U of T Gateway site

U of T set to build the largest university housing development in Canada

The University of Toronto (U of T) is working with Mirvish Village developer Westbank to design and build its massive, 960,000 square foot Gateway project that could breathe new life into the area around Bloor and Spadina.

The Gateway project, according to the UofT, will create significant housing for faculty, staff and student families, academic space focused on life-long learning, ancillary retail opportunities, and enhanced public space at the northwest gateway to the university’s downtown campus.

“The Gateway will significantly address the university’s strong demand for housing, advancing the academic mission by adding hundreds of new units to the campus and to downtown Toronto,” said Scott Mabury, vice-president, operations and real estate partnerships with the university. “We are thrilled to partner with a team so well aligned with the university’s values, with further expertise in design and construction and a solid track record in stakeholder engagement and positive city building. We are excited to bring this project forward and committed to our goal of achieving a climate positive campus by 2050.”

Westbank is one of North America’s leading mixed-use real-estate development firms, with three other projects currently underway in Toronto, including Mirvish Village at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst streets, a new purpose-built rental-housing community.

The move is part of the university’s renewed interest in exploring how the northwest corner of the St. George campus can be revitalized.

“This site, located at a prominent downtown intersection, represents a unique opportunity for U of T to help address its growing need for housing, provide renewed academic space and enrich the surrounding neighbourhood,” said Mabury, back in March, 2022.

Although no development application has been submitted, last year the university suggested the site could comfortably accommodate two tall residential towers with 600 to 700 apartments. The current surface parking lot on the site would be moved underground creating more open space.

“The proposed development envisions a passageway to connect Matt Cohen Park to the Huron Washington Parkette,” wrote U of T.

There is also a commitment from U of T to engage with members of the Indigenous community on the project and how its common spaces can foster “Indigenous acknowledgement and placemaking at the site.”

Shannon Simpson, U of T’s director of Indigenous initiatives, is engaging with First Nations House to help in the process in addition to consulting with Indigenous faculty, staff, Elders and Knowledge Keepers.

“There was a time when the Indigenous community wouldn’t be brought into conversation early enough – so we would have ideas, but it would be too late to implement a lot of them,” Simpson said. “Now, people at U of T are really embracing bringing us into the conversation early on.”

Other key objectives for the project include sustainable design, energy conservation and energy infrastructure improvements, thoughtful integration with existing heritage assets, animation of the public realm and commitment to Indigenous engagement, along with inspiring architecture and design excellence to create, what U of T calls a “seamless and dynamic gateway between the university and the city.”

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