenario.

  9. This building is really nice. Safdie has an affinity for natural light, shown through Habitat and the plans for the Toronto Orchestra and likely this building will be a bright pleasure to live in.

    We are lucky to see a forward looking project going in, one that ensures that a public realm will have a place to grow even if it is not there now.

    Response to Laurie; the waterway is part of Upper Sherboune Park, the design is still under development, meaning there is time to contact the city planners with your input about bridges.

  10. Wow… more condos!!! Come on everybody, “HipHipHurray!”

  11. Sam: I’m curious what you want at the water’s edge. Bungalows? Mid-rise? Offices?

    I have zero problem with condos down there. How they are designed and meet the street is another matter.

    If you look at the planning, its done well and they have good architects on the project. Cynicism is all well and good but blind cynicism is contagious cuz its easy.

  12. This condo faces the water, but it is not on the water. The lakefront is a couple of hundred meters away on the other side of Queen’s Quay.

  13. To Administrator,
    I don’t have a problem with condos either for the most part … I just don’t see this as something to get excited about. Also, I don’t think the increasing condo-ization of the waterfront is what most Torontonians had in mind when the issue of waterfront development was raised oh so many years ago… yet, that’s what the vision of re-development has narrowed down to. So much for developing these spaces in a way that all citizens might enjoy.

    To Shawn,
    I’m for “more people” also (ie higher density throughout the city and throughout the GTA). But I
    have also long agreed with Councillor Vaughn’s gripe that virtually all the condo developments we have had to date in the inner city are not conducive to family living. That is not good planning and will likely create huge problems as people move through different stages of their life cycle. The goal shouldn’t just be to provide space for people who are single or in coupledom — it should be to create space for people at ALL stages of their life cylce.

  14. Mathew/Administrator:
    I don’t agree with “blind cynicism” either. But I can assure you that when some people think about what might be appropriate at a waterfront, “condo, bungalow, offices, or mid-rises” are not the only options they have in mind.

  15. more options for adding to the multi-layered village.

    so far extra floors are always just office and/or housing ideas, to make the density vital, we have to integrate commercial and public space into higher than just the ground floors – I guess I am suggesting ramps and atria that are not ground level kind of like an inside out eaton’s center.

  16. I agree with you/Vaughan as well — am just increasingly critical of the “oh no condos” kind of language, which I try to flip and say, hey, you’re talking about people. I don’t think you were being misanthropic, though I think the general anti-crowd are when they pop these phrases off. It’s as yet an unexamined elephant in toronto’s urban circles.

  17. Sam: I’m not trying to pick a fight, just more curious since you made an anti-condo quip and that’s it.

    There has been extensive consultation about the waterfront, and in this case, its in the east bayfront area. The waterfront is huge, 26km long. In parts it is green space and nature (Scarborough), others its parkland (from CNE west to the edge of west Etobicoke) and in the central area its built-up with some very accessible public areas.

    You’re right to say “condo, bungalow, offices, or mid-rises” are not the only options they have in mind” but in the central area there are really only a few options: condos, offices, parks, or culture centre. And the public has given a tonne of feedback on it. And East Bayfront has been one of the better planned areas on the waterfront. Since this is setback from the waterfront, on a corner of a major road, this condo makes sense. We can debate the design merits, but a high rise condo down there is nothing to be afraid of.

  18. More condos downtown are good and fine. The problem is the cost. You have another expensive looking design which will cost an arm and a leg for those who can afford it. Considering the location at the waterfront and new condo developments in the last few months, we will be lucky to see the cheapest units in the $650-700 per sq feet range.

    And no, I don’t think it will be rental units/affordable housing because its too nice of a design and too prime of a location for them to put a cap on the price.

  19. I think this is a great proposal and I look forward to seeing it go forward. As shown by many of the comments here, people have a variety of competing visions for what waterfronts ought to be, and within that context it is easy to be cynical (and I am not at one with cheap comments about more condos). I think the East Bayfront has been well planned, has a variety of uses, will permit and encourage people to use the water’s edge. But maybe it’s just me, I’m always impressed by the incredible crush of people at Harbourfront on finer days.

  20. Mathew,
    I’m not picking a fight either… but I do think there were other options for this space… and in fact for much of the downtown area of the waterfront. Other cities have done things differently. Yet in Toronto, we have people/institutions who keep trying to tell everyone that only “x,y or z” are the options. I really don’t have anything against this particular development… but I don’t understand why anybody should be doing cartwheels over another tower with pricey units on our waterfront — no matter who designs it. How appropriate that the number #1 realtor in the area is probably Brad “Lamb”. Behhhhhhh.

