At the moment, the Well is a 7-acre hole in the ground near a rail junction in King West, just outside Toronto’s old downtown. It’s not much to look at. But when it’s complete, this seven-building development will include 1,800 residential units, more than 400,000 square feet of retail and dining, an underground thermal cooling system, and 1 million square feet of office space, all located near a streetcar line at the city’s Union Station.
It’s a vision for a “21st-century neighborhood,” urban designer Ken Greenberg told Toronto’s CityNews earlier this month. Richard Sommer, dean of the University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, calls the Well “the epicenter of the Toronto phenomenon.”
New development is nothing new for Toronto: Thanks to its rapid expansion over the last decade, the city’s real estate industry has reshaped neighborhoods across a sprawling metro area.
With more than 400 proposed high-rise projects in the pipeline, according to Rider Levett Bucknall—including The One, an 85-story Foster + Partners-designed skyscraper set to be the country’s tallest when complete—it’s fitting that Toronto is the North American city with the most construction cranes for two years running. Sidewalk Labs’ partnership for a ground-up smart-city neighborhood in the waterfront Quayside district is just one of a number of megaprojects in the works.
That growth has brought significant challenges, like building out the city’s transportation infrastructure and coping with skyrocketing housing costs. While a recent change to mortgage rules briefly cooled the city’s red-hot condo market earlier this spring (which also caused the rental market to spike), housing prices have risen 60 percent in the last five years, and 3 percent this year alone.