Historic building near Toronto’s Union Station poised for development

The dominion public building, toronto
The Dominion Public Building was conceived as part of a grand boulevard connected by impressive architecture.

The federal government’s Dominion Public Building will be sold but its heritage elements preserved.

The real estate ad calls it a “landmark” in an “irreplaceable location.” Heritage reports describe the curved five-storey building next to Union Station as “a rare and exceptional example in Canada of Beaux-Arts Classicism.”

But the most remarkable thing about the Dominion Public Building at 1 Front St. W., may be its resistance to the downtown’s encroaching glass towers.

That’s about to change, however.

Although the interior and exterior heritage features of the old flat-roofed customs house will be protected, the building is up for sale and will likely be the basis for a significant development.

Considered surplus by the federal government, it serves as an office for about 1,500 employees, including Canada Revenue Agency workers, who will be relocated in the Toronto area by 2022.

The Dominion Public Building is being touted for its “exceptional development potential” in a newspaper ad by BMO Capital Markets, sales agent for the building.

That’s probably not an exaggeration, said Barry Fenton, president and CEO of Lanterra Developments. He calls it “one of the most magnificent buildings left in the city of Toronto,” and he thinks the site could potentially host a tower taller than Lanterra’s Ice condos near Bremner Blvd. and York St. They stand at 65- and 55-storeys.

“Because you’re having to replace a lot of heritage in there — which you should — there’s a cost analysis that will have to be taken into consideration as well,” said Fenton.

Depending on what the city allows, the site could house up to 1 million sq. ft. suitable for a hotel, commercial and residential uses, he said. […]

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