297 College Street, Toronto, Canada
GFA 202,229 sq.ft.
Situated at the edge of the University of Toronto campus and straddling Toronto’s Kensington Market ethno-boho low-rise retail district, the site at 297 College Street offered unique opportunities to make a new kind of urban mixed-use architecture that appropriately addresses the scale and unique social milieu of its context.
The 15 storey mixed-use building designed to fit this site provides 226 units of much-needed downtown housing along one of the Toronto’s quintessential main streets. In addition retail uses on the ground and second levels add to the cafes, restaurants, and shops that line College Street.
Increasingly, it is becoming evident that Toronto’s emerging urban form has a glaring “missing middle”, a scale of development between high-rise towers and traditional low-rise residential neighborhoods. Various factors exacerbate this vacuum. Among other factors, the high value of downtown land necessitates intense development and the economics of construction favors the simple repetitive floor plates of towers.
This building has been conceived as a creative response to achieving a mid-rise building that also addresses the necessary densities and construction tradeoffs to be economically viable. Careful planning of the floor levels achieves density within a mid-rise format. The tectonics of this building allowed for architectural expression that responds to the existing. The combination of setbacks, changes in cladding, and volumetric expression together make a well-integrated building that addresses the different conditions on its sides.
Instead of one singular form, the building is made up of several visible components. The podium, made out of black brick, precast concrete and structural silicon curtain wall reinforces the low-rise scale of surrounding retail uses in the neighbourhood. In addition, a prefinished metal canopy facing north on College Street was conceived as a modern interpretation of traditional shop front canopies. On the south elevation, a green wall land planters takes advantage of large amounts of sunlight. The base of east side of the building is built to the lot line at street level, and then reveals a series of stacked floor plates that set back, providing for balconies and windows.
The west side of the building forms the edge of a mid-block laneway connecting College Street and a small residential street of Kensington Market. Here, the design incorporates coloured glass balcony guard rails, providing for a vibrant, visual field. The varied panels of glossy colour both enliven the laneway and at the same time participate in the heterogeneity of nearby Kensington Market.
Taken together 297 College Street is a creative response to Toronto’s emerging urban conditions and a model for the development of housing and retail uses along main streets. The design of this building, fitting into an existing neighbourhood condition, is at the forward edge of progressive urbanization.