Transit-Oriented Development at Kennedy Station

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The following report is a pro-bono project by Smart Density as part of the HousingNowTO.com volunteer-collective. The purpose of this report is to provide a leading-vision of how to maximize the city-building and affordable-housing opportunities on the Kennedy station north parking lot site within the goals of the City of Toronto’s HousingNOW program.

Planning Summary

The site is comprised of a TTC commuter parking lot at the eastern portion, and a vacant auto-repair facility with its parking at the western portion. The TTC commuter parking lot contains 199 surface parking spaces and primarily services the Kennedy GO and subway station. The site is owned by CreateTO (formerly Build Toronto), an agency established by the City of Toronto to manage its portfolio of real estate assets.
In 2019, CreateTO launched the HousingNow initiative to support and incentivize the construction of new affordable rental housing within mixed-income and transit-friendly communities on City-owned lands. The initiative’s first phase saw development recommendation at 11 locations, and its recently announced second phase recommends the development of six additional City-owned properties, including the subject site.

Existing Context
West: Hydro corridor next to the site and single-storey commercial
buildings further west
South: Eglinton Avenue East with six lanes of traffic and two service
roads, and the Kennedy Mobility Hub further south
East: Rail corridor adjacent to the site, and an 18-storey residential
building further east
North: Hydro corridor, and single-family detached houses further north

Transportation

The site is very well served by existing and future transit, as it is located directly across from the Kennedy Mobility Hub. The Hub includes the Kennedy Subway Station and Bus terminal and the Kennedy GO Station. In the future, it will also include the terminus station of phase 1 of the Eglinton LRT, which is currently under construction.
The GO train reaches Union Station from the Kennedy GO Station in 19 minutes; Metrolinx’s Regional Express Rail (RER) project will further improve the area’s access to the core by converting the existing GO service into frequent all-day, two-way service.
The high level of transit service enjoyed by the site strongly supports intensification.
Railway Safety
New development adjacent to railway properties is required to provide measures for protection in case of derailment. The Proximity Guidelines and Best Practices guide require a 30 m setback from a railway corridor to usable spaces, in combination with an earth berm or a crash wall. In Toronto, a 20 m setback from the railway to residential uses has been permitted in combination with a crash wall. Based on a precedent set in the OMB decision for 328 Dupont Street, the 20 m setback is required for any high-occupancy use and not only for residential uses.
Hydro Separation Requirements
The site is adjacent to a Hydro corridor. Hydro One requires that buildings are set back a minimum of 4.8 m horizontally from the outermost power line, but this separation distance is already fully accommodated within the corridor property and should have no impact on the development.
Easements
The site is subject to temporary easements by Metrolinx during the construction of the Crosstown LRT.

Growth Plan

The Growth Plan directs strategic growth at locations with existing or planned transit stations with a priority on higher-order transit. The Plan contains policies pertaining to population and employment densities that should be planned for in Major Transit Station Areas (MTSA) along priority transit corridors or subway lines. MTSAs are generally defined as the areas within an approximately 500 to 800 m radius of the station, representing about a 10-minute walk. The Growth Plan requires that the City update its Official Plan to delineate MTSA boundaries and demonstrate how the MTSAs achieve appropriate densities.
Kennedy Station is of special interest because it is one of only a few stations with a subway and GO station (on the Stouffville Line) in the same location.

Land Use Designation

The site is designated Mixed-Use in the Official Plan Land Use map, supporting intense development. The properties to the east, south and west are similarly designated Mixed-Use. The properties north of the Hydro corridor are designated Neighbourhoods and will limit the height of development on the site due to requirements for providing transitions in height and scale towards them.
Eglinton Connects Planning Study
The Eglinton Connects Planning Study (2014) includes recommendations and implementation strategies to transform Eglinton Avenue into Toronto’s main East-West avenue.
For the Kennedy Mobility Hub, it encourages redevelopment to create an attractive, intense concentration of employment, housing, shopping and office space around the transit interchange.
During the public consultation, the majority of survey respondents indicated they were supportive of a mix of mid-rise and tall buildings in the Focus Areas, provided there is an appropriate transition to lower scale neighbourhoods.

Kennedy Mobility Hub Study

The Metrolinx Big Move Regional Transportation Plan (2008) identified some major transit stations as Mobility Hubs. Mobility Hubs are major transit stations and their surrounding areas, which will enjoy significant levels of planned transit service and, as a result, have high residential and employment development potential. Mobility Hubs generally contain the areas within approximately 800 m of the rapid transit station.
Metrolinx completed the Study for Kennedy Mobility Hub in 2014. The Study provides a vision for the TTC and Metrolinx lands; for other lands, the Study only provides guidance to the City for creating a future Secondary Plan and for reviewing development applications.
The Study divides the area into zones. The subject site is located within the Primary Zone, which includes the area within about 250 m from the station, and it is where the highest intensity and greatest mix of uses are anticipated.

