Midtown is one of four central business districts outside the city’s downtown core. It is bounded by Briar Hill Avenue and Blythwood Road to the north, Mount Pleasant Cemetery to the south, Bayview Avenue to the east, and Chaplin Crescent and Latimer Avenue to the west. Areas of Midtown falls within three different Wards: Ward 8 which was Ward 16 (Eglinton-Lawrence), Ward 12 (Toronto-St. Paul’s) , and W15 (Don Valley West).
There are many individual developments across the Midtown area but this section focusses on three large planning initiatives that will have broader impact across many neighbourhoods. These key initiatives are:
Canada Square Vision
History of the Site
Canada Square is an existing mixed-use complex at the southwest corner of Yonge and Eglinton. The complex was constructed in phases between 1961 and 1987 and contains office, retail and entertainment uses. The Canada Square Complex is located on lands owned by the TTC, as agent for the City. The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) records the completion of the first building on the Canada Square site as 1963.
Oxford Properties Group currently holds a lease for the buildings on the complex. In 2017, a few years after acquiring its interest in the Canada Square site, Oxford began to consider redevelopment opportunities for the site.
The majority of the lands are encumbered with three long-term ground leases. The existing ground leases have terms to 2051 for one of the leases and to 2070 for the other two ground leases when options for renewal, in favour of the Tenant, are included. Oxford Properties and CT REIT (the “Tenant”) control the lands encumbered by the existing ground leases. An approximately two-acre parcel of land fronting at Duplex and Eglinton owned by the TTC (the “Bus Barn Lands”) is not encumbered by the existing ground leases. It is currently licensed by Metrolinx as a staging area for the Eglinton Crosstown project.
Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan – 2009
After several years of consultation and collaboration with the local community, TTC, landowners, and other stakeholders, substantial amendments to the Official Plan and Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan, and By-law No. 438-86 were recommended in a Staff Report from the Chief Planner in order to implement the results of the Yonge-Eglinton Centre Focused Review. The report also recommended adoption of Urban Design Guidelines and outlined implementation strategies to achieve the revitalization of Yonge-Eglinton Centre, with a particular emphasis on a Mixed Use Area focused on the intersection of Yonge and Eglinton.
Yonge-Eglinton is one of the City’s major growth centres, with excellent transit and concentrated housing and services in a dynamic mixed use setting. The report sets out local goals and a development framework, and recommends policies to promote a vibrant transit-based mixed use Centre which is compatible with surrounding established residential neighbourhoods.
Urban Design Guidelines – January 2009
The Urban Design goals for the Yonge Eglinton Centre are to create a beautiful, comfortable and amenable area of the city. These guidelines are a framework, which can be used to shape the form and layout of new development in the area. The goals are as follows:
- To ensure new development “fits” within the existing neighbourhood context.
- To further define the character of the Yonge Eglinton Centre as a whole, including its streets and buildings.
- To provide open space and pedestrian linkages to encourage movement in and around Yonge Eglinton Centre.
- To establish the relationship of built form to adjacent streets and open spaces.
- To provide direction for the public realm and clarify streetscape elements, views and vistas and public art.
Ground Lease Arrangement – 2018
On April 24, 2018 City Council authorized the City and the Toronto Transit Commission Board to approve the key terms of the new consolidated ground lease for the Canada Square Lands, which terms were to be the basis for negotiation with the Tenant and enter into a ground lease and other agreements for the Canada Square lands. A Public Summary of the Consolidated Ground Lease was issue by CreateTO on May 17, 2021.
Oxford announces New Development – December, 2020
In December 2020, Oxford Properties (as representative of the Consortium Ownership Oxford and Canadian Tire (CT REIT)) submitted a Zoning By-law Amendment application for the redevelopment of the lands. There had been no community consultation in advance of the issue of this application. City Planning staff prepared a Preliminary Report, dated February 3, 2021 from the Director, Community Planning, Toronto and East York District. The report was deferred at the February 24, 2021 Toronto and East York Community Council meeting.
FoNTRA quickly established an informal coalition of member associations to understand the proposal and initiated a number of actions to oppose the application. The proposal did not fit the realities of 2021 that were quite different from the situation in 2009. The coalition began to formulate a vision statement that would better represent the current and future needs of our growing communities.
