Why is Yonge and Bloor the tallest node in the city? Yonge and Queen’s Quay will have 1 Yonge at 307 m (with 95 storeys), but Bloor and Yonge will surpass that with 1 Bloor at 309 m (and 85 storeys), and the concentration of tall buildings at Bloor and Yonge is much more dramatic. Doesn’t it make more sense for Yonge and King to be the tallest node, considering that this intersection is arguably the centre of the downtown? And if this is because the two subway lines intersect right there, why is the area of St. George and Spadina so underdeveloped? Or is it much more mundane, and it’s all because Yorkville condos sell for more per square foot than condos in any other area of the city, and by a large margin?

In any way, the stroll in Yorkville is interesting, not the least because it has so many construction sites or sites with development applications – many of which are for tall buildings, while some are ‘just’ for mid-rise. This suggested an interesting question that I’m sure many of our readers will be interested in when they review potential development sites: is this a tall building site?


As a planner and an architect, I often work on Highest-and-Best-Use studies. Here are the key criteria that help me determine if a site is a tall building site:

(It can take a long time to find the right documents. That’s why we’ve compiled some of the most commonly used documents to help make your life easier).

Land Use

Does the site back into an area designated as Neighbourhoods (yellow) in the Official Plan land use map? If it does, usually the development will be required to provide a transition to these lots in the form of an angular plane, making a tall building infeasible.


Are the surrounding buildings listed or designated heritage sites in the Heritage Registry, or belong to a Heritage Conservation District? Depending on the context, this might suggest that a tall building will not be appropriate.

Tall Buildings Design Guidelines

Is the size of the site sufficient for a tall building according to the Tall Buildings Guidelines? If the site cannot provide 12.5 m separation distances from the adjacent properties and still achieve a viable floor plate of 750m2, a tall building may not be possible.

Avenue and Mid-Rise Study Guidelines

Is the site designated as an Avenue (brown) in Map 2 of the Official Plan: Urban Structure?

If so, the site would usually be suitable for at least a mid-rise building.

Secondary Plans and Site and Area Specific Policies

Is the site located within a Secondary Plan or an Avenue Segment Study where the permitted height is predetermined? This is for example, the case on Dupont Street.

Development Precedents

What development applications in the area have comparable conditions? What were they approved for? How did the applications change between one submission to the next? What were the Staff recommendations during the process? If an application was rejected, what were the reasons?


We help developers minimize risks and make informed decisions before bidding on sites by covering exactly what they need to know at the early stage: the relevant planning policies, the major limitations, and a realistic building envelope in a 2-3 pages report. Contact us before your next bid.