Will City’s fear of heights trim plans for 39-storey condo tower at King & Spadina?

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415 King Street West at Spadina

The LCBO store at the corner of King Street West and Spadina Avenue on Jan. 14 2011. A developer wants to build a 39-storey condo tower here.


Goldilocks planning principles?: The bizarre attitudes that City Hall sometimes displays toward building development proposals in the downtown core can be enough to drive a guy to drink. Thank God the big liquor store at the southeast corner of King & Spadina should be staying put for at least a few more years!

The one-storey LCBO outlet occupies part of a prime piece of property on which a developer has unveiled plans to build a 39-storey condo tower featuring high-tech windows that would harness solar energy. The proposed building would have fewer floors than the Theatre Park tower I wrote about yesterday — the condo building that Lamb Development Corp. got the go-ahead to build just three blocks east, next door to the Royal Alexandra Theatre, after initially getting double thumbs-down from city planners and politicians. (Lamb appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board; ultimately, the parties settled the case and the Theatre Park project is now being marketed to purchasers.)

 

Councillor advocates block-by-block development

Yesterday I mentioned a November 11, 2010 National Post story that described the Theatre Park planning ruckus. The article quoted Ward 20 City Councillor Adam Vaughan as saying Theatre Park “may be the last tall building on this block.” According to the National Post, Vaughan “wants to move away from site-by-site development, and toward block-by-block development, so that neighbourhoods retain a certain scale, and residents can count on keeping the view they purchased.”

Protecting precious views sounds like a great idea, but it’s totally unrealistic for a city that’s expecting its population to increase by hundreds of thousands of people in the decades ahead. Toronto certainly won’t be able to pack all those people into low-rise accommodations (which wouldn’t have views in any event). And while it seems completely reasonable for the city to oppose highrise construction in certain places, such as established, low-rise residential neighbourhoods, it doesn’t make sense to object when towers are proposed for downtown locations totally suitable for tall structures.

 

Is developer “aiming too high?”

That’s the case with the LCBO site, over which Vaughan is up in arms because the developer is aiming too high with its condo plans. “We’ve got a building there that’s too short. They’re coming in with a building that’s just a bit too tall,” Vaughan told The Globe and Mail earlier this week. He “would like to see the developers shave at least 50 metres off the proposed height — and throw in some community benefits like supportive housing or family-centred units,” the Globe reported in a story published on Tuesday.

Okay, so a one-storey building is “too short,” 39 storeys is “too tall,” but something 50 metres shorter would be just right? Sounds to me like the city is purporting to apply Goldilocks’ porridge and furniture preferences to city development planning!  Given Vaughan’s strenuous objection, you’d think that the developer, Cabo Three Investments Inc., was proposing to plunk its tower smack in the middle of a historic residential district with streets of distinguished one- and two-storey houses. But that’s not the situation with the liquor store location.

 

Neighbourhood already has condo towers

Spadina is one of the city’s widest and busiest streets and there’s already several condo towers in the immediate vicinity, with more under construction and even more being marketed for sale. And just two blocks south, the mammoth Concord CityPlace condo development is a dense urban canyon of enormous tall towers, with even more on the way. I have walked around the King & Spadina area three times in the past six weeks, and think Cabo Three’s tower would suit the site perfectly. Heck, an even taller one would, too! To me, Vaughan’s height complaint seems ridiculous. Besides, the tower won’t be going up until the end of this decade at the earliest, because the LCBO’s lease runs until 2019. Moreover, the solar-energy gathering glass windows the developer would like to install in its tower are still in the development stage, but should be a viable technology by the time Cabo Three wants to sink its shovels into the ground.