City Council Motions – April 7, 2021
On April 7, 2021, City Council passed Members Motion 31.27, as amended. The motion requested City Planning in consultation with an established Working Group and with the support of an Inter-Divisional Team, to comprehensively evaluate the redevelopment of the Canada Square site together with the impacts from future development occurring north of Eglinton along the Yonge Street Corridor in Ward 8 and Ward 12 and provide a Special Study Area Report with Guiding Principles for the redevelopment of the site, consistent with the intent of the applicable policy.
On April 7, 2021, City Council also requested the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to provide a Special Study Area Report with Guiding Principles, consistent with the intent of the applicable policy, for the redevelopment of Canada Square and the Yonge Street corridor north of Eglinton Avenue following working group meetings supported by an Inter-Divisional staff team.
City Council Meeting – May 5, 2021
The Toronto and East York Community Council asked Planning and the City Solicitor to consult with the CEOs of CreateTO and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to prepare a summary timeline of Canada Square leaseholder history, and to publicly release information contained in documents considered by City Council at its meeting of April 24-27, 2018 in a report for the May 5, 2021 meeting of City Council. Also Planning was asked to prepare a brief summary for the May 5, 2021 meeting of City Council detailing how the Yonge-Eglinton Centre Focused Review, approved by Council on Feb 23, 2009, informs City Planning’s assessment of the current proposal by Oxford Developments on the Canada Square site.
Two agenda items were listed for Canada Square, TE24.96, Supporting Canada Square Working Group with Additional Information as well as MM32.5, Call to Publicly Release the Signed 350 page 200-year Lease Agreement.
On May 1, 2021 FoNTRA submitted a letter to the Toronto and East York Community Council on why a special process is required for this site, how the redevelopment must provide needed community services, significant employment opportunities, and improvements to public transit. It is therefore critical that the impacts of the 2018 City/Oxford Properties agreement do not interfere with the achievement of critical planning coals for the site.
The City Council decision, made under Item MM32.5, was to request that the City Manager, in consultation with the appropriate City Officials, make the signed agreement with Oxford Properties regarding the Canada Square lands, and all related documents available to the public immediately, to support a full and transparent process of disclosure of the future development of this vital public asset, and the development application at this site be referred to the Planning and Housing Committee for review. CreateTO released a report on May 17, 2021 summarizing the ‘Yonge Eglinton Lands Consolidated Ground Lease and Commencement Agreement Summary’.
Special Study Area Working Group (SSAWG) and Final Report – June 2021
City Planning retained a facilitator, Public Progress, to facilitate the Special Study Area Working Group (SSAWG). Public Progress in collaboration with the working group produced a report titled “Imagining a New Town Centre for Midtown Toronto” dated June 2021, outlining six priorities.
The Special Study Area Working Group was comprised of representatives from local residents associations, tenant and condominium associations, Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), community service agencies, local residents and the Councillors for Wards 8, 12 and 15. The Inter-Divisional staff team included staff from relevant City Divisions and agencies.
The visioning report was titled “Imagining a New Town Centre for Midtown Toronto” (PDF – Report starts on page 7) and was written by the facilitator, Bruce Davis.
The six priorities, as determined by the Working Group, are highlighted in the report as follows:
- Priority 1: The Canada Square site should be a New Town Centre for Midtown Toronto and contain a vibrant mix of uses: a public square, park and open space, residential, learning, employment, community facilities, cultural and performing arts spaces.
- Priority 2: Residential uses on the Canada Square site should be limited to 20% of the Gross Floor Area and affordable housing should be a key component of any housing and comprise at least 25% of the housing mix.
- Priority 3: Midtown needs a new school to serve students from JK to Grade 8.
- Priority 4: Canada Square should feature a large public park.
- Priority 5: Canada Square should be a centre for inspiring learning and jobs.
- Priority 6: Community and cultural spaces are vital and Canada Square can be a part of that.
The visioning report was the centrepiece document for the City Council meeting on July 24th.
