Members of the Toronto Design Review Panel (TDRP) have, for some time, been in general agreement on the need to develop that part of Dundas Street just west of the Kipling subway station. However, the redevelopment plan submitted by Turner Fleischer Architects last week on behalf of Pinnacle International was met with a healthy dose of skepticism and some outright disdain.
The distaste expressed by panel members had little to do with the sheer number and size of the towers envisioned by Pinnacle, (which had already been scaled back a bit from an earlier master plan submission). The resistance this time stemmed from what panel members saw as a general lack of imagination on behalf of Turner Fleischer. A typical criticism decried the sameness of the design with similar towers “stamped across the site” in cookie-cutter fashion.
Panel members emphasized the need for a diversity of building heights, materials, placement and footprints. They urged Pinnacle and their design team to rethink the massing of the structures and to up the number of large 3-bedroom units from the current 7 (a mere 0.24% of the total 2,864 proposed units). That recommendation was based on the theory that a genuine “mixed use” development needs to attract a “mixed demographic.” Meaning the units shouldn’t just appeal to single professionals but to families as well.
Panel members and the development team spent a fair amount of time arguing about the economics of the proposed changes. Still, developer resistance did not dissuade panel members from insisting that the current proposal was a non-starter. One panel member bemoaned the lack of “heart” in the proposed design. While another characterized the plan as being too heavy on engineering and too light on architecture. Others decried the “overbearing sameness” of the design and suggested it reflected a “monoculture,” bottom-line mindset that ignored Toronto’s rich architectural history.
The proposal put forth by Pinnacle International and Turner Fleischer last week included six residential towers that would range in height from 34 to 43 stories. With all exhibiting the same pedestal/tower design ethos and little, if any, stylistic differentiation. That, in all likelihood, is going to change as a result of the official resistance that reared its head at the hearing. Also likely to undergo a significant change is the layout of the proposed green spaces that wind their way through the development.
Panel members expressed their desire that the current two park plan be revised. They strongly suggested the architects remove the access road which bisects the current plan. This would create one large uninterrupted green space that would be both safer and more pleasing to the eye.
They also expressed their unhappiness with the fact that the proposed massing of the residential towers would leave any greenspace in shadow for most of the day. Thereby rendering it cold and inhospitable. Pinnacle and Turner Fleischer expressed their view that such changes will greatly increase the cost of the project. Yet in the end, they vowed to do their best to integrate the feedback they received.
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