 

Residential plus office and retail space

By the end of this decade, tens of thousands more people will be living downtown, and the King & Spadina area will be substantially more busy and dense than it is now.  In those circumstances, building tall makes sense and is realistically the only way to go. So I’m hoping that this project, like Theatre Park, gets the green light and ultimately comes to fruition. By the way, as proposed, the tower would house 443 residential suites atop two floors of commercial office and retail space (the LCBO has said it would be interested in acquiring space in the new building, no doubt because the neighbourhood’s population is forecast to grow by nearly 11 per cent in the next five years). The tower would have five underground parking levels with 311 spaces, and the brick heritage building next to the LCBO on King Street would be incorporated into the complex. Below are photos I’ve taken recently of the project site and immediate vicinity.

 

LCBO 415 King Street West

Development proposal sign on the LCBO store at King & Spadina


LCBO store 415 King Street West

The LCBO store at King & Spadina seen here on February 3 2011


401 - 409 King Street West heritage building

This 6-storey heritage building at 401 -409 King St. W. would be incorporated into the 39-storey condo complex proposed for this prime corner location


401 - 409 King Street West heritage building

Upper floors of 401 – 409 King St. W. seen February 17 2011


401 409 King St West heritage building

Street level view of 401 – 409 King St. W. on February 17 2011



LCBO store 415 King Street West

Site viewed from the NW corner of King and Spadina on February 17 2011


Spadina Avenue looking south from above King Street

Spadina Avenue view of the LCBO store, left, and some of condo skyscrapers at the massive Concord CityPlace development two blocks south on Spadina


Spadina Avenue view south to King Street West

Site viewed from west side of Spadina Avenue, just north of King Street


Spadina Avenue looking south from Adelaide Street West

Site viewed from the NW corner of Spadina Ave. and Adelaide St. W.


LCBO store 415 King Street West

LCBO store seen from west side of Spadina Avenue on Feb. 17 2011


Spadina Avenue looking northwest to King Street

Intersection of King and Spadina viewed from the west side of Spadina


East side of Spadina Avenue below King Street West

Oh the horror! The proposed condo would completely dwarf the Winners store and the Petro Canada gas station to its south, seen here on February 17 2011


Townhouses on Clarence Square

These townhouses on Clarence Square, one block south, are the nearest low-rise houses. Although  highrises already overlook their back decks, including the M5V condo tower at center, they face charming tree-lined Clarence Square, so residents can’t complain about losing nice views.

 

One thought on “Will City’s fear of heights trim plans for 39-storey condo tower at King & Spadina?

  1. Craig Jasper

    The proposed development should be supported on condition that the architectural design has significance unlike the majority of recent glass towers which blight Front and Spadina.

    A good blend of area design and successful marketing/sales is on the north-west corner of Spadina and Richmond. The Hudson at the corner of King and Spadina was integrated into the community as well. Yes, there is a community at King and Spadina despite the traffic and visitor related retailers!

    I purchased the historical building mentioned (401 King Street) under Power of Sale provisions on behalf of a real estate development and investment syndication some years ago when I headed their real estate leasing and development efforts. It is approximately 42,000 sf and has a stunning facade but the interior has concrete slab floors and is poorly designed.

    I would support a concept that would replace the rear portion of the building with a design incorporating the future development of the LCBO lands. It would provide for fluid development (underground parking) and higher sales revenue to absorb increased design and construction costs.

    Let’s hope they incorporate common area uses like a roof-top dog park and organic co-operative garden (instead of the usual and silly golf putting area), a carpentry shop, a sewing room (it is the Fashion District afterall), an artist’s workshop and other lifestyle-related activities condo owners would actually use.

    Knowing the Principals behind the developer, I am confident they will come through with a well-executed product. They have done so in the past, prior to community charettes and resident protests which are now part of the process.

    People make this area great. I personally have been a resident in the King Bathurst/Spadina area for the past 20 years and like what I see happening. Brad Lamb has had some positive influence in shaping the residential appeal and dynamic downtown. I just wish he and others had some prior influence on the Spadina to Bathurst, Front to Lakeshore gateway as these residential buildings will not be aging gracefully. They are being designed for investors, not residents or the community.

    Craig

    Reply

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