Planning and Housing Committee Meeting – June 28, 2021
At the June 28, 2021 PHC meeting, The Future of Yonge and Eglinton’s Canada Square: Supporting Midtown Existing and Future Residents’ Quality of Life – Special Study Area Report was considered and forwarded without recommendation to the City Council for consideration July 14, 2021.
The visioning report titled “Imagining a New Town Centre for Midtown Toronto” was also presented, discussed and motions were not considered. The report was forwarded to City Council without recommendation. Rather, City staff were asked to report to the July 14, 2021 meeting of City Council, describing the potential outcomes if City Council does not make a decision on the Zoning By-law Amendment application for the site at 2180-2210 Yonge Street, 15 Eglinton Avenue West, and 20 and 46 Berwick Avenue, within the timelines specified in the signed lease agreement between the City of Toronto and Oxford Properties or, if Oxford Properties does not waive the remaining conditions and abandons the agreement.
City Council Meeting – July 14-16, 2021
FoNTRA sent a letter to City Council on July 9, 2021, in support of a review of the Midtown Town Centre Vision in recognition of the unique opportunities presented by the Canada Square site.
FoNTRA asked for City Council leadership to develop and adopt creative, innovative solutions that will turn the Canada Square site into the Midtown Town Centre for local residents, the broader Midtown community, as well as for workers and visitors from across the City. This critical City building opportunity cannot be lost.
CreateTO provided a report ‘The Future of Yonge and Eglinton’s Canada Square: Supporting Midtown Existing and Future Residents’ Quality of Life – Special Study Area Report – Supplementary Report’ describing the potential outcomes if City Council does not make a decision on the Zoning By-law Amendment application for the site, within the timelines specified in the signed lease agreement between the City of Toronto and Oxford Properties or, if Oxford Properties does not waive the remaining conditions and abandons the agreement.
Oxford Properties also sent letter to City Council on July 14, 2021 supporting the recommendation and next steps outlined in the report to the Planning and Housing Committee from the Chief Planner, dated June 10, 2021 and confirming that the Supplementary Report prepared by CreateTO dated July 13, 2021 fairly and accurately describes the 2019 Lease, the public benefits secured, and the potential implications if the 2019 Lease “does not proceed.”
On July 16, 2021, City council unanimously agreed to undertake a feasibility study to turn the Canada Square site into a new Midtown Town Centre and before concluding on a private development proposal for the site. The community has been advocating for a much better use of the City-owned Canada Square lands than proposed in late 2020 by Oxford Properties … a new MIDTOWN TOWN CENTRE.
The community, with outstanding collaborative support from our three midtown Councillors Matlow, Robinson and Colle were able to convince City Councillors and our Mayor at the City Council meeting to consider the Motion (PH25.7) to conduct a feasibility study to address whether a community developed plan for Canada Square as a new Midtown Town Centre can be implemented.
Motions with amendments were unanimously passed showing overwhelming support for the next steps. In summary, the motions stated:
- City Council supports the vision for a New Town Centre.
- City staff to report to the Oct 18, 2021 meeting of the Planning and Housing Committee with a feasibility study review of the vision, including assessing inclusions and an implementation plan.
- City Planning to inform and consult with the Midtown Working Group during the preparation of the feasibility review,
- City Planning is to hold a community consultation meeting on the Midtown Working Group’s report prior to a community consultation meeting on the Oxford application for the site.
- City Planning to present the feasibility review at least three months in advance of the Final Report for the Oxford application for the site.
The Plan includes the provision for parkland, an elementary school, perhaps a post-secondary institution and other innovative employment. We are also open to more housing, such as co-op housing, and truly affordable options.
The feasibility study described in the motion is to be completed by October, 2021 and we may again need community help to make it clear to City Council that we need a new Midtown Town Centre.
Midtown Working Group
The Special Study Area Working Group (SSAWG) was assembled by City Planning to assist in the Vision document. This group was comprised of representatives from local residents associations, tenant and condominium associations, Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), community service agencies, local residents and the Councillors for Wards 8, 12 and 15. The SSAWG is also referred to as the Midtown Working Group. Note that residents association members of this Working Group have continued to meet separately to promote the six priorities identified in the visioning report.