The Master Plan for the Kennedy Mobility Hub contains a few framework elements relevant to the site:

  • The Mobility Hub Study states that the site is relatively constrained due to the adjacent Rail and Hydro infrastructure corridors and has limited private development potential. It recommends parking, open space, and relocation of the Don Montgomery Community Centre to the site. In addition, the building height map shows low-rise buildings on the site (Image 4).
    These recommended low-density uses are not appropriate for a site so close to Kennedy Station and do not match the existing and planned development east, west and south of the site.
  • The Public Street Network Map shows a new public street that would be created from the north and west portions of the site and provide local road access at the rear. This configuration is intended to service the three different lots and should be reconsidered for a consolidated property.
  • The Pedestrian Circulation Map shows north-south and east-west paths within the site that complement the public street network.
  • The Green Spaces map identifies opportunities for public green spaces, as well as tree-lined streets.
  • The Master Plan Vision and the Green Spaces map show a very open space on the west side of the site; increased residential intensification would change the layout of this open space.
    Regarding tall buildings, the Study emphasizes a few guidelines on top of the Tall Building Guidelines:
    The height of the podium elements should be between 3 and 4 storeys.
    This guideline is mainly intended for buildings facing Eglinton Avenue East directly and may not be relevant to the site, which is fronting a service road parallel to Eglinton.
    The tower element should be stepped back at least 2.5 m from the podium.

Golden Mile Secondary Plan Study

The site lies approximately 1 km east of the Golden Mile Secondary Plan (GMSP) study area, which is itself 113 km in area. The Golden Mile functions as a western gateway to the former City of Scarborough and is expected to see major growth as a mixed-use, transit-oriented community. This Plan contains policies that promote residential intensification combined with non-residential uses within lands designated Mixed Use Areas. The Plan also encourages density that will promote a transit-supportive environment, increase transit ridership and optimize the significant public investment in the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.

Tall Building Guidelines

The Mobility Hub Study recommends low-rise buildings on the site, but tall buildings can be supported by a few factors:

  • The areas to the south and west are shown as appropriate for tall buildings in the Master Plan, and there are existing tall buildings east of the site.
  • The site is located directly across from Kennedy Station, which will create an appropriate transit-oriented dense environment justifying intensification.
  • The Hydro corridor north-west of the site will provide sufficient buffering from Neighbourhoods further north.
    The Guidelines have a few provisions that will be relevant to the massing on the site:
  • The recommended tower floor plate sizes are limited to 750 m².
  • The buildings should provide transitions in height and scale to adjacent Neighbourhoods, generally by containing the building within a 45-degree angular plane from the Neighbourhoods.
  • A minimum separation distance of 25 m is required between the tower elements of tall buildings on the same site.
  • The podium street-wall height should be limited to 80% of the width of the right-of-way, but the Mobility Hub Study further limits the podium street-wall height to 4 storeys.
  • The maximum podium height is limited to 24 m.

Commercial Use

The Street-Related Retail map in the Eglinton Connects Study shows that retail is not required at the site. The Mobility Hub Master Plan promotes a vibrant streetscape in the area, and there are commercial uses along the Avenue east and west of the site. However, the site fronts onto a service road and not onto Eglinton Avenue East (which is located on a bridge at this location). As a result, there will likely be too little pedestrian movement to support street-oriented retail.
Even though there is limited potential for retail on the site, small-scale retail that serves local needs may still be vital.

Urban Design

The design for the site introduces two major types of public components: new open spaces and a relocated community centre.
Parks and Open Spaces

  • The Master Plan shows a park at the southwest part of the site. This location has an advantage in protecting the park from shadows from the new development, but it creates other issues. The site is located between two very large open spaces: the 72 m wide right-of-way of Eglinton Avenue East with its service roads, and the 50 m wide hydro corridor. A small park located between these large open areas would be very exposed, with no feeling of enclosure and no protection from the wind.
  • Instead, the park was located in the northern part of the site. There, it is separated from the very wide road, it is partially enclosed by building for a more comfortable urban feel and better micro-climate conditions, and it has a good level of exposure to the large open space in the hydro corridor. While a park in this lcoation is more impacted by shadows from the buildings, different parts of the park will still enjoy sunlight on different times of the day.
  • The necessary setback area from the railway corridor at the eastern portion of the site is also used as an active open space connecting that provides a connection between the hydro corridor and Eglinton Avenue East.

The Community Hub

  • The Don Montgomery Community Centre was relocated to the site from its current location, per the recommendation of the Kennedy Mobility Hub Master Plan.
  • The Community Centre was integrated into a mixed-use building with the Centre at the lower levels and the residential uses above. This approach uses land efficiently while creating a convenient and mutually-supportive combination of uses.
  • The Hub was located at the southwest part of the site where it enjoys good visibility and direct access to the new park and the open space in the Hydro corridor.

 

Built Form

  • The vehicular circulation system is organized so that the two of the buildings have direct pedestrian access to the park, the community centre and the hydro corridor without the need to cross any roads.
  • The heights of the tall buildings were determined by using angular planes from the nearest Neighbourhoods. However, because of the large buffer provided by the Hydro Corridor and considering the site is adjacent to a Transit Hub, greater heights should be encouraged.
  • The tall buildings meet the floor plate and tower separation requirements of the Tall Building Guidelines.
  • The building act to provide enclosure to the park.
  • The tower elements are stepped back or cantilevered to provide separation from the podium elements.

Retail Use

While the street the development fronts is not well-suited for retail, small retail spaces were provided to animate the park and provide the local needs of the community.