Gregory Neely RGD shares insights on environmental design with CREIT headquarters project

Case Study by Gregory Neely RGD, Partner, Forge Media + Design

CREIT is a major Canadian real estate investment trust whose primary business objective is to accumulate a portfolio of high-quality real estate assets and to deliver the benefits of real estate ownership to investors. CREIT’s headquarters, located in downtown Toronto, recently underwent renovations. Through a relationship with NORR Limited Architects and Engineers, Forge Media + Design was commissioned to upgrade the exterior environmental design elements of this landmark Toronto building.



Forge was tasked with designing an elegant solution for outdated retail canopies, modernizing the retail signage components to create uniformity across the entire exterior of the building, updating the lighting, and creating a prominent sculptural pylon at the corner of Bloor and Church Streets to make 175 Bloor Street East an established Toronto destination.




As a tier one uptown Toronto office building, 175 Bloor Street East is a prominent city landmark. The building has two major audience demographics. One is the public, who experience the building while passing by on foot, public transit or by personal vehicle. The second are the tenants of the building itself, which include CREIT and Leo Burnett, as well as retail destinations like Tim Hortons and The Bank of Montreal.


Challenge and Design Process

This project required the careful design of several individual elements that would come together as a seamless extension of the existing architecture. There were many challenges to face throughout the project. First, a solution was needed to replace the outdated green retail canopies dominating the exterior. To modernize the look of the building, Forge designed simple, yet functionally beautiful glass canopies. The new installations had to fit within strict city requirements, a process that significantly delayed the project.


Canopy Before:


Canopy After:


Next, Forge Media + Design worked closely with property management to redesign the retail shop’s unique, individual exterior signage to create one modern, cohesive template. The result updates the image of the building exterior by approaching the signage as an architectural expression, rather than a graphic expression of the brand. The resulting signage uses a uniform stainless steel typeface applied to a solid black panel which allow some of the retailers’ unique brand characteristics to remain.


Retail Sign Before


Retail Sign After



The next big challenge for Forge Media+ Design was to create and install a wayfinding pylon at the front of 175 Bloor Street East to establish the office tower as a prominent landmark without creating a visual barricade to the streetscape. To achieve this, Forge designed an impressive glass pylon, which disguises the building’s HVAC ventilation system and acts as a natural extension of the urban environment.


Pylon Before


Pylon After


This project spanned almost four years, with interruptions due to city approvals and client staffing changes. The process throughout was extremely collaborative, with Forge Media + Design working closely with Norr Limited and CREIT executives while renovations were taking place. The project was finally completed in November 2012.




The success of the project is measured in several ways:

  • Is there a single design feel?
  • Are the light levels accurate?
  • Are the sight lines correct? Can the signage be seen from all necessary angles?
  • Does the pylon deliver prominence without disrupting the urban landscape?
  • Is there uniformity between all elements? Is there seamless integration between architectural and environmental design?

Forge Media + Design, along with CREIT and the building’s other tenants, agree the project has exceeded these requirements and successfully updates the overall appearance of the environment and showcases information in a modern, elegant way.




There is something to be learned on every project. For this one in particular, there are three lessons Forge took away and can offer to others:
  1. Projects of this scale and prominence take time. Between city approvals and other delays, it is important to maintain vision and not to rush. Time ensures all requirements are met and the project succeeds overall.
  2. Lighting in design mock-ups is not an accurate depiction of the real environment. A lot of testing and retesting is required to achieve the lighting goals for any project.
  3. Every design project has opportunities for constant learning and improving. That is the amazing thing about design; it is ever changing and requires constant creative thinking to achieve new heights.