SHoP Architects unveils a mixed-use supertall tower in Toronto

To Preserve and Respect

SHoP Architects unveils a mixed-use supertall tower in Toronto

Three six-story heritage buildings will form the base of a proposed mixed-use Toronto skyscraper that, when completed, will stand among the tallest buildings in the city. (Norm Li/Courtesy Dream Office REIT, Humbold Properties)

Developers Dream Office REIT and Humbold Properties have revealed a SHoP Architects-designed supertall skyscraper that, if approved, will straddle Toronto’s entertainment and financial districts and soar 79 stories above one of the city’s oldest streets. Described in a press release as a “true mixed-use tower” with 588 residential rental units, over 10,000 square feet of retail, and 660,000 square feet of office space, the project—topping off at just over 1,000-feet-tall—marks the New York City-based SHoP’s first skyscraper project in Toronto. Canadian firm Adamson Associates is serving as executive architect.

Per the developers, SHoP was selected for the project, to be located at 212 King Street West, due to the firm’s previous successes in melding historic buildings with wholly contemporary structures. As pointed out in the project reveal, SHoP is responsible for the design of two of only three projects in New York City history to incorporate modern high-rises with existing landmarked buildings: The ultra-slender 111 West 57th Street in Manhattan and 9 Dekalb Avenue, an under-construction residential supertall in downtown Brooklyn that’s slated to be the tallest in the borough.

As for 212 King Street West, it will “celebrate” (read: rise directly above) not one but three iconic, low-rise heritage buildings at the site: 212 (the Union Building), 214 (the Canadian General Electric Building), and 220 (the Nicholls Building) King Street West. According to real estate blog Toronto Storeys, Dream Office REIT owns the Union Building while Humbold owns the Canadian Electric Building. Both companies co-own the Nicholls Building.

a concert hall with skyscraper in background
Toronto’s Thomson Hall with the new 212 King Street West supertall in the background. (© SHoP Architects/Courtesy Dream Office REIT, Humbold Properties)

“We are excited to unveil a design that not only honours our city’s rich architectural history but injects new energy into the downtown core,” said Robert Singer, vice president of Humbold Properties. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Dream to create a new vision for this unique intersection and to carry these buildings’ legacies on for generations to come.”

Noting a “sensitive, civic-minded approach to skyscraper design,” the announcement went on to elaborate on the interplay between old and new at the intersection of King and Simcoe Streets:

“When it came to the existing heritage buildings along King Street, the goal was to be respectful and celebratory, skillfully interlocking the residential and commercial floorplates in a way that sparks a dialogue between the historical and contemporary components of the project. Generous setbacks and recessing of the tower are intended to give the buildings at-grade the space needed to maintain and enhance their presence along King Street.”

The centerpiece of the vertical megadevelopment will be a so-called “civic-scaled” atrium that will serve as a year-round public gathering and event space while also doubling as the main office lobby. Express elevators will provide access to rooftop green spaces atop the base-comprising heritage buildings and, below ground, there will also be a direct connection to PATH, Toronto’s expansive subterranean network of amenity-lined pedestrian corridors that link its downtown office towers with shopping centers, parking garages, and subway stations.

a soaring atrium in a mixed-use skyscraper with enormous columns
The atrium at 212 King Street West. (© SHoP Architects/Courtesy Dream Office REIT, Humbold Properties)

As noted by Gregg Pasquarelli, founding principal of SHoP, the atriumcreates a relationship between indoors and outdoors” while establishing a visual connection with Roy Thomson Hall, a concert hall that serves as home to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and David Pecaut Square.

“We know we have to move forward and innovate, but we need to do so in a way that demonstrates sensitivity and sensibility, and contributes to the life of a city,” said Pasquarelli. “The soul of the building lies in the intensity of details.”

rendering of toronto skyline
(© SHoP Architects/Courtesy Dream Office REIT, Humbold Properties)

This emphasis on encouraging and expanding civic activity will extend out of the atrium and onto King Street itself thanks to a planned sidewalk-widening effort that will allow for outdoor cafes, greenery, seating, and improved pedestrian circulation.

A virtual meeting in which the public can learn more about the skyline-reshaping development is planned for January 25. And before anything happens, the city, as mentioned, first needs to grant the new 212 King Street West with approval. It’s worth noting that Toronto hasn’t proven itself to be particularly averse to supertall projects given that there are two superlatively lanky towers, Foster + Partners’ The One and the Hariri Pontarini Architects-designed SkyTower at Pinnacle One Yonge, currently under construction in the city.