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Oxford's EY Tower Is Almost Done: 'Nothing Compares To This'

EY Tower is hurtling toward completion and a spring 2017 occupancy. Oxford Properties Group development lead Mark Cote and WZMH Architects' Carl Blanchaer update us on the heritage-incorporating LEED Platinum project.

Oxford's EY Tower Is Almost Done: 'Nothing Compares To This'

We snapped Mark and Carl in the Adelaide Street entryway to the 40-storey, 900k SF EY Tower, featuring original Art Deco detailing from the 1928 Concourse Building that previously occupied 100 Adelaide St W. Elements of the historic façade were taken down, catalogued, restored and rebuilt, and their presence helps make EY Tower—designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates in conjunction with WZMH—one of downtown's finest-looking new structures. The sleek modern edifice rising around it, with angular curtain wall and shard-shaped top, ain’t shabby, either. “Nothing in Toronto compares to this,” Carl says.  

EY Tower in Toronto

EY Tower marks Phase 3 of Oxford’s Richmond-Adelaide Centre, a four-acre, five-tower block (below) the firm is in the midst of repositioning. This has entailed extensive renos to 120 and 130 Adelaide St W, and total redevelopment of heritage-listed 111 Richmond St W, now leased to Google and MNP (which subsequently inked a deal with Oxford to anchor a new Vancouver office tower). The full focus now is on finishing EY Tower, says Mark, followed by a revamp of 85 Richmond St W, another heritage building.

Oxford's Richmond-Adelaide Centre in Toronto.

All told it amounts to over half a billion dollars of recent investment in the 2.5M SF office cluster, and Mark says EY Tower solidifies Richmond-Adelaide Centre’s status as one of downtown’s most significant commercial blocks. Canada Pension Plan Investment Board concurred, taking a 50% stake in the complex. The new tower’s uniqueness lured lead tenant Ernst & Young, which will occupy the top 10 floors, and TMX Group, which is leasing the lower levels. OMERS, Oxford’s parent, has taken 368k SF in the middle.

Oxford's EY Tower Is Almost Done: 'Nothing Compares To This'

Incorporating heritage came with challenges. Matching up the historic façade with the new tower's dimensions required a slight stretching of the original structure's floors and windows to fit. The old brick was in rough shape, so it was replaced with new material. Deco detailing needed to be cleaned up, too, and Mark says he was surprised at the brilliance of the reds, greens and golds revealed when the grime washed off. “None of us appreciated how colourful the original building was.” (Goldsmith Borgal and Co oversaw the heritage work.)

Oxford VP Mark Cote with a historic ceiling panel from the Concourse Building

Here’s Mark unveiling a preserved painted ceiling panel from the original building lobby, by Group of Seven’s JEH MacDonald, who also designed the entranceway mosaics. This panel will be displayed along with four others as museum pieces in EY Tower’s lobby. Heritage isn’t all the building has going for it, and the balance of the structure is super-modern, with curtain-wall fins wrapping its east and west sides and prows jutting out from the north and south façades, giving the tower a distinctive skyline profile. “It’s more sculptural than anything else in the city,” says Carl.   

EY Tower seen from Nathan Phillips Square

EY Tower (above right) has 23,500 SF floor plates and is tied into PATH. The smart building is designed for high-density and connected via a fully integrated fiber optic backbone. It’s part of the “bring your own device evolution,” Mark tells us, so tenants can control lights and HVAC by smartphone. There’s a terrace on the tower’s sixth floor (the TSX space) and one atop the heritage building, in OMERS’ HQ. Good design pays, says Mark, noting EY Tower is nearly fully leased. “We think we’ve done a great job here pushing the envelope.”