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This development brings Toronto’s PATH system south of the Gardiner for the first time, giving residents and business people sheltered access to Union Station and beyond

Set to open in June, 2016, the One York Street and Harbour Plaza Residences development currently under construction will add to the burgeoning wave of development sweeping through Toronto’s south core. The area of green space to the south of One York Street will be created by the removal of the off-ramp from the Gardiner Expressway, made possible by rezoning funds paid by Menkes Developments and the Heathcare of Ontario Pension Plan to the City of Toronto. “It was important to us to push for the park,” says Dermot Sweeny, principal of Sweeny Sterling Finlayson &Co. Architects Inc., “because it adds value to urban life, to the people living and working here and because it also gives a beautiful forecourt to the people in our office building. It adds tremendous value.”

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While the elevated Gardiner Expressway is still a prominent feature running east-west through the south core of downtown Toronto, as James Parakh, the city planning division’s acting director for urban design, puts it, “When buildings to the north and south of it are built, then the visibility of that barrier is less, so one experiences the Gardiner now largely on north-south streets.”

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The ground-level glass wall of the One York Street address consists of a cable wall, which comprises large panes of glass trussed together with cables. The 18-metre frameless design, which has been used on buildings such as the AOL-Time Warner Center in New York, will flex slightly in the wind. The section of the podium shaded in red will house a three-storey department store, bringing more retail options to a somewhat sparse area for shopping.

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The importance of a building’s facade cannot be understated, according to One York Street architect, Dermot Sweeny. “A good office building must have a dress,” he says. “If a corporation is to lease space they want to know that it’s dignified, there’s a beautiful entry point, there’s security for both their employees and their visitors, access to light and all these other things. Office buildings that haven’t done that well, that haven’t said we must have a dress, that urban room on the street, they often don’t do well.”

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While the One York Street and Harbour Plaza Residences is highlighted in orange in this diagram, the circular off-ramp exiting the Gardiner Expressway to the south will have been removed by the time the development opens in 2016, as well as the other fork of the off-ramp that deposits cars at the foot of Bay Street in the right of the diagram. The move will allow for a widening of the existing Harbour Street, which runs along the south side of One York Street, to four lanes heading eastbound.

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The all-important access to the PATH, Toronto’s predominantly below-grade downtown walkway, begins on the northwest corner of the building and immediately takes pedestrians above ground. As Mr. Sweeny explains, when his architecture firm did the concept for the site, they had to “engage the public obviously through the streets but also to figure out how to best connect with the PATH, which is very interesting. In the south core the PATH is essentially raised, it’s either level or raised, which is exciting. It’s a very different approach to the PATH originally.”


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The PATH will run through the east side of the development, right above the entry point to the residential portion of the building. “It’s a huge thing for the city,” says Peter Menkes, president of the commercial/industrial division of Menkes Developments, of the PATH, “and the city to their credit has really encouraged every project to figure out a way to continue their connection so they put that onus on the developer and it’s a good thing, it makes us all think about the best way to connect.”

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To the northeast side of the One York Street and Harbour Plaza Residences development, the team of architects designing the PATH connection ran into an obstacle in the form of the Gardiner Expressway. With burying the PATH underground impossible due to low-lying sewers and trunk lines, they decided to run it just under the Gardiner, but mounted it on gaskets so that the City of Toronto can access the concrete underbelly for intermittent repairs while keeping the walkway open. As Mr. Sweeny explains, “It will take about 20 minutes to move the bridge, slide the glass [door] over and it’s done.” Read more below at "The challenges of connecting Toronto's south core."

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