Toronto developer Brad J. Lamb has new plans for his King Street West office building, and they come in the form of a demolition to make way for a new 17-storey tower. But a potential proverbial wrench has been thrown in: city staff are recommending that the building be given a heritage designation.
A report set to go before the Toronto Preservation Board during its March 23 meeting calls for City Council to designate the two-storey brick building at 778 King Street West under the Ontario Heritage Act.
“The property reflects the redevelopment of King Street West for textile-related manufacturing during the first half of the twentieth century, as well as the area’s later period of adaptive reuse and cultural regeneration,” the report reads.
Built in 1947 for the York Mending Wool Company, the building has gone through a variety of occupants. After the wool company ceased operations there, it then served as a factory for Uniforms Registered, a producer of uniforms for nurses and other professionals. In 1987, it was purchased by artist and curator Ydessa Hendeles and became the home of the Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation.
Since 2013, it has served as the office space of Brad J. Lamb Realty.
Lamb’s redevelopment plans, initially filed with the City in December, propose a 373-unit high-rise that would span from 778 to 788 King Street West. In the application, the property is described as “an underutilized site” that could become home to “an appropriately scaled, residential/mixed-use and transit-oriented development.” The proposed building would sit atop a nine-storey podium with 714 sq. m of retail space on the ground floor facing out onto King Street West. Underneath would be three levels of parking, accessed from a rear laneway.
Just over half of the building’s units would be studios and about a quarter would be one-bedrooms. The remainder is split between two- and three-bedroom units. A total of 1,186 sq. m of amenity space is planned for those who live here, and would be both indoors and outdoors.
The Preservation Board report notes that there is somewhat of a time crunch on this issue: the Notice of Intention to Designate needs to be considered by City Council before April 14. Lamb’s development application was deemed officially complete on January 14, and with the Ontario Heritage Act requiring Council to give notice of its intention to designated a property within 90 days of an application’s completion, the clock is ticking. But according to the City staff report, the King West property clearly meets the criteria required by the Ontario Heritage Act for its design, historical, and contextual values.
A heritage designation wouldn’t necessarily mean an end to redevelopment plans on the site altogether. Rather, adjustments would need to be made to retain either parts of — or the entirety of — the designated building. Precedent for these types of designs have been set all across the city. At 245 Queen Street East, a 25-storey tower from ONE Properties is set to include the facade of an existing 115-year-old building that City Council has stated its intention to give a heritage designation. And at 49 Yonge Street, SmartCentres has plans to build a soaring 60-storey tower above a heritage building that’s currently home to the Irish Embassy Pub.
Following the Preservation Board decision, the staff report will be considered by the Planning and Housing Committee on March 25. It would then go before City Council during its April 6 and 7 meetings.
“If the report is adopted by Council, City Clerks will issue a Notice of Intention to Designate the property to owner and the public prior to April 14,” a City of Toronto spokesperson confirmed.
How the City votes, and what would be done with the development plans if the report is adopted, remains to be seen.
Lamb did not respond to request for comment by the time of publication.
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