Redevelopment of Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market North in Limbo

(this is an article I wrote for UrbanToronto)

An initiative to redevelop the St. Lawrence Market North site is caught in limbo as the City and the architects work to resolve budget and funding issues in what has already been more than decade-long process. A 2008 competition to replace the aging 1960s north building (a Canadian Centennial project) and to improve the St. Lawrence Market complex resulted in a winning design for which ground is still a long way from being broken.

Next up in the ongoing saga is the consideration by the Government Management Committee and City Council. Toronto’s Deputy City Manager, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Corporate Officer recommend that design work continue, and the necessary budget adjustments be referred to the 2014 Capital Budget Process.

The forecast for the building, based on the Architect’s latest design submission, has risen from $74.89 million to $91.46 million. Additional funding of $15.293 million is required in order to advance the project, despite considerable reductions to the Winning Design (below left). It was envisioned as nearly all-glass with exterior wooden louvers, and its five-storey-high central courtyard would bring in plenty of natural light and provide a clear, perfectly framed view north to St. Lawrence Hall. The Architect’s revised proposal (below right) accommodates the major program requirements and while significantly less dynamic and permeable in form and spirit, still maintains the essence of the Winning Design.

urbantoronto-8271-26956

The original estimate was prepared in 2008/09. The revised project costs are a result of a few significant factors: inflation/escalation; atypical conditions discovered at the site require additional monies for excavation; and, preliminary cost estimates were unsuitably based on a unit cost allocation of a typical structure that doesn’t have the level of complexity of this distinct design.

The current St. Lawrence Market North building has been largely underutilized and an initiative to maximize the site’s full potential has been ongoing since 2002. In 2008, City Council authorized a design competition to select an architect for the development of the north property. The winning submittal came from Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (the “Design Architect”), in association with local firm Adamson Associates Architects.

The principal benefits that will result from the project’s completion include:

  • Significant improvement to a city landmark and tourist destination
  • Improved compatibility with the heritage character of other buildings in the neighbourhood
  • Increased parking capacity (through the construction of 250 new underground spaces)
  • Service improvements resulting from the consolidation of Court Services operations into one location
  • Creation of new interior spaces that can be used for a variety of community and commercial purposes
In 2011, the City executed a consulting agreement with the Architect to develop the Winning Design within the City’s Original Program of Requirements, but the Architect has been unsuccessful to date in doing so. As a result, the Architect has provided an adjusted design to meet the minimum functional requirements, including 14 Courtrooms and JP Offices, 250 parking stalls, Court and Police Service administrative offices, Art Gallery, Restaurant, Kitchen Incubator and Farmers Market area.

The Winning Design included features which have been eliminated or reduced in the current design:

1)  Building Height Reduction – height of building has been reduced from 6 floors (including mezzanine) to 5 floors. Space programming efficiencies have been realized by relocating non essential file storage space from the office floors to residual areas of the parking garage. The revised design also eliminates the 4th floor mechanical area by changing the design from a centralized mechanical system to a decentralized system distributed across all floors.

2)  Green Roof Reduction – the Winning Design included a separate green roof suspended over the main building roof, excluding the atrium. The revised design includes a green roof as part the building roof.

3)  Sustainability Target Reductions – the Winning design stipulated designing to LEED Gold, with the ‘goal’ of LEED Platinum. The revised design proposes designing to the Toronto Green Standard of Tier 1 (which contributes towards LEED Silver certification).

4)  Sun Shade System Reduction – the Winning Design included operable exterior wood louvers, including maintenance catwalks, on the east and west sides of the building. The current design includes a fixed louver system of composite material with an aluminum core and the elimination of the catwalks.

The Architect has informed the City that there are no further design reduction options available other than further reductions to program space, which is unacceptable to the City. As a result, in order for the project to proceed, additional funding is required. The final project cost estimate, based on 100% design, will not be known until the Architect completes the Design Development and Bid Document stages.

Below are exterior and interior renderings of the initial winning design and the adjusted design proposals.

urbantoronto-8271-26954

This report will be considered by Government Management Committee on June 17, 2013 and then by City Council on July 16, 2013, subject to the actions of the Government Management Committee.

UPDATE: Don’t like the cheapened plan for St. Lawrence Market North? Tell Toronto City Council.
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