Property Biz Canada

Toronto’s New Proposed “Downtown Tall Buildings Vision and Performance Standards Design Guidelines”

Darrell GoldThis article has been contributed by Darrell Gold LLB with Robins Appleby & Taub LLP

These Guidelines which include “performance standards” for new developments are going to City Council for adoption in July 2012 and are important for developers to be aware of. What follows is a summary of some of the information available on the City of Toronto’ website:

Background: During the past decade residential and mixed-use development in Downtown Toronto has increased dramatically, much of it through buildings which are much taller than the City’s current zoning by-law maximum height limit provisions anticipated. The style/character of tall buildings has changed over time from one with a shorter and bulkier floor-plate to taller point towers with smaller floor plates. Today, tall buildings are being sited closer to each other and to the edges of established mid and low-rise areas. The smaller lot sizes in the Downtown and the fragmented nature of lot ownership which makes land assembly more difficult; the somewhat irregular laneway system that causes challenges for servicing of multi-storey buildings and a sensitive historic context, has created special locational challenges for assessing/reviewing tall building development in Downtown Toronto. In 2006 a set of guidelines were produced that were City wide and are used in reviewing development proposals. Further consultations and studies were carried out since then to identify appropriate areas in the Downtown Toronto area for intensified growth and sites where tall buildings should be permitted.

What Areas Will Be Affected: Certain portions of major Downtown streets were identified as areas where tall buildings are considered to be appropriate. These streets are called “High Streets” and include streets such as Bay, Bloor, College, King and others within an area generally bounded by Spadina Avenue and Bloor, Sherbourne and Front streets. A range of heights is proposed for properties fronting onto High Streets. The six height range categories are: 47 to 77 meters; 62 to 107 meters; 77 to 137 meters; 92 to 152 meters; 107 to 182 meters; and 137 meters and up.

How Will This Affect Developers: All tall building proposals located along the “High Streets” would be subject to the set of performance standards (referred to as “regulations” in the consultant’s report). These performance standards (or regulations) relate either to the base or the tower portion of the building. The intent of the regulations is to ensure that each new building and group of buildings achieves not only excellence in architecture, but also the desired cumulative relationship with one another and with the streets onto which they front. They are not intended to override in-place zoning by-laws for the Downtown area but rather are “being brought forward as design guidelines and as such are intended to provide a degree of certainty and clarity of common interpretation” to them.

What Are the Some of the “Performance Standards”: There are over 20 performance standards for tall buildings on a range of criteria including: maximizing sunlight penetration; minimum and maximum podium height; maximizing visibility of entrances; better façade articulation with an “interplay of rhythm between transparent glass and solid materials”; locate and access parking, loading, service areas, and utilities primarily from a lane or at the rear of the building so as not to conflict with pedestrian-oriented activities; maximum GFA per floor is 750 square metres excluding balconies; tower set backs of a minimum of 10m from side and rear property lines; if they abut stable low rise residential area, the tower portion must be set back a minimum of 20 metres from abutting property line(s); they must be designed and oriented to minimize shadow impacts on all parks and open spaces at all times of the day; no interruption of the view corridors or appear behind the building silhouettes of the three Landmark Views Downtown: Queens Park, Old City Hall and City Hall nor visually impede the setting of listed/designated heritage buildings. Theses are merely some of the “performance standards” proposed. If you want more detail, please go to: http://bit.ly/KNhTHq.

Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) have been involved in the latest Guidelines going to Council in July but there is still some concern over mandatory v. recommended language (i.e. “shall “ v. “should”) for performance standards.

The Lessons: For those developers, architects, engineers, planners and other advisers involved in the development of new buildings in the city of Toronto downtown core and which are intended to exceed current building heights permitted by current zoning bylaws, it is important to be aware of these proposed new guidelines and performance standards that are going to council for adoption in July, 2012, (subject to modifications that may be made to them as part of the adoption process).

Disclaimer: This article is for general information purposes only and not intended as or to be relied upon for legal advice. Consult with a lawyer for your unique situation.

[*If there is a general real estate or leasing related question you would like to see addressed in a future article in “The Legal Corner”, please contact me directly by e-mail at dgold@robapp.com with your suggestion. Not all requests can be accommodated.]

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