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New 40-storey condo development proposed for site of LCBO at Spadina and King.

Core Architects image/Core Architects image

Developers who drew municipal ire for plunking a sprawling, single-storey liquor store on a prime downtown corner are making amends by making it taller.

Way taller.

Nascent plans for a series of properties surrounding the LCBO outlet on the corner of King Street and Spadina Avenue would turn what's now a suburban-style store into a 39-storey, 443-unit condo tower that would incorporate a brick heritage building and feature futuristic, solar-energy-harnessing windows and a green roof.

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Architect Babak Eslahjou calls it a unique take on "one of the most prominent corners of the city."

It wouldn't be finished for at least a decade, but while local councillor Adam Vaughan welcomes the increased density, he said there is no way the building would be allowed to reach that towering height.

"We've got a building there that's too short. They're coming in with a building that's just a bit too tall."

Mr. Vaughan would like to see the developers shave at least 50 metres off the proposed height - and throw in some community benefits like supportive housing or family-centred units to make it worth the neighbourhood's while. Community council is expected to schedule public consultations on the project Wednesday.

When the LCBO first set up shop in late 2009, the building was a low-rise anomaly in a growing forest of glassy high-rises in the city's western downtown.

"You could take that building, airlift it and drop it in a mall anywhere in Ontario," Mr. Vaughan said. "For a government that wants to intensify on transit routes, when we asked them to build a second floor they said, 'Sorry, no deal.' "

But LCBO spokesman Chris Layton said the store was a stopgap solution: Cabo Three Investments, the property's owners, weren't ready to build up. And at the time, he said, there was pent-up demand for a liquor store in the area, whose dense population skews young and affluent and is projected to grow by 10.7 per cent over five years.

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"The LCBO has a format that it's found to be very successful and that customers have indicated to us they really like," he said. "We try to provide one-stop shopping."

The numbers would seem to bear out that argument: In the first year, Mr. Layton said, projected sales were about $6-million; sales actually topped $12.5-million.

"People were literally lined up. The community wanted service."

Mr. Layton said the LCBO's lease goes until at least 2019, which is when developers plan to start on the new building, but the liquor store would be interested in taking part in new retail space that's supposed to make up the first two storeys.

Mr. Eslahjou, for his part, is excited. The building's designers are also hoping Ontario's feed-in tariff program, which pays both residential and commercial consumers to produce low-emission energy, is still around in a decade: The plan is to have windows that harness solar energy using thin-film technology that's still in the works.

"We know this tech is coming online quite strong now; we don't have to build the building for another nine years," Mr. Eslahjou said, "so by then we'll have a good handle on it.

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"There's some conversation, obviously, about the height. As there always is."

But Mark Siegel, vice-president of planning and development for Terracap, property manager for Cabo Three Investments, said the company fully expects to get its 39 storeys, which he noted is "tall, but not that tall."

By the time the tower's slated for completion 10 years from now, he hopes, the area will be a "fairly well established condo neighbourhood," and demand will be for larger, more flexible units not unlike the family-centric suites Mr. Vaughan is pushing.

"Of course we would have loved to do something larger than that, but that's probably not realistic," Mr. Siegel said. "I think it would look absolutely amazing to have something significant at that corner. ... You don't get too many corners like that."

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