When you get off of a Go Train, a Via train, the subway, or the bus, the immediacy of two things hits you. The first, that the Royal York is still, and always will be, a fitting building to welcome you into Toronto’s core. And the second, that you are indeed in the core of Toronto. But because of Toronto’s north-south development focus, the vantage east or west outside of Union Station has always reminded pedestrians that indeed Toronto is no New York; that the urban jungle does end. However, this is starting to change.
Just east of Union Station, across from the Go bus terminal, the now unassuming Sony Centre marks the corner of Front and Yonge. Once a major development on the edge of downtown core, the Sony Centre started to look out of place decades ago as its low-rise, 1950s-style modernism seemed sleepy for the growing bustle of the neighbourhood. To the west of Union Station, at Front and University, an eight storey brick building housing a Jack Astors and the Loose Moose fronts the view west of the city. But to both directions, substantial developments are in progress or in planning that will further crowd the centre of Toronto.
To the west, plans are in the pipeline for a mixed-use development above the bricked buildings currently housing pub fare and minor offices. The towers would rise to
similar or greater heights than the recent developments around them, namely RBC Dexia building and the Ritz Carlton, and would no doubt tie said buildings more cohesively into the ever-expanding central business district. Such a development, with a condo component, would also help establish more vibrancy in the area, bringing residents into a typically commercial area.
To the east, the Sony Centre is getting quite the addition, with the L Tower topping off in the coming months. Attached at the proverbial hip of the theatre, the tower was designed by the infamous Daniel Libeskind, and in my personal opinion (straying from objective writing), is one of the best architectural additions to Toronto’s skyline in recent memory. Rising from a void in the contiguous skyline, the L Tower’s distinctive shape is further emphasized. Regardless of shape, the facade in its is a fantastic example of a building’s ability to both stylistically blend in with its surroundings yet also stand out. In terms of its colour, the pale blue plays well off of the postmodernist colour palette of the buildings in the city’s core, namely Brookfield Place’s muted green and Scotia Plaza’s conservative deep red. The tower might not necessarily be as postmodernist as those two complexes, but it nevertheless seems to promote an overarching weave in the colour asthetic of the downtown core. The cladding also seems to follow suit with the TD Centre’s internationalist style matte metallic cladding, and the curtain wall facade’s lustre will no doubt compliment Royal Bank Plaza’s gold finish and the multitude of condos in the area. Directly to the south of the L Tower, the same developers are constructing another condo, Backstage, that will further enclose the low-lying Union Station. So as you step out of Union, enjoy feeling on the edge of a downtown core while you still can.