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All-industrial redevelopment of Buttonville airport proposed

The site sits on 169 acres north of Toronto

The Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport, located just north of the city in Markham. (Google Street View)

Buttonville Municipal Airport in Markham, Ont., will close at the end of November and a recent proposal from owner Cadillac Fairview plans to replace it with a 2.78-million-square-foot industrial development.

A 2011 submission for a 10-million-square-foot mixed-use development including office, retail, hotel, entertainment, public use and residential space that would have accommodated up to 7,000 residents and created thousands of jobs was shelved in 2020. This new proposal is the first indication of what Cadillac Fairview plans for the 169-acre site north of Toronto at the junction of Highway 404 and 16th Avenue.

Cadillac Fairview declined RENX’s interview request regarding its plans for the property, which is zoned as an employment area.

Cadillac Fairview, which paid almost $193 million to Armadale Properties Ltd. to acquire the 50 per cent interest in the property it didn’t already own two years ago, is proposing a multi-phased industrial development.

Cadillac Fairview’s plans for airport site

The first phase would include two buildings, one of 247,721 square feet and the other of 335,673 square feet, as well as 90 loading spaces, 407 vehicle parking spaces and 80 bicycle parking spaces. 

Subsequent phases would add another nine buildings ranging in size from 37,887 to 816,378 square feet as well as 2,556 vehicle parking spaces. The number of loading and bicycle parking spaces have yet to be determined.

The proposal submitted to the City of Markham also calls for two development blocks, a stormwater management block, the widening of Highway 404 and a network of public and private roads, including an extension of Allstate Parkway north through the site to 16th Avenue.

The entirely industrial plan is being put forward at a time when the Ontario government is pushing for 1.5 million houses to be built in the province and Markham is at just 59 per cent of the pace needed to meet the province’s target of 44,000 new homes in the city by 2031. 

Industrial market cooling a bit

This decision also comes at a time when the red hot industrial real estate market seems to be cooling a bit as rents have started to moderate somewhat after large and rapid increases over the past few years.

“You're not seeing the built-in rental increases that we've seen in the past on a yearly basis,” Avison Young president Mark Fieder told RENX.

“We were seeing deals in the GTA where if it was a 10-year lease, Years 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 had five per cent built-in rental increases.” 

The Q2 industrial availability rate in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) rose by 30 basis points to 1.9 per cent, and by 20 basis points to 1.3 per cent in the GTA North, according to Avison Young's new Greater Toronto industrial market report.

Cadillac Fairview also redeveloping CF Markville Mall site

The airport site isn’t Cadillac Fairview’s only planned major redevelopment for Markham.

The real estate owner and manager for the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is looking to intensify an almost 70-acre property at the northeast corner of Highway 7 and McCowan Road currently occupied by CF Markville Mall.

While the 979,344-square-foot, 180-store mall will be retained as part of Cadillac Fairview’s recent proposal, the developer is looking to add 14 new buildings ranging from six to 45 storeys that would offer approximately 4,340 residential units, two above-grade parking structures, public parks and privately owned public spaces over four phases.

Cadillac Fairview manages in excess of $40 billion of assets across the Americas, Europe and Asia.

The company’s 35-million-square foot Canadian portfolio is comprised of 68 properties and it has a 50-million-square-foot land bank.

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