Why did a building on the NW corner of Brant and James get approval for 24 storeys while the one on the SW corner is limited to 18 storeys?

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

July 9th, 2018



City council will be debating a staff recommendation for the proposed development on Brant street, opposite city that starts on the SW corner of James and will run south to Kellys Bake Shop and include the full block.
The developer is asking for 27 stories – the city planners are recommending 18.

high profile 421


The development on the NW corner of Brant and James has been approved at 23 storeys – why are the planners recommending 18 storeys for the second building when the one across the street has been approved for 23 – seems like a reasonable question – and for the developer it is a difference of six floors of condominium units

The 421 – 431 Brant Street development – it hasn’t been given a name yet – has been approved and will consist of:

• Twenty-three (23) storey building, which includes a 1-storey rooftop amenity area;
• Four-storey podium;
• 760 square metres of ground floor retail / commercial space;
• 365 square metres of 2nd floor office space;
• 169 residential units (maximum);
• A parking ratio of 1.2 parking spaces per residential unit in the below-grade parking structure, in addition to 8 dedicated visitor parking spaces and 1 car share space;
• Appropriate building setbacks from Brant Street (2.95 metres), James Street (2.6 metres) and John Street (1.8 metres);
• A 128 square metre (16 metre x 16 metre) visibility triangle (publicly accessible open space) at the corner of Brant Street and James Street;
• Appropriate building stepbacks and terracing above the 4th floor and above the 18th floor

The planners point out that the site is located within the Downtown Urban Centre and within the Downtown Core designation. They add that it “is important to note that the existing OP (that is the one in place before the Grow Bold OP – which was approved and sent to the Regional government for approval at that level), included a site specific exception for a portion of the site (421 – 427 Brant Street) which recognized the site as appropriate for increased height and density.”

What that means is that part of the land assembled for the development had an exception attached to it for height above the permitted heights for neighbouring properties. The way these things work is that the highest height is frequently applied to all the properties when they are assembled.

“The exception set an increased maximum height for the site of seven storeys with taller buildings up to a maximum height of twelve storeys permitted where they provide a sense of compatibility with surrounding land uses and a sense of pedestrian scale by the use of terracing above the second floor. The exception for 421 – 427 Brant Street also set out an increased maximum floor area ratio of 4.5:1, except that higher floor area ratios were permitted subject to community benefits provisions.”

“It is also important to note that the timing of the 421 Brant Street application preceded emerging policy directions for the Downtown Urban Growth Centre, which are now incorporated as a part of the Council Adopted Official Plan: Grow Bold.

From Civic Square

The view from Civic Square looking east at the two “landmark” towers. The one on the left (shown as a shadow) has been approved. The one on the right is before Committee of the whole today – planners want this one cut back to 18 storeys.

“On Sept. 28 2017, the draft new Downtown Mobility Hub Precinct Plan was presented to Council for the first time for discussion and feedback at a Council Workshop at the Committee of the Whole. No decisions were made.

“On November 13, the 421 Brant Street applications were approved in principle.

“On November 30, 2017 a staff report on the Draft Downtown Precinct Plan and proposed Official Plan policies contemplated modifying the building height permissions at Brant Street and James to recognize that node as an area appropriate for landmark buildings and to reduce the building height permissions in the Cannery Precinct for the property located at Brant Street and Lakeshore Road in light of the 421 Brant Street application.”

What the city did was decide to live with height across from city hall and limit height along Lakeshore Road. Councillor Taylor was very specific when he said that he went along with the 23 storeys for 421 Brant on the understanding that Lakeshore heights would be limited to 17 storeys. That’s planning on the fly!


There is a lot of detail in this map- you can identify the precincts that planners use to describe parts of the city and the kind of development permitted.

The Revenue Properties application (409 Brant) now has to find a way to work through and around a thicket of precinct plans, mobility hubs, the Urban Growth Centre and transit issues.

Bus roites - 1st design

Those red lines are the buses that come down Brant and loop along James into the bus terminal that got an upgrade and is now called a Mobility hub anchor. Traffic nightmare!

And, speaking of transit issues – there is a drawing that was part of one of the staff reports on the 409 project that showed the number of bus routes that flow into John Street, which is the street the garages for both 409 and 421 will exit onto – there is a nightmare of a continual traffic jam waiting to happen.
“No Staff/Council motion was made to increase height permissions in the Special Planning Area at Brant and James Streets as a result of the approval of the 421 Brant application on November 13th, 2017.”

What that seems to say is that the height 421 was given isn’t going to be available to 409. It is going to be interesting to see how that works out.

The Revenue Properties proposal is before Planning and Development Committee on Tuesday -July 10th in the afternoon and in the evening.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2 comments to Why did a building on the NW corner of Brant and James get approval for 24 storeys while the one on the SW corner is limited to 18 storeys?

  • Perry Bowker

    I still think that making the 23-story building transparent is a brilliant compromise.

  • R Brian Jones

    Why was the 23 storey passed in the first place? Originally 17 was highest even though less was desireable. Answer: what’s the difference between 23 and 17? Now Mary Liu Tanner proclaimed the building encompassing is 17. Staff of course now recommends 18 when developer was much more.
    This game of cat and mouse will not stop til Staff, planners and Council gets serious and teeth