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Design review panel suggests 'pencil towers' for Chelsea Hotel redevelopment

Chelsea Hotel redevelopment proposal

The plan to demolish the Chelsea Hotel at Yonge and Gerrard, replacing it with a cluster of tall buildings and open pedestrian spaces, got generally favourable reviews at the City of Toronto Design Review Panel last month.
“Panel members were appreciative of this remarkable opportunity to transform the site from the existing “Chelsea Hotel blight” to a pedestrian-oriented area with open space connections,” state the minutes to the April panel meeting. “Several members noted the significant improvements from the first iteration of the project shown in the presentation.”
The proposal from Great Eagle Hotels would replace the hotel, which currently has 1,590 rooms in a single 26-storey building, with four mixed-use towers containing residential, hotel, office and retail space. There’d be towers of 80, 74, 50 and 46 storeys, challenging the skyline dominance of the 74-storey Aura building to the north. The complex would provide 1,897 residential units, 300 hotel suites and 5,776 square metres of office and commercial space. The existing building was built in 1975 as apartments and a hostel, but was modified into a hotel, with a 600-room addition built in 1990. Not surprisingly to anyone who’s taken a look at it, the building is not a candidate for designation under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Experts on the city’s review panel liked the “porosity” that the multiple buildings will bring to the block, particularly the creation of new north-south and west-east connections. Several members suggested that the design needs a strong connection to Yonge Street, with bold visual elements and a welcoming pedestrian experience. Despite its size, the current building is relatively hidden from Yonge Street.
The separation space between the towers and the setback from neighbouring properties were concerns for some members. One suggestion was moving the south tower further west, which might also help enclose the back of 18 Elm Street and provide better views to the northeast tower looking south.
“A panel member noted that ‘pencil towers’ (towers with smaller floorplates) are likely possible here and would improve setback conditions,” state the minutes.
The panel’s feedback are non-binding, but will have an effect on planning decisions for the project.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto Design Review Panel
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