Almadev is awaiting final approvals and plans to launch condominium unit sales late next month for its approximately 1.7-million-square-foot Lansing Square mixed-use development in the North York district of Toronto.
Almadev chief executive officer Rafael Lazer told RENX the company, formerly called Elad Canada Realty before changing its name last summer, acquired the site at Victoria Park Avenue and Sheppard Avenue East in 2018 from Manulife for $162 million.
At the time it included 12- and eight-storey office buildings that will be retained, as well as two, two-storey office buildings that were recently demolished. The acquisition also came with the understanding the site could be intensified with more density.
Almadev is proposing to build:
- four high-rise residential buildings ranging from 25 to 40 storeys and two mid-rise residential buildings comprising approximately 1.3 million square feet and 1,600 units (including at least 160 rental units);
- an 18-storey office/commercial building that will include a self-storage component;
- an above-ground parking structure;
- a park encompassing almost 53,000 square feet; and
- new streets and infrastructure.
A large number of the residential units will be larger than those currently on the market and will cater to families, according to Lazer. While built to high standards, the units will be priced more affordably than those farther south in Toronto, he added.
“It’s A-class but it’s properly priced,” said Lazer.
Why Almadev likes the site
The area around Lansing Square is already a large employment node and an additional 13,500 jobs are anticipated to be created in the area through the City of Toronto’s ConsumersNext growth plans.
Almadev knows the area well since its office is located nearby and it has developed other successful projects in North York.
The Lansing Square site offers easy access to highways 401 and 404 and the Don Valley Parkway, as well as the Toronto Transit Commission’s Don Mills subway station and Route 85 bus.
The proposed Sheppard East light rail transit line would also stop in front of it.
“It’s a very well-connected area, so we saw a business opportunity to increase the value,” said Lazer. “But, the main attraction was the added density.”
Rezoning of the site was completed in 2021 and Lazer said Almadev’s plan “really brings out the vision that was envisioned by the city for this area.”
Adding office and commercial space
At a time when the office market is going through a period of uncertainty, Lazer is confident retaining the existing office buildings and their nearly 300,000 square feet of space and adding 180,000 square feet of new employment space for office, self-storage and retail will pay off.
“COVID has spoken and obviously the projection for the growth and the demand versus supply coming into the market of office — not only in the GTA, but in the entire world I would argue — has probably changed a bit in the last couple of years,” he said.
“But we still need to remember that we have a very strong city and our city is growing and more people are coming to the city, and they need places to work. Yes, people work much more from home than they used to, but there's still a need for office.
“We see offices are still being leased. Activity is still growing, the economy is still growing and we are actually very optimistic that if you build the right product in the right location you should be able to get your leases and get this up and running.”
Lazer said Lansing Square’s office component will have higher ceilings and more amenities and conveniences than existing buildings in the area.
The retail element — some of which will front on to the park — will be comprised of stores, services and restaurants catering to both Lansing Square residents and workers.
Almadev is finalizing site plan approval and obtaining construction permits.
It’s anticipated construction of the residences in the northeast corner and the office/commercial building and parking structure in the southwest corner of the site will begin in early 2024 after sewage, water, infrastructure, roads and temporary parking elements are in place.
The construction of the two high-rise towers in the northwest quadrant of Lansing Square will depend on the absorption rate of the first two residential towers, but Lazer is hopeful all phases of the development will be occupied by 2028 or 2029.
Galleria on the Park
Elsewhere, Almadev’s 2.6-million-square-foot, master-planned, mixed-use Galleria on the Park development at Dupont and Dufferin Streets in Toronto is making good progress.
When complete, the 20-acre Galleria on the Park will feature 2,900 new residences in eight towers, 150 affordable rental housing units, 300,000 square feet of retail, 20,000 square feet of office space, the new eight-acre Wallace Emerson Park and the 95,000-square-foot Wallace Emerson Community Centre.
Construction on the Galleria I and II residential towers began in August 2020. Ground was broken on the community centre and park last summer. Construction began on the 31-storey Galleria III, which will have 426 units, last fall.
“We are now selling the last remaining units of our first block at Galleria,” said Lazer.
“We have great demand for this product and we hope to complete the sales of those last units in the coming few months and then proceed to selling the remaining units on the other blocks.”
The community centre must be completed before construction can begin on the subsequent phases of Galleria on the Park and Lazer expects work on the third phase to begin in two years.
Vaughan and Montreal developments
Almadev is planning to build a master-planned, mixed-use community at 3300 Rutherford Rd., just east of Highway 400, north of Toronto in Vaughan. The 12-acre site is currently home to a variety of stores and restaurants — including Decathlon, Dollarama and The Keg — and the company filed a rezoning application last week.
Almadev’s 11-acre Cité Nature site in Montreal’s Rosemont borough has 468 completed condo units, with an additional 324 rental units set to be completed in the second quarter of 2024.
“We appreciate rental,” said Lazer. “We know it's not as profitable, necessarily, as condo, but we are long-term thinkers and long-term planners and, for the long run, I think there's an element for renters that is underestimated in the current market.
"So we try to have an element of rental embedded in all of our condo projects.”
Almadev is working on a rezoning plan for future phases of the Cité Nature development.
Other Almadev interests
Lazer said Almadev has another development property tied up, but he can’t reveal any details about it until the deal closes.
The company remains on the lookout for additional residential and mixed-use acquisition opportunities in the Greater Toronto Area because of its increasing housing demands.
Almadev, along with Agellan Commercial REIT, also owns more than 7.5 million square feet of income-producing industrial, commercial and retail properties across North America — predominantly in the United States.
“We're seeing a lot of demand for our properties, especially industrial, and we're happy with the way things are going,” said Lazer.