The QuadReal Property Group is proposing to tear down two shorter buildings at Commerce Court in the heart of Downtown Toronto, and replace them with a 64-storey tower - the exact height of the nearby BMO Tower at First Canadian Place. The two buildings would share the title of Toronto's tallest office building.
The Commerce Court 3 project includes a new glass walled pavilion running along Wellington Street, a height extension to and reworking of the Hotel Victoria building at 56 Yonge Street, and new vestibules connecting the pavilion to Commerce Court West, and a second one connecting Commerce Court West to Commerce Court North which would replace the Zeidler-designed vestibule there now.
The Art Deco Commerce Court North is the original building on the site. Completed during the Great Depression in 1931, it is 34 storeys and 145 m/476 ft tall. Designed by Darling and Pearson Architects with York & Sawyer, it was the tallest building in the British Empire when completed, and the tallest building in Canada for 31 years.
Commerce Court West, completed in 1972, was designed by I.M. Pei in the International Style. With 57 storeys at 239 m/784 ft, it was the tallest building in Toronto for four years. The Pei-designed Commerce Court South and East buildings, at 5 and 13 storeys respectively, and a public plaza in the heart of the block, were all part of that redevelopment covering of most of the block, and were completed at the same time.
From 1993 to 1995, renovations by Zeidler Roberts Partnership Architects (now known as Zeidler Partnership Architects) added new vestibules between the buildings, light wells, canopies, and transformed the restaurant and retail areas of the development. All of the Zeidler work at ground level would be replaced by new work, while possibly all of their retail work would disappear as well.
The new work is designed by DIALOG and Hariri Pontarini Architects, and with ERA Architects handling heritage aspects. The pedestrian plaza will be rebuilt with the landscape plan by Claude Cormier & Associés which aims to better integrate the new buildings with their surroundings while honouring I.M. Pei's vision for the square, and also referencing Commerce Court North's stunning interiors.
Commerce Court North's 31st and 32nd floors, which once hosted Toronto's highest observation vantage point overlooking the city, are being studied for their potential to be opened up to the public again, possibly as a bar and/or restaurant. The team hopes to be able to make the observation deck accessible to the public once a year "at an appropriate opportunity such as Doors Open Toronto." A lightning plan by Mulvey and Banani is also in the works to highlight the upper storeys of Commerce Court North, "in keeping with early photographs of the building."
Another part of the plan where heritage elements will be incorporated into the redevelopment is at 56 Yonge Street, a narrow 8-storey building known for the last many years as the Hotel Victoria. The heritage front will be kept, along with "a portion of the heritage to the depth of the first structural bay", while new structure would be built behind and above that. While hotel functions would be found on floors 3 through 8, the new levels above would be new office space. The ground floor would become a new Yonge Street door for Commerce Court, while also providing access to a bike storage facility, most of which would be found on the second storey of the building.