The term mid-rise building quite often feels like “luxury condo” or “boutique building,” real estate terms that are frequently bandied about, but don’t seem to come with a fixed meaning. If you weren’t sure whether that 12-storey structure down the street is a bona fide mid-rise, the City of Toronto can help.
A video and point-by-point breakdown explains what the city considers to be a mid-rise building – and it’s not just a cap on storeys. It’s all about scale.
Here are a few fast facts about the city’s design guidelines for these in-between structures:
The street matters
The in-between structures vary from neighbourhood to neighbourhood and are no taller than the width of the street. In other words, if you’re on a narrow downtown street that measures 20-metres wide, a mid-rise can measure five to six storeys high. But if you’re on a wider Avenue or an arterial road, the mid-rise can stretch up as high as 11-storeys. In Toronto, they range between four and 11 storeys.
Mid-rises typically have step-backs or terraces at upper levels to make them look lower from the street and to allow for sunlight and sky views on the sidewalk. They’re also designed to allow for a minimum of five hours of sunlight on the street.
Good mid-rise design shouldn’t overshadow the neighbourhood’s low-rises surroundings. Some buildings come with design elements that help transition from the smaller homes in the neighbourhood to the taller peaks of the mid-rise structure.
Mid-rise buildings would make up a big part of the city’s plan to refresh the Avenues. Larger streets with decent transit access such as Lakeshore Boulevard West in Etobicoke and the Danforth in the east end would be densified. Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat has championed the idea, which would require a zoning update in order to allow developers to build mid-rise on the Avenues without special approvals.
Mixing it up
Mid-rise might come with a single use, but increasingly, the buildings are a blend of retail, offices and/or living space in one structure. Ideally, that combo can help animate the street below.
Photo: Payton Chung/Flickr