Canada: Toronto’s New Downtown Tall Buildings Guidelines

Last Updated: April 26 2012
Article by Jason Park

At its meeting of February 14th, 2012, Toronto & East York Community Council considered new "Tall Buildings Guidelines" for downtown Toronto.

In 2007, City Council had authorized City staff to retain a consulting team to conduct a study focusing in on intensification and tall building location analysis for the downtown area. The City issued an RFP and ultimately selected Urban Strategies Inc. and Hariri Pontarini Architects to complete this study. The study area was bounded by Bathurst Street on the west, the rail corridor north of Dupont Street on the north, the Don Valley Parkway on the east, and the Toronto Harbour on the south. Secondary Planning Areas falling within this study's area boundary do not form part of this study's recommendations.

The purpose of the study, as set out in the RFP, was as follows:

  • Implement the strategic direction set by the City's Official Plan, and in particular Chapter 3: Building a Successful City;
  • Improve the quality of the built environment and public realm in the downtown and define its sense of place;
  • Engage the public by providing an opportunity for a local "visioning" exercise;
  • Increase public confidence by improving the predictability and transparency of the Tall Buildings Evaluation and Development Approvals Process; and
  • Reducing the number of tall building development proposals being adjudicated by the Ontario Municipal Board, and the variability of Board decisions with respect to these proposals.

The study that was produced by the consulting team was to identify a framework for downtown streets that tall buildings could be located upon, the general heights for those tall buildings, and some built‐form guidance with respect to these tall buildings.

The study identified parts of major downtown streets where tall buildings were considered to be appropriate, and called these "High Streets". These streets include Bay, Bloor, College and King, amongst others. The study recommended amendments to the mapping for pre‐existing Council‐adopted urban design guidelines for various areas of the Toronto downtown including removing portions of some streets previously identified as "High Streets", including portions of University Avenue, Church Street and Jarvis Street. The heights being proposed for properties fronting onto "High Streets" fall into six range categories, as follows:

1. 47 to 77 metres (15 to 25 storeys);

2. 62 to 107 metres (20 to 35 storeys);

3. 77 to 137 metres (25 to 45 storeys);

4. 92 to 152 metres (30 to 50 storeys);

5. 107 to 182 metres (35 to 60 storeys); and

6. 137 metres and up (45 storeys to unlimited).

The City also created a category referred to as "Secondary High Streets". These streets generally run adjacent to High Streets and are mostly lined with residential apartment buildings on which tall buildings are also considered an appropriate form of development. Once again, the study also recommended that certain previously‐identified Secondary High Streets be removed from that category, including portions of Yorkville Avenue, St. Nicholas Street, Asquith Avenue, Park Road, Court Street and Colbourne Street.

As a general principle, the height ranges for these Secondary High Streets would generally be onethird lower than the High Streets they run parallel to. If a Secondary High Street runs between two High Streets, the lower of the High Street heights would apply in determining the Secondary High Street heights. In the event that there were no immediately‐adjacent High Streets, the height of the nearest High Street would be used to determine the Secondary High Street height.

The study also made several recommendations concerning the podium portions of tall buildings, including establishing a maximum street wall podium height, depending on the street's right‐ofway width and also incorporating a minimum podium or base podium height of 10.5 metres, to discourage the under‐development of tall building sites.

The study made recommendations respecting heritage conservation, including recommending that all tall building development proposals containing heritage resources on or adjacent to the development site should continue to provide a heritage impact statement as part of the City's complete application process. A Heritage Impact Statement is required to reference existing municipal and Provincial policies and guidelines, including detailed principles which are set out in the report, and must demonstrate how the proposed conservation strategy will maintain the heritage values and attributes of the property.

There are also 23 performance standards which the study proposes be adopted by City Council, including standards dealing with, amongst other things, podium location/façade alignment, minimum sidewalk widths, priority retail streets, minimum ground floor height, pedestrian weather protection, maximum floor plate size, tower set back from the podium level and tower separation distances.

City Council has not adopted these Downtown Tall Buildings Guidelines yet as Toronto & East York Community Council referred the study back to City Planning for further consultation with affected Councillors on a number of issues, including height incentives related to provision of community benefits in downtown Toronto in relation to development proposals for tall buildings. City Planning was directed to report back to the April 17th, 2012 meeting of the Toronto & East York Community Council. The earliest that City Council could therefore adopt these Guidelines would be at the May 8th and 9th City Council meeting.

One of the recommendations of City Planning staff is that City staff are to use these Downtown Tall Buildings Guidelines in the evaluation of all new and current tall building development proposals falling within the Guideline boundaries. As a result, all developers and landowners who are in the process of developing, or will soon be developing their lands should take a very careful look at these Tall Buildings Guidelines.

Finally, please note that these Guidelines are NOT appealable to the Ontario Municipal Board. We understand that City Planning will be preparing a further report which will identify future implementation options for these Guidelines and performance standards, which may include, but not be limited to, amendments to the City's Official Plan and Zoning By‐law. The City's adoption of those amendments would be appealable to the Ontario Municipal Board.

About Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (FMC)

FMC is one of Canada's leading business and litigation law firms with more than 500 lawyers in six full-service offices located in the country's key business centres. We focus on providing outstanding service and value to our clients, and we strive to excel as a workplace of choice for our people. Regardless of where you choose to do business in Canada, our strong team of professionals possess knowledge and expertise on regional, national and cross-border matters. FMC's well-earned reputation for consistently delivering the highest quality legal services and counsel to our clients is complemented by an ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion to broaden our insight and perspective on our clients' needs. Visit:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions