News / Toronto

The skinny on Toronto's new extra skinny condos

How about a eight-metre living space or, better yet, six? It's a trend that's got legs, some say

A 17-storey condo development at 24 Mercer St. is expected to begin construction next spring. At just eight metres wide, it will be one of the narrowest multi-unit residential buildings downtown.

Courtesy Scott Shields Architects

A 17-storey condo development at 24 Mercer St. is expected to begin construction next spring. At just eight metres wide, it will be one of the narrowest multi-unit residential buildings downtown.

The future of density in downtown Toronto is looking a little thinner.

On the heels of an eight-metre wide, 17-storey condo tower on Mercer Street, another pencil-thin development is being proposed for the city’s entertainment district.

Tawse Realco Inc. is looking to build an eight-storey “food-centric” retail building at 86 John St., complete with a bakery, wine bar and various restaurants on different floors, according to documents submitted to the city.

At about six metres wide, the slender lot stands in stark contrast to the large condo and retail developments around it.

While such skinny buildings are a common sight on the ultra-dense streets of Tokyo or Manhattan, urban planning experts say the conditions are ripe for the trend to arrive in Toronto.

“Land is very expensive right now,” said Cherise Burda, director of Ryerson University’s City Building Institute. “So every little nook and cranny in the city is being explored for development.”

Land may be running out in Toronto’s downtown core, but more and more people are choosing to live in the area, Burda said. As a result of demand, she says developers are eyeing space “in between or even on top of” existing buildings.

“There are little gaps on streets where there’s an opportunity to add density but still maintain the character of the street,” she said.

Deborah Scott, the architect and developer behind 24 Mercer St., said the “boutique” condo tower is modeled after the narrow lofts of New York’s Soho neighbourhood. While the building itself is thin, she said the units – one per floor – are spacious.

Scott admits the condos will be pricey, but no more so than single-family homes in the city.

“People can’t afford family homes in Toronto anymore,” she said. “We have to find denser solutions, like 24 Mercer, that can still offer larger living spaces.”

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