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Ellsworth Group, partners plan two large GTA mixed-use developments

The projects, in Oshawa and Vaughan, would total over 8,000 residential units on 29.4 acres

A rendering of Ellsworth Group's proposed development at 144 and 155 First Ave. in Oshawa. (Courtesy Ellsworth Group)

Ellsworth Group might be less than three years old, but the Toronto-based developer already has two major Greater Toronto Area (GTA) mixed-use projects in the works.

Ellsworth Group principal Andres Valenzuela and his three partners have more than 60 years of combined experience in construction, development and real estate sales. That experience has served them well in acquiring 17.7 acres of land at 144 and 155 First Ave., near Highway 401, in south Oshawa where they're planning an ambitious 4.3-million-square-foot master-planned community.

Valenzuela said Ellsworth Group was looking to start on a smaller scale as an infill developer. However, off-market purchase opportunities for the Oshawa site and another property, acquired for a planned large development in Vaughan, came up and were too good to pass up.

Ellsworth Group partnered with Forgestone Capital, Kadima Group and Milborne Group to acquire the Oshawa site in April 2022 for $52.5 million. The two parcels formerly housed a long-derelict automotive glass plant – which was recently demolished – and a surface parking lot.

“You quickly realize that doing a master-planned community is almost the same amount of work as doing a stand-alone project,” Valenzuela said, who also noted the municipality has been easy to work with since acquiring the site.

The development partners have submitted applications for rezoning and redeveloping the land, along with a master plan. A meeting will be held to discuss the development with city officials and the public on Sept. 11. 

Plans for Oshawa development

The plan is for eight development blocks to include:

  • 5,435 residential units averaging 620 square feet in buildings ranging from 14 to 42 storeys;
  • 63,000 square feet of retail and commercial space at grade;
  • 4,571 above- and below-grade parking spaces; and
  • park space with a pedestrian promenade.

Valenzuela said the residential units will consist of a still-to-be-determined mix of condominiums, purpose-built rental apartments and affordable housing.

The retail and commercial component will be community-oriented and could include a bank branch, a coffee shop, a restaurant and a medical office.

A new GO Transit station is expected just north of the site and Valenzuela said that decision may impact what the developers will build in Phases 1 and 2 on that part of the site.

The goal is to apply for site-plan approval and building permits later this fall.

“If everything goes to plan, whether it be in the summer or fall of next year, we could be looking at either going to market for sale or starting construction on our rental developments,” Valenzuela said.

“That all depends on market conditions.”

 11.7 acres on Rutherford Road in Vaughan

Ellsworth Group is also involved with Almadev (majority partner), Kadima Group and KIN Capital at an 11.7-acre retail site at 3300 Rutherford Rd., near Highway 400, in Vaughan.

The plan is to redevelop it into a 2.35-million-square-foot master-planned community with more than 3,000 residential units in buildings up to 35 storeys, along with approximately 60,000 square feet of retail and commercial space at grade.

Final comments and a report from municipal staff are expected by mid-August for that proposal, but there could be some complications.

“Although there was plenty of political support, the residents to the north of us literally do not want the development,” Valenzuela said. “So we're going to be faced with a tough choice on whether or not this goes to the Ontario Land Tribunal

“We obviously don't want that to happen, but we need to achieve a certain density to be able to make it worth our while. This is a plaza that is not running at its full capacity and I don't think it ever will, which is one of the reasons it was sold.”

Dollarama, Decathlon and The Keg are the major tenants on the site now.

The first two would like to be part of the new development while the third has yet to confirm, but Valenzuela said the project would include a similar type of restaurant if The Keg doesn’t remain at the property.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was amended to due to updated information about the 3300 Rutherford Rd. site, which was provided by Ellsworth Group.

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