Toronto has for years been a condo developers' dream land, witness the gleaming sprouts of buildings which have taken root along the city`s shoreline and rendered mute any talk of tearing down the elevated Gardiner Expressway to open up the waterfront.
It is against the backdrop of gleaming condo towers and a steady stream of skeletal follow-on buildings struggling towards completion that the recent unveiling of Waterfront Toronto's master plan for the long-abandoned West Don Lands stands out in stark contrast.
First of all, there is a plan. Second, although the development is huge, it is being built to human scale, with buildings limited to 11 stories with certain exceptions and the emphasis being placed on the creation of a walkable neighbourhood from what is now a post-industrial waste land.
Canary District Breaks Ground
Last month marked the official ground breaking for the key building of what is to be called the Canary District, the Block 11 condo building which will first be part of Toronto's 2015 Pan/Parapan Am Games.
In all eight buildings will be constructed as part of the 35-acre village for 10,000 athletes and other participants will live during the games and which will later be converted into market condos, affordable housing, George Brown College student residences, a YMCA and retail.
“This will be one of the largest master-plan communities being completed,” said Jason Lester, President of Dundee Kilmer Developments L.P (and also Chief Operating Officer of Dundee Realty). “There has been lots of development (in Toronto's east downtown), Dundee along with some other partners, we have done the Distillery District and a bunch of projects in Corktown (also in Toronto) we have been involved with, but in terms of size, this is the largest.”
A partnership between Dundee Realty Corp. and Larry Tanenbaum's Kilmer Van Nostrand Co. won a $514-million contract from Waterfront Toronto to develop the Athletes Village for the Pan Am Games. The procurement decision was based 50% on financial terms presented and 50% on design.
When the dust clears and the condo units are sold and George Brown College and the YMCA get the keys to their buildings, Dundee Kilmer will end up with ownership of the retail on the lands, consisting of 30,000 sq. ft. in phase one and another 30,000 sq. ft. of retail in phase two which is planned to be built after the 2015 games are held.
As with the Distillery District development to the south, the plan for the Canary District is to fill the retail with distinctive shops. “We plan to have unique retailers in the village as well,” said Lester. “If there are going to be chains they will be limited.”
Go Green or Go Home
Dundee Kilmer has been mandated to build at LEED Gold standard for the entire community and has also made the decision to reach the City of Toronto Green Standard's Tier Two status.
To reach the minimum required 60 points for LEED-NC Gold certification, Dundee Kilmer is integrating features such as:
• green roofs on more than 50% of the buildings,
• bicycle storage and parking,
• a car-share program,
• electric recharging stations for alternative-fuel vehicles,
• accessible pedestrian areas in an effort to reduce automobile use.
• Buildings in the village will feature low-flow fixtures in public and private washrooms, Energy Star-rated appliances and drought-tolerant plants to limit irrigation water use.
“With up front design and knowing full well that you have to achieve these numbers it is achievable,” said Lester of reaching the Gold LEED target.
Beyond the obvious environmental features listed above, the Dundee Kilmer president said energy credits the developer will receive in water usage and heating and cooling by ensuring that the buildings are ultra-efficient will be a major achievement.
Homes for Humans
The District will feature an extensive pedestrian network to allow for a walkable neighbourhood, and large-scale building windows and balconies “to offer a connection between residents living above and the bustle of streets below – a direct nod to the late Toronto urban planning visionary Jane Jacobs' 'eyes on the street' thesis,” stated Dundee Kilmer. Amenities at the base of residential buildings will include retail stores, cafes and restaurants, and accessible community and recreational services.
Dundee Kilmer commissioned design teams from four architecture firms architectsAlliance, KPMB, Daoust Lestage Inc., and MacLellan Jaunkalns Miller Architects to create “unique, contemporary buildings reflective of their trademark architectural styles,” according to Dundee Kilmer.
There is further development planned for the Canary District beyond the eight buildings currently approved. A Phase Two development will include three more blocks of buildings comprising another 1200 to 1300 market condominium units and further Waterfront Toronto procurements “that I would anticipate the Dundee Kilmer will pursue,” said Lester.
The Dundee Kilmer president does not expect development to end with the Canary District. “You look at who owns all the lands, either West Don Lands or East Bay Front that hasn't been procured or the 800 acres in the port lands, it is all city or provincially owned. So as you build up the infrastructure they are going to be the biggest biggest beneficiaries of the bump in land values.”