Feasibility Review and Report to PHC – October 18, 2021
In accordance with Motion PH 25.7, City Planning consulted with the inter-divisional review team on the feasibility and implementation of the Midtown Working Groups’ vision and priorities on July 28, 2021, August 25, 2021 and September 22, 2021. On October 18, 2021, the Planning and Housing Committee considered and passed a number of motions related to PH27.6, The Future of Yonge and Eglinton’s Canada Square: Supporting Midtown Existing and Future Residents’ Quality of Life – Feasibility Review.
The Feasibility Review Report from the Chief Planner and Executive Director of City Planning, assesses the six priorities in context with City Council and TTC’s priorities (including a new bus terminal, two new station entrances and improvements to the underground concourse), the existing planning framework, lease arrangements, and physical and technical constraints of the site.
City Planning also held more focussed discussions with the interdivisional review team members as needed throughout the feasibility review. The interdivisional review team consists of staff from various City Divisions responsible for commenting on the ZBA application for the site as well as members of the Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board and CreateTO. The Applicant of the Canada Square ZBA application also attended these meetings.
City Planning consulted with the Midtown Working Group on August 26, 2021 and September 9, 2021 and also held more focussed discussions with group members as needed.
City Council supported the six priorities identified in the vision for a New Town Centre report resulting from working group meetings looking at the Canada Square lands and both sides of the Yonge Street Corridor north of Eglinton Avenue.
Target Date for Final Report
Planning staff is targeting a Final Report with a draft ZBA on the Canada Square application to City Council prior to July 1, 2022. The Final Report will apply the six priorities to the extent they are feasible within the context of the assessment provided in this report, using the following mechanisms and tools:
- Site Specific Zoning By-law: can regulate the mix of land uses and can establish limits. The By-law can permit uses like schools and post-secondary institutions. It can also control the location of buildings and open spaces.
- Section 37 Agreement: can secure, with the agreement of the applicant, the provision of community benefits. Details of any community benefits, including the provisions for an on-site child care, will be secured using the Section 37 Agreement.
- Parkland Dedication: will enable the City to secure open spaces on the site as City-owned parkland.
- Site Plan Control: can secure the design of the buildings and open space to help achieve the sustainable and resilient themes in the six priorities.
- Official Plan Amendment: can be considered if a new public road is no longer pursued connecting Berwick Avenue and Duplex Avenue.
- Shared-Use Agreement: can be used to establish the shared use between a potential future school and parkland, for example.
- Economic Development Incentive Programs: to attract business uses such as the Imagination, Manufacturing, Innovation and Technology (IMIT) – business incentive and to support innovation hubs and cultural and creative space such as the Creative Co-Location Facilities Property Tax Subclass Designation.
- Parkland Acquisition: can be considered for additional parkland.
Community Consultation Meetings – November 25, December 1 & 2, 2021
City Planning held three community consultation meetings on the dates identified above. The first meeting will include presentations from City staff and the applicant and a short question and answer period. The focus of the second two meetings was to receive comments and feedback on the proposal from the community. All three meetings were held by a good cross-section of local residents.
Midtown in Focus Study
The Midtown in Focus study was done to ensure that growth positively contributes to the vitality and livability of the Midtown neighbourhoods. The study resulted in a renewed plan for Midtown with an updated Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan and infrastructure strategies to keep pace with development but to also support quality of life in Midtown. OPA 405 was submitted to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing on August 9, 2018 for review and approval pursuant to Section 26 of the Planning Act.
The City’s website provides background information about Midtown in Focus.
Study Area and Purpose
The Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan area is situated in Midtown Toronto, focused around the intersection of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue and extending across six square kilometres. The following map shows the boundaries of the Secondary Plan that includes three city wards. Note that the ward boundaries reflect the old 47 Ward system and the ward numbers and boundaries have changed in the new 25 Ward system.
The Canada Square lands located at the south-east corner of the Yonge-Eglinton were excluded from the Midtown in Focus study.
The study includes the following activities:
- Built Form Study and Growth Analysis
- Cultural Heritage Resource Assessment
- Community Services and Facilities Strategy
- Midtown Parks and Public Realm Plan
- Transportation Assessment
- Municipal Servicing Assessment
Review each study component for an explanation of each component’s mandate.
