Toronto Top-off

Controversial condo tower proposed to top a Toronto landmark

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A 44-story tower has been proposed to top one of Toronto’s most beloved pieces of 20th-century architecture—and many Torontonians aren’t happy. The former Bank of Canada building, built in 1958 and designed by Marani & Morris, currently stands at just eight stories and occupies a choice spot of downtown real estate at 250 University Avenue. The existing structure is designated a heritage building and heritage specialists GBCA Architects have been brought in to consult on the work related to original building.

Rendering of the proposed IBI Group addition to the Bank of Canada.

The new combined structure, designed by IBI Group, would reach just over 575 feet and bring the total floor count to 54. It would house 495 condominium units while the original building would continue to host retail and office space. The existing subterranean safe, which currently serves as a common area, and mechanical rooms would be converted into two stories of bicycle storage, while two additional underground levels would be added to provide space for a parking garage.

The addition is certainly stirring up controversy. There are numerous dissenting comments on its announcement on Urban Toronto, a news site for new developments in the city. On Twitter, Alex Bozikovic, architecture critic for The Globe and Mail, responded to the announcement unequivocally: “No. Absolutely not.” Bozikovic went on to call the proposed addition a “junkpile.” Many commenters followed suit deriding the proposal as a “total failure” and “the second worst [tower addition] I’ve seen.” One commentator put it more generously, saying “the plan lacks imagination.”

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The limestone-colored accents of the addition are ostensibly designed to use color related to the original building, which features modernist sculptures on the facade, though, as another Twitter user pointed out, “They couldn’t even line the damn thing up.”

Developer Northam Realty Advisors, who is seeking rezoning in order to construct the addition, is no stranger to controversy. In 2016, the group proposed replacing a historically designated building in the Historic Yonge Street Heritage Conservation District with a pair of towers. (The plan was later revised to be just one, taller tower, also designed by IBI Group.) While received well by some, many were not so positive, and the plan has not yet been approved.

As far as the proposed addition to the Bank of Canada building, perhaps Twitter user John Howe put it best: “We can only pray it’ll look better in real life.”

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