Unix Housing has submitted an official proposal and rezoning application to the City of Toronto with hopes of developing a mixed-use building at 191 College Street. If approved, the development will include 31 storeys and 494 units. Eighty percent of those units are poised to be affordable rentals, in accordance with Toronto's 2021 Open Door program, while the remainder will be standard market rentals.

Adding some extra flair to the proposal is the fact that this would be the tallest mass timber building in the world, breaking records previously set by Brock Commons in British Columbia and Mjøstårnet in Norway.

Although wood buildings present a unique set of challenges, wood offers a lower build cost than concrete. And if prefabrication practices are utilized, wood structures can be erected more efficiently than concrete ones. The case for wood is made even stronger because Ontario is facing a concrete shortfall due to stalls in production earlier this year and ongoing labour underages.

Screen shot 2022 07 08 at 3Icon Architects

Moreover, in a move intended to help deescalate the housing affordability crisis, timber construction is actually being encouraged here in Toronto.

"As of July 1, several new pro-home ownership regulations and red-tape reduction measures took effect across Ontario, including amendments to Ontario’s Building Code that will allow for mass timber construction up to 12 storeys," said Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association. "This change will bring Ontario in alignment with other provinces, such as B.C. and Quebec, and lead to more affordable units while creating jobs and supporting Ontario’s forestry sector."

At the moment, the proposed development lot is occupied by one semi-detached property, as well as three commercial properties that happen to be listed on the city’s Heritage Register. This isn't a setback; Unix has teamed up with Toronto-based firm, Icon Architects, to formulate a design that incorporates the heritage properties. The new construction will complement the old, but there will still be delineation between the two.

"The new podium and tower components will be clad with a wall panel system including glazing and aluminum spandrel panels deployed in a variegated pattern throughout," the Planning Rationale submitted to the city reads. "This will clearly distinguish the new components from the retained heritage buildings and provide for a compatible and sympathetic relationship."

On the flip side, the Prenup Pub and Katachi Coffee Bar are amongst the local businesses that will be displaced and forced to shutter permanently if the proposed development is approved.

Because of the neighbouring University of Toronto, these units would naturally be geared at students. The building will potentially add 408 studios, nine one-bedroom units, 71 two-bedroom units, and six three-bedroom units to the downtown Toronto rental market.