Consultations began in 2017 with the creation of a Proposals Report. FoNTRA commented on the Plan to the Planning and Housing Committee in November, 2017.
A final phase of public and stakeholder engagement occurred in early 2018 on the proposed Plan and infrastructure plans, strategies and assessments. Engagement activities included meetings with the Midtown Planning Group, landowners, developers, community leaders, Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB). Additionally, a full-day public open house and an online survey were also used to obtain feedback on the proposed Plan. City staff also met with staff from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to review the proposed Plan.
FoNTRA and a number of its member associations were active through all of the open consultations. FoNTRA filed a letter to express our strong support for the staff recommendations for the new Secondary Plan, which included reference to an earlier letter regarding the need for a transit planning inquiry.
On July 4, 2018 FoNTRA sent a further letter regarding the Midtown in Focus Report and concerns over being asked to select options for portions of the study area, viewed out of context and without addressing the infrastructure concerns, particularly over inadequate transit planning, previously raised.
The Final Report on Midtown in Focus
The final report for Midtown in Focus was issued by the Chief Planner on May 24, 2018. The report recommends the adoption of a comprehensive new planning framework for the Yonge-Eglinton area in Midtown Toronto (Midtown). This report recommends adoption of amendments to the Official Plan and a new Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan (recommended Plan). The recommended Plan sets out a 25-year vision for Midtown that provides policy direction to ensure Midtown develops as a complete community, maintain the diversity of Midtown’s neighbourhoods and integrate land use and infrastructure planning.
In November, 2018, FoNTRA urged the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to approve the Yonge-Eglinton Official Plan Amendment 405 as soon as possible, as it proposed effective policies to address the issues of unprecedented development in this provincially designated Growth Centre.
On June 5, 2019, the Minister approved the Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan with significant modifications. The Minister’s revisions introduce a strong emphasis on leveraging infrastructure investment to drive growth and development at transit-supportive densities. The Chief Planner prepared a report summarizing the changes and providing a preliminary assessment of the potential effect of the Decisions and the impact associated with Bill 108 on the Secondary Plans.
Similar to the Downtown Plan, where the City imposed prescriptive development standards, the Minister’s modifications relax the policy language to create a more permissive environment for development (e.g., removing or softening the language relating to minimum setbacks, maximum density, holding policies, minimum floor area requirements for 2- and 3-bedroom units, compatibility with context, etc.).
Most notably, the Minister has removed the City’s maximum height limits (which had an upper limit of 20 storeys), and instead, introduced policies to describe “anticipated height ranges” for various areas, with heights of up to 65 storeys in certain locations. These revised height policies provide only general guidance; the actual height limits will be determined at the level of zoning. An Official Plan Amendment is therefore not required to exceed the “anticipated height ranges” described in the revised version of the plan.
The Minister’s revisions also reflect the reforms introduced through Bill 108, More Homes, More Choice Act, 2019, particularly in relation to bonusing, community benefits, and parkland dedication.
The Midtown Planning Group (MPG) created for the Midtown in Focus study consisted of the Councillors for Wards 16 (now Ward 8, Eglinton-Lawrence), 22 (now Ward 12 Toronto-St. Paul’s), and 25 (now Ward 15 Don Valley West) and representatives from over 30 active stakeholder organizations such as local residents’ associations and business improvement areas. A new MPG has been convened to support follow-up work being done on the Midtown Zoning Review.
Zoning by-laws are tools cities use to control the use of land. Zoning by-laws regulate permitted uses, building types, the location, height, density, spacing and character of buildings, as well as parking and loading requirements, among others.
Zoning in some areas of Midtown needs to be updated to reflect the City’s Official Plan and the Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan. City Council directed the zoning review called the ‘Midtown Zoning Review’ for Midtown’s 22 Character Areas, as identified in the Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan.
Please see the City of Toronto, Midtown in Focus
Midtown Zoning Review
A follow-up task from the Midtown-in-Focus study was the need for some areas of Midtown’s zoning by-laws to be updated to reflect the City’s Official Plan and the Yonge Eglinton Secondary Plan. City Council directed the zoning review for Midtown’s 22 Character Areas, grouped into five character areas that share common development objectives or characteristics, as identified in the Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan. The Canada Square Lands at the south-east corner of Yonge-Eglinton were excluded from the Midtown in Focus study and were therefore excluded from this zoning review.
