The City of Toronto's Housing Now initiative has been steadily chugging along — mostly in the background — since it was first announced five years ago, and has now expanded to include 22 properties and more than 15,000 proposed dwelling units across the city, roughly a third of which are slated to be affordable housing. The program marked a significant milestone in 2023 with a ground breaking ceremony for 5207 Dundas West in Etobicoke, the first Housing Now project to begin construction. Many of the other projects are in various stages of the planning process, including one of the larger developments at 2444 Eglinton East, adjacent to Kennedy TTC and GO stations, which appeared before the City of Toronto Design Review Panel in January.

Rendering looking northwest, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

Located on a triangular site on the north side of Eglinton directly across from the Kennedy transit hub, 2444 Eglinton East proposes to build three mixed-use residential towers of 20, 34, and 43 storeys, with a mix of 409 market condo units and 509 affordable and market co-op rental units. Led by CreateTO in partnership with Windmill Development Group Ltd and Civic Developments, the project also proposes grade-level retail and significant public realm improvements to the somewhat isolated site. The development is designed by Vancouver-based Henriquez Partners Architects, whose growing portfolio in Toronto also includes Mirvish Village and 5207 Dundas West.

Aerial rendering looking northwest, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

The property at 2444 Eglinton East is currently home to surface parking lots and an automotive centre. It is hemmed in on all three sides by heavy infrastructure: the Hydro corridor forms the northern border of the site; the Stouffville GO rail corridor runs along the eastern boundary; and to the south is the Eglinton Avenue overpass. Currently an isolated island accessible via a service road, the redevelopment of the site proposes several ways to improve its connectivity to the surrounding neighbourhoods and transit hub.

Aerial view of the current site, image courtesy of the City of Toronto.

The project's design concept aims to merge the building's podium with the open space of the Hydro corridor to the north, envisioning a connection between the ground plane and the outdoor rooftop amenities on the fourth floor. The three towers emerge from this new elevated ground plane, their massing adjusted from the initial planning study to better respond to the neighbouring context and to limit shadows on the Hydro corridor.

Conceptual diagram showing massing, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

Conceptual diagram showing massing, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

At ground level, a woonerf cuts through the middle of the site, connecting the Hydro corridor to Kennedy station via a pedestrianized underpass below Eglinton, leading to a suggested transit plaza envisioned by the design team in front of the station. Retail is proposed for the ground level of the development, along with an undetermined community function and residential amenities. The design team is also proposing community gardens to be established in the Hydro corridor, for the use of the residents.

Ground floor plan, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

Massing diagram of ground floor uses, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

The podium of the towers rises four storeys, with three parking levels above the ground floor. The design team argued that in this specific scenario, above-grade parking was actually very beneficial for the project. Aside from the obvious cost benefits of not having to excavate or remove the contaminated soils, the parking levels ensure that no residential units are below the Eglinton overpass, improving access to sunlight and reducing noise impacts. With an eye to the future, above-grade parking also has less of an environmental impact through embodied carbon, and can be easily adapted to alternate uses if parking usage decreases.

Rendering looking east along North Service Road, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

Above the podium, the three towers rise out of the outdoor amenity level, arranged with the shortest 20-storey rental tower at the corner flanked by the tallest 43-storey rental tower to the north and the 34-storey condo tower to the west. The towers are clad with the same honeycomb-patterned facade, but the design team emphasized that it is still early in the process, so materials and details may change as the design progresses.

Rendering looking south from Hydro Corridor, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

Notably, there are no balconies, which the proponents argued saved significant costs and was environmentally beneficial, limiting the amount of concrete needed and eliminating thermal bridging at each balcony. They estimate that between the above-grade parking and lack of balconies, roughly $50 million dollars was saved, which allowed for the inclusion of more affordable housing units.

Aerial rendering looking southeast, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

The Design Review Panel was overall impressed with the development, calling it a "provocative vision" that does a "pretty fantastic job creating a project that has character and brings a sense of place to this corner that is lost in a sea of various transit connections". They commended the design team of having a strong concept and some bold ambitions for this project. They did however offer some recommendations on how to improve the development moving forward.

Rendering of pedestrian underpass connection to Kennedy Station, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

The Panel had a lot to say about the ground floor and podium, with several items becoming the focus of their attention. First, the Panel was actually overall supportive of the above-grade parking, agreeing that in this context it works. However, they cautioned about the design of the podium, specifically with how the north edge could achieve a more seamless transition between the Hydro corridor and the fourth floor amenities. They encouraged the design team to rework the currently tiered massing along the north side, hoping for a more direct connection for residents to pass from the ground to the roof level. They also commented on the cladding at the parking garage on the other facades, saying they weren't entirely convinced that the "green edge" proposed would be successful.

Rendering looking south from Hydro Corridor, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

At grade, Panel members commented that much of the ground floor was occupied by loading, mechanical, and back-of-house spaces, and that the layout might be better served if some of those were relocated to the parking floors above or the service level below grade to free up more space for public uses. Panelists also suggested different configurations for the ground floor layout, with some pushing for more prominent residential lobbies and others wondering if the retail at the north end should be shifted further south.

Rendering looking northwest along Hydro Corridor, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

Regarding the public realm, Panel members wanted to see more attention given to the service road along the south edge of the site, saying that currently it would be very busy with vehicular traffic, and perhaps more could be done to improve the pedestrian experience. They also questioned if pedestrian access from the east and west along Eglinton had been properly considered, as the focus had mainly been on the north-south route.

Rendering looking east, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

The Panel commended the design team for its ambitions that extended beyond the boundaries of the site, with the pedestrianized underpass connecting to Kennedy station and the community gardens within the Hydro corridor. However, they cautioned both City staff and the design team that these would require a significant amount of coordination, funding, and buy-in from other parties, and they urged them to engage early and often with these stakeholders to ensure these interventions are fully realized.

Conceptual rendering looking north from Kennedy Station, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

Finally, the Panel offered words of caution regarding the floor plate size and tower separation distances. Currently, the towers are proposed to have 800m² floor plates, with the lowest separation distance at 22m between the two south towers. These exceed the City's Tall Building Design Guidelines of maximum 750m² floor plates and minimum 25m separation distance. Within the context of this project, the Panel did not have many objections to these exceptions. However, this came with a warning that there were many other large-scale developments in the immediate vicinity that would use this as a precedent for their projects, so approving these exceptions may create an unwanted ripple effect for the City.

Diagram showing planned future context, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

Overall, the Design Review Panel were very pleased with the direction this development was headed in, and encouraged the design team and City to continue pushing their ambitious ideas for this project in what could become a precedent for future developments of its kind. There was no vote held by the Panel.

Rendering looking south from Hydro Corridor, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

We will keep you updated as 2444 Eglinton East continues to progress through the planning process, but in the meantime, you can tell us what you think my checking out the associated Forum thread or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.

UrbanToronto will continue to follow progress on this development, but in the meantime, you can learn more about it from our Database file, linked below. If you'd like, you can join in on the conversation in the associated Project Forum thread or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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