Urban Design

Avenues and Mid-Rise Buildings Study

Context

We know that Toronto is growing, and our Official Plan sets out where and how to grow at a high level. One of these directions is to grow and intensify the number of jobs and residents along arterial corridors throughout the city, known as 'Avenues' in the Official Plan (see Map 2 of the Official Plan). The Avenues and Mid-Rise Buildings Study was conducted to determine how to intensify along the Avenues in a way that is compatible with the adjacent neighbourhoods through appropriately scaled and designed mid-rise buildings.

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What is a mid-rise building?

Mid-rise buildings are the 'in between' scale of building, they are bigger than houses but smaller than towers. Mid-rise buildings have a good scale and relationship to the street. They define or make walls to the street that are tall enough to feel like a city and provide lots of usable space, but low enough to let the sun in and open the view to the sky from the street. They support a comfortable pedestrian environment, and animate the street by lining the sidewalk with doors and windows with active uses including stores, restaurants, services, grade related apartments, and community uses. Mid-rise buildings may contain a single use like an office or residential apartment but they usually contain a mix of uses which may include retail, office, community service, and residential all in the same building. The height of a mid-rise building varies from street to street, as we define mid-rises as buildings that are no taller than the width of their adjacent street right-of-way (the width of the publicly owned portion of the street). In Toronto, on the narrower 20 metre wide streets in the downtown, a mid-rise is 5 or 6 stories high. On the wider arterial streets outside of the Downtown, a mid-rise may be taller up to a maximum of 11 storeys on the widest Avenues. Mid-rises typically are designed with step-backs or terraces at upper levels to make them appear lower in height from the street, and to allow sunlight and sky views on the sidewalk.

Study Overview

The City Planning Division undertook the Avenues and Mid-Rise Buildings Study with the assistance of Brook McIlroy Planning + Urban Design / Pace Architects (BMI/Pace), and consultation with stakeholders and the public. Building on and learning from Avenue Studies already completed, the Study identifies a list of best practices, evaluates the Official Plan Avenues based on historic, cultural and built form characteristics, establishes a set of performance standards for new mid-rise buildings, and identifies areas where the performance standards should be applied. The Study has gone on to receive 4 prestigious awards.

icon for key components of mid-rise buildings

Status

The Staff Report was adopted by City Council in 2010, which included adoption of the Performance Standards (section 3 of the Study). At that time, Council provided City Planning with a series of directions to encourage the realization of the 'vision' of the Avenues more quickly, and to monitor the Performance Standards over a 2 year period.

In November 2013, City Council extended the monitoring period to the end of 2014, and directed City Planning to include resident and ratepayer groups as stakeholders in any consultations.

Eglinton Planning Study

The Avenues and Mid-Rise Buildings Study has a close relationship with the Eglinton Planning Study. In Toronto's Official Plan, much of Eglinton is an 'Avenue'; meaning it is designated for growth and intensification, which mid-rise buildings can help to accommodate. The Eglinton Planning Study offers a number of ways to get involved, including surveys which consider the future built form of the street. Get involved by visiting the Eglinton Planning Study site.

What's New

Travel Survey underway

If you live in a mid-rise building in Toronto, you should have received a request to complete a survey about your travel behaviours. So far, we have received thousands of replies! Thank you. Data entry and analysis of the results are to follow.

Monitoring period underway

The monitoring period of the Avenues and Mid-rise Performance Standards is underway, as directed by Council in 2010, and amended in 2013. There were a total of 76 applications for intensification on the Avenues from July 2010 to July 2012 (inclusive), and not including as-of-right applications. Of these, 36 were for buildings between 4 and 11 storeys, 19 were for buildings 12 storeys or taller, and 8 were for more complex applications including both mid-rise size and tall buildings on the same site. The remaining 13 applications were to intensify an existing use, but came in at 3 storeys in height or less. Townhouse applications were excluded.

Summary of the Performance Standards for Mid-Rise Buildings

City Planning has prepared a presentation summarizing each of the Performance Standards for Mid-Rise Buildings. The Performance Standards are included in Chapter 3 of the final consultants report (below).

The Avenues & Mid-Rise Buildings Study wins Four awards!

City Planning is pleased to announce that the Avenues & Mid-Rise Buildings Study has received a a 2012 National Urban Design Award from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. Among the jury comments:

"The Avenues and Mid-Rise Buildings Study is a landmark document for Toronto and for urban design in Ontario. It is a model to be followed, setting up new standards and contributing greatly to the body of knowledge for an emerging Canadian Urbanism."

This award is in addition to a 2011 Ontario Professional Planners Institute’s Excellence in Planning Award in the Community Planning and Development Studies/Reports category, a Toronto Urban Design Award in the Visions and Master Plans category and an Honourable Mention for the Canadian Institute of Planners' 2011 Award for Planning Excellence in the Urban Design Category.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the Study. We continue to welcome feedback and comments.

Staff Report adopted at City Council

Toronto City Council, on July 8, 2010, adopted the recommendations contained in the staff report prepared by City Planning with modifications.

Staff now use the Performance Standards for Mid-Rise Buildings in reviewing proposals. A monitoring period of the Performance Standards is the first step toward setting the Performance Standards in guidelines, policies, and as-of-right zoning.

At the end of the two year monitoring period, staff will report back to the Planning and Growth Management Committee on the effectiveness of the Performance Standards and potential implementation measures.

As a result of adopted motions changes have been made to the following Study maps:

Final Consultants’ Report

The Final Report submitted by the consultants for the Avenues & Mid-Rise building Study is available below:

Midrise final report cover
  • Final Consultants’ Report
    (Full Document: Please note that this document is 18.7 MB and may take a few minutes to load depending on your download speed)


 

You can also view each section of the Final Report:

Public Meetings (2010)

Thank you to everyone who participated in the public open houses and community meetings.

  • Public Information Sessions were held on:
    • Tuesday, February 16, 2010: Metro Hall, Room 308/309, 7:00 p.m.
    • Thursday, February 18, 2010: Scarborough Civic Centre, Council Chambers, 7:00 p.m.
    • Wednesday, February 24, 2010: North York Civic Centre, Council Chambers, 7:00 p.m.
    • Wednesday, March 3, 2010:
      Etobicoke Civic Centre, Council Chambers, 7:00 p.m.

  • On Wednesday, September 16, 2009, Planning and Growth Management Committee considered item PG 31.1 “Update on the Avenues and Mid-Rise Buildings Action Plan”. The report included a list of 21 Draft Performance Standards for mid-rise buildings.
  • The Avenues & Mid-Rise Buildings Study was presented at the Ontario Professional Planners Institute program night. The presentation is available here.
  • Avenues & Mid-Rise Buildings Study presented at Walk 21 – International Conference on Walking. View the poster here.

Background

Past Staff Reports:

2005 Mid-Rise Symposium – Urbanizing the Avenues

  • On November 28 and 29, 2005, City Planning Staff hosted a public symposium entitled “Mid-Rise Buildings’ – Urbanizing the Avenues”. The purpose of the three part symposium was to explore opportunities for encouraging the development of mid-rise buildings on Toronto’s Avenues.

 

Contact Us

If you have questions about the Avenues and Mid-Rise Buildings Study, or if you would like to provide feedback on the Performance Standards, please contact us. We will be pleased to hear from you.

Lorna Day
Project Manager
Avenues and Mid-Rise Buildings Study
Metro Hall, 55 John St, 22nd Floor
Toronto, Ontario M5V 3C6

Email: midrise@toronto.ca

Phone: 416-392-2691

Fax: 416-392-3821