Mini-Mid-Rise: Toronto’s Main Street Infill

Missing Middle

COVID-19 has changed all of our lives, the way we work, commute and dine. It has dramatically shifted our relationship to space where being able to work and live all within a short distance is becoming more difficult. As we see more and more boarded up storefronts and businesses, we need to ask what we can do to change this current path. How do we ensure our main streets recover from COVID-19 and become more resilient? One solution is by simply building differently.  


Many of our mainstreet developments follow the principles and intent of the City’s Avenues and Mid-Rise Building Guidelines, which allows for intensification of these areas for future growth. The City of Toronto is expected to grow by 800,000 over the next 25 years, with the potential for mid-rise developments to absorb a significant portion of this growth through new housing and at grade employment. However, in practise it has been difficult to implement: mid-rise buildings oftentimes require an assembly of several properties, underground parking is very expensive to build and in many cases, the numbers just don’t work. The developers must have higher density than City defines as appropriate.  


Smart Density has proposed a solution for both developers and the public to embrace midrise developments by using a different approach. This new method allows for mid-rise developments to occur on single properties, without the need to purchase multiple properties. Often developers need to assemble 6-8 properties with multiple planning amendment to meet the necessary guidelines to make their projects feasible. However, Smart Density proposes implementing the midrise design guidelines on a single property. This method allows for one or two units per floor for a total of 6 -20 units  on one property. These developments would also forgo parking as many mainstreets comply with the City’s priority for transit oriented and pedestrian friendly developments. In addition these types of mid-rise developments would presumably appeal to conscientious neighbours and fit more appropriately within the character of the neighbourhood.  


This new approach has the potential to address the City’s guidelines with regards to intensification and neighbourhood needs while simultaneously breathing new life into our at-grade businesses. Which are fundamental to creating vibrant and liveable communities. By allowing gentle density this in turn allows for a larger market to support our storefronts. 


We have reimagined what midrise living looks like and created a new case for lessening and mitigating the financial, physical, and social challenges presented by traditional mid-rise developments.