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.

Events from this Firm
23 Oct 2018, Other, Toronto, Canada

Dentons and SheEO are coming together for an evening of #radicalgenerosity on October 23, 2017. Meet Vicki Saunders, Founder of SheEO, and learn about how SheEO is changing the landscape for female entrepreneurs.

23 Oct 2018, Seminar, Montreal, Canada

Dentons is pleased to invite you to join us for a breakfast seminar as part of the Les Matinées Dentons series on issues relevant to you and your business.

24 Oct 2018, Other, Toronto, Canada

If you build it, claims may come. Join the Dentons Construction group for breakfast and an informative discussion on current topics in construction law.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
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
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

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