  21. samg> I recall a near-shouting match Brad Lamd and Matthew had on a panel at the St. Lawrence Centre….so there is likely more agreement than not.

  22. Damn, is that thing ugly. The shape of the base in relation to the tower just doesn’t make sense. The pattern of the windows and gardens diagonally down the tower looks like a really bad forgotten 8-bit Atari game from the 80’s. Maybe it would look nicer if it wasn’t the same bland beige brick/turqoise glass combo they pick for so many buildings in this city.

  23. We should be doing something entirely different with in-fill.

    The ‘three-story walk-ups’ of the Plateau in Montreal are as dense as most tower projects, could be built as condos or otherwise, have the advantage of one-floor living (as opposed to living on ‘townhouse’ staircases) and have the superior street life in Canada. Just what is stopping them from getting built in Toronto? Imagination, probably.

  24. Some of the new TCHC towers are prettier than this thing. Hopefully at least some of the units here are family sized, and rentals.

  25. Condos on the north side of Queens Quay are fine, I wish we had kept the lake side clear of them. This looks nice, concrete doesn’t have to mean ugly if the structure is well designed.
    It’s interesting he supports tearing down the Gardiner and has worked that option into this work.

  26. This latest waterfront condo building is hideous. It will have the “spot the decade” moniker within years. Is that a giant precast concrete grid steppy thing? Yuck. Worst condo design to hit Queen’s Quay in years. Where is the city design review committee when you need them? This design belongs in Kahsikstan.

  27. I don’t understand why all of the new housing buildings in this city have to be tall. Just because the civil engineers made it more practical to make buildings taller doesn’t mean we have to go on a bender. I remember as a child thinking that St. James town was a lesson learned and that we were not going to repeat it. Then Cityplace got built, which puts the other to shame in terms of its ridiculus height. And of course if the future owners of these 60-70 story condo buildings don’t take care of the elevators then that will make them far less liveable. Honestly I don’t know who it was that came along and killed post modernism. We were doing so well when the old city of Toronto had Cityhome and they would build nice little mixed income buildings no more than ten stories tall like the St Lawrence neighbourhood or the hydro block. But I guess all good things must come to an end.

  28. for high density commercial and tourist accommodation we do see bridges between higher level atria across streets and inter-connections above sidewalks in Las Vegas.

    it alleviates congestion and adds to the appeal of the mega-spaces.

    of course Las Vegas is fundamentally intoxicated, and we are Toronto the good.

  29. Forgotten 8-bit atari game? I love it all the more!

  30. The scale of this proposal should not be a suprise to anyone. Look at the Secondary Plan and the Precinct Plan. This fits right in with what has been planned for a long time.

    @Laurie: The park is not part of the project. That’s the northern part of Sherbourne Park by others and already under construction.

    @jamesmallon: if you really think that you could build three-storey walkups on the most expensive real estate in Canada and sell them for less than $10M each, then by all means go ahead.

  31. Hmmm… never mind the condo, when are we going to see the streetcar line in the rendering (which WT are supposed to be paying for IIRC)?

    If this was a private sector developer, we’d be talking about the need to limit growth in the area until transit had caught up. At the very least the City and Waterfront Toronto should commit to the extension of the 6 Bay bus from Jarvis over to Sherbourne in the meantime, so that the condo can be built with less parking.

  32. Looks terrific. In fact, the whole EB master plan has an air of Battery Park City to it, which has worked out very well in Manhattan. People, parks, retail, and terrific waterfront access. Great building, great plan, great news.

  33. @Darwin – I note the 2012 date is not included in this release from October.

    Reading between the lines of Steve Munro’s post on the subject I think 2012 only refers to the part west of Bay. To build a tunnel from Bay to Freeland and portal plus the line east of Bay to a new Parliament loop by 31.12.2012 seems unlikely to me. 31.12.2015 might even be too much to hope for, even if predicated on no improvements to Union Station Loop by that time.

  34. “@jamesmallon: if you really think that you could build three-storey walkups on the most expensive real estate in Canada and sell them for less than $10M each, then by all means go ahead.”

    I don’t think that is the most expensive real estate in Canada, nor the cost you’ve pulled out of your @$$ is anything but hyperbole. Apart from that, my point was a bit larger about the projects built throughout the city, as a literate reading makes clear. So does a look at our low-rise city. Further than a kilometer and a half from King and Bay, it seems there is a lot of land cheap enough for fewer than four stories… because that’s what predominates!

Comments are closed.