The Midtown Zoning Review was launched in 2019. Consultants were retained and background analysis started in early 2020. The target was to develop a draft zoning by-law for public consultation in the Fall, 2021. The final and recommended zoning by-law is targeted to be prepared for the second quarter of 2022.
There are three distinct Study components:
- The Midtown Zoning Review Background Report determines where zoning amendments are needed.
- The Built Form Study (in progress) will help establish specific height limits, minimum and maximum densities and appropriate building standards. It also includes the block study of the Broadway and Erskine area City Staff were directed to undertake by Council in 2019.
- Updated Infrastructure Assessments as part of Infrastructure Implementation Strategies based on people/job estimates.
See additional Midtown Zoning Review reports and information. Sign up for City e-updates, and find out about meetings and how to get involved.
Community Consultation Meeting – October 27, 2021
This meeting was hosted by City Planning and discussed how zoning should proceed in Midtown, including a series of draft directions including (but not limited to) those listed here:
- Zoning Basis: the existing city-wide Zoning By-law 569-2013, Secondary Plan policies, results of a built form study, the City’s design guidelines, Decisions of the Ontario Land Tribunal, technical analysis and previous work undertaken.
- Recent Development Applications: recently in-force zoning will continue on a site-specific basis.
- Uses of Land: based on 569-2013 wherever possible, with changes as required.
- Building Form: regulations will include setbacks, angular planes, floor plate size limits, etc.
- Building Size: regulated based on building type and form, and supplemented by numerical values (e.g., gross floor area and/or height and/or units/hectare).
- Minimum Height: changes will be made to implement the minimums set out in the Plan, with no changes made where minimum height currently meets the intent and purpose of the plan.
- Minimum Ground Floor Height (Retail): changes to support lower minimum retail floor heights.
- Maximum Height: regulated by form, building type, and a height overlay. A minimum lot size will also be required for tall buildings.
Note that the meeting focussed on identifying the high-level directions for how to proceed, and did not discuss details (e.g., maximum heights in metres) of a future draft Zoning By-law. A draft Zoning By-law is anticipated in early 2022 and will include all details for public consultation.
The meeting was well attended by a diverse group of local residents.
Update – January 2022
The Midtown Zoning Review is one of three initiatives currently underway to implement the Yonge Eglinton Secondary Plan (Official Plan Amendment 405), collectively known as “Ready, Set, Midtown”.
The other initiatives are the Midtown Infrastructure Implementation Strategy (MIIS) and the Midtown Parks and Public Realm Strategy.
The purpose of the Report was to provide an update on the Midtown Zoning Review, obtain directions for the development of an updated Zoning By-law and to provide a summary of consultation undertaken to date. The Report also outlined next steps and timing for completion of a draft Zoning By-law for consultation and a final recommended Zoning By-law.
The PHC adopted this item without amendment calling for (1) consideration of feedback obtained through the ongoing consultation process in the preparation of a draft Zoning By-law, and undertaking further consultation with the public and key stakeholders, including landowners and renters, businesses and agencies on the resulting draft Zoning By-laws and (2) to report back in the second Quarter of 2022 with a recommended Zoning By-law.
FoNTRA’s letter expressed concern about how the Zoning By-law regulations will intersect with the MIIS and depending on that, whether the real life impacts of the infrastructure assessment will need to be reflected in the Zoning By-law, and the process to accomplish that. There are two aspects to be considered: the distribution of the current and future population in midtown is concentrated in a number of compact neighbourhoods and, secondly, these apartment areas are currently deficient in all aspects of a Complete Community (i.e. schools, park, public realm, recreational facilities, social services) and there is a lack of available land to accommodate these infrastructure elements. The question is whether the Zoning By-law will include placeholders to ensure there are opportunities to accommodate MIIS requirements once they are determined (community services, facilities, amenities, parks, etc.) with the stated objective of achieving complete communities?
Please see the City of Toronto, Midtown Zoning Review