A new precedent for mixed-use educational development in Toronto
Located in midtown Toronto, North Toronto Collegiate Institute (NTCI) was one of the city’s oldest and most prominent heritage school buildings. By the mid 1990’s it became evident that the building was no longer economically sustainable. It had become impossible to redress its serious physical shortcomings and the school could not meet programmatic and technological challenges without a complete overhaul. The Toronto District School Board embarked on a new model, engaging the school, alumni and neighbourhood community in a consultative process to create a state-of-the-art green replacement school honouring the old school’s physical and cultural assets.
To do this, the Board sought to leverage the small, 5-acre site’s economic potential through an RFP developer process. The result is an integrated residential and school / community hub that provides tangible civic benefits to the neighbourhood. These include a new public realm of landscaped walkways, seating, landscaping, lighting, public art and a full-size artificial field to replace the existing undersized grass field. A series of civic spaces within the school – theatre, lobby, speciality classrooms and heritage courtyard – are located at grade to allow for public access and use.
A strong heritage preservation strategy was central to the school’s design concept and to gaining public approval of the redevelopment. Key historical components were preserved and reinstalled in the school’s central courtyard, allowing the new school to metaphorically ‘wrap’ the embedded original one. The 4 ½ storey, 156,000 sq ft school is architecturally integrated with the two condominium towers, with 500,000 sq ft of residential space, that straddle and adjoin it, through the use of a consistent colour and material palette of brick, zinc, precast panels, curtain wall glass and spandrels.
A continuous building arcade, stepped amphitheatre and glazed school ‘porch’ create an inviting, human-scaled public realm for pedestrians. The school and two towers each have their own distinct identity and entrances, but combined form a unified and coherent urban composition. Through an integrated design process involving extensive community participation, the school and residential buildings have achieved LEED Gold Certification and set a precedent for similar mixed use development in Toronto.