A Toronto pub is fighting back against a nearby 76-storey tower proposal

The owners of the Artful Dodger Pub in downtown Toronto are fighting back against a forthcoming 76-storey mixed-use condo tower to be built nearby at 645 Yonge St., which the owners say will loom over their property.

The development, which is slated for 639-653 Yonge St. at the northeast corner of Isabella Street, will feature 789 new dwelling units and a total gross floor area of 56,113 square metres, including approximately 54,671 square metres of residential space, about 790 square metres of retail/commercial space and 652 square metres of community cultural space. At 280 metres tall, the development falls short of the “supertall building” category, which is classified for towers of more than 300 metres in height.

But in a letter submitted to the city last Friday, the owners of the pub at 10 Isabella St. suggest that the proposed development does not represent “good urban design” as it doesn’t meet guidelines for tower floor plate size, tall building setbacks and tall building placement on site.

“The proposed development does not have appropriate regard to the Tall Building Guidelines due to its failure to adequately adapt to the context,” the letter states, adding that the 76-storey blank wall and zero-lot line conditions don’t represent an appropriate transition in scale from the site to neighbouring properties.

The letter also states that the proposal is “premature” at the level of detailed land use and urban design, and it has numerous shortcomings, including failing to provide affordable housing, failing to address the heritage qualities of 10-12 Isabella St. The existing building  is a heritage building that was built in 1879 and was listed in May 2023 in the Toronto Heritage Register. A notice of intention to designate the 645 Yonge St. site under the Ontario Heritage Act was also filed last year.

According to the letter, the three principal owners of the pub are in their late 60s early 70s. Two of the partners at 10-12 Isabella St. have owned and operated The Artful Dodger since 1989, with most of the pub’s staff having been employed there 10-20 years.

The letter, submitted by a lawyer on behalf of the owners and with attached reports from an urban designer, a land use planner and a heritage and architect planner, seemed to suggest that a significant reason for their concern over the development is its effect on their property’s future value.

The property represents their major asset,” the letter states, in reference to the owners. The urban designer’s report stated that the scale of the development with no setback would “negatively impact” 10-12 Isabella St. in terms of quality of indoor and outdoor space, “and likely reduce the development potential and property value.”

Land use planner Gary Davidson’s report states that the development would make it difficult for the owners’ property to eventually be developed into potentially another condo, noting that residents of the proposed development would oppose another tall building as it would block their view. “The proposed development seeks to pre-empt the development of the 10-12 Isabella Street property above its existing height by attempting to freeze it in its current form.

The letter concludes with a request for the proposal to be deferred and for the City to address the issues outlined in the letter.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO