One Yorkville block will see over 400 combined storeys of condo tower

Isolating. Depressing. This is how one Torontonian described living in a condo in an 80-storey tower at Yonge Street and Bloor Street. Although everyone’s experience may be different, the area is quickly becoming one of the densest in Toronto and more so-called supertall towers are in the works.

A 94-storey “skinny” tower has most recently been proposed for the intersection, just west of the One tower that is also 94-storeys. The new tower by Reserve Properties for 15-19 Bloor St. W. will rise 302 metres in height. It would be the fourth tallest tower in Toronto, behind three others that have already been approved – the One, at 338 metres; Sky Tower that has 105 storeys and will be 312.5 metres; and Forma’s west tower, which has 84 storeys and is 308 metres in height.

The latest proposed tower would host 1,262 residential units split between studios, at seven per cent of the units, one bedrooms at 48 per cent, two-bedrooms at 36 per cent and three-bedrooms at 10 per cent. 

There will be 70 parking spots and a bicycle parking space for each unit, as well as a gym and co-working space on the third floor and a lounge and party room on the 10th floor. 

Although Yorkville is being built up, the rapid change has some feeling hesitant. Massimo Chiarella lived on the 13th floor of the Aura while in school in 2016–2017, and he said that living in a tall building’s condo is not all it’s cracked up to be.

At the time, the Aura was the tallest tower in the area, but that wouldn’t be the case for long. Chiarella recalls looking out of his balcony watching the view slowly disappear as a taller tower was being built right in front. 

“When I revisited the unit, the view was gone,” he said. “The view was just another massive tower.”

He said the densification of the area can impact quality of life by having construction around constantly, which, for him, acted as an alarm clock every morning, waking him up with hammering and drilling.

But that construction is what’s in store for Yorkville for quite a while longer as more towers are approved, along with renovations planned for the lower level of Yonge subway station to boost its capacity to handle the extra density moving in.

Community planning director for the Greater Yorkville Residents’ Association, Paul Bedford, said that densification around subway stations is unavoidable, especially after the province mandated growth where there is transit. 

Residents are now bracing themselves for years of construction, Bedford said, with him personally feeling that the amount of construction that will happen in the area could even be more intense than that of Yonge and Eglinton Avenue, the traffic of which has been at a standstill for years for the LRT transit line.

“There’s no question that there’s going to be a lot more development in Toronto, and it should be around subway stations,” he said. “But the question is, the magnitude and the scale and the context and the implications and the impacts, all those questions have to be addressed individually.”

He said that although some applications make sense, others are “frankly ridiculous,” pointing to a 29-storey tower proposed for 69 Yorkville Ave., where the Dynasty dim sum restaurant currently sits, or a 61-storey tower at Davenport Road and Scollard Street, which was outright refused by the city. 

The latter site was a small piece of land with little breathing room for so much density, City of Toronto staff had said in the report. 

Senior city planner David Driedger, who is involved with the Yorkville area, said that Yorkville is broken up into four different zones that dictate the kind of development that should happen within them, scaled from one to four, with one being the most dense.

“This scaling has been put in place to ensure that there is a broader structure to the heights and densities and developments that we’re seeing within the downtown area,” Driedger said.

Bedford, who used to be Toronto’s chief city planner, envisions Yorkville to take shape a lot like a pie, with there being more density around the outer edges – the crust, if you will – and the inner filling being reserved to preserve the area’s village-like character. Already, Yorkville Park is set for an expansion to provide more green space and amenities to the masses moving into the area. 

Driedger said that the city’s and province’s policies work to have “complete communities” that hold everything anyone would need on a day-to-day basis to make a livable neighbourhood.

Nevertheless, Chiarella contends that “macro-level planning” just isn’t high on developers’ priority list. They simply want to make the most units for the most money. Community spaces, like Yorkville Park, are ones he came to rely on for a sense of social connection, saying that living in the tower was “inherently isolating” and he didn’t know the names of any of his neighbours.

“If you ask me about any nicer area in Toronto and then pitch the idea of stacking a bunch of towers in there, I’ll probably say no,” he said. “It gets to the point where it becomes worse for everyone who lives in the towers.”