Freed Developments Ltd.’s recent acquisition of Toronto’s 5.42-acre Don Valley Hotel and Suites property with Fengate Asset Management is the latest example of the developer’s focus on master-planned communities near transit.
“I don’t know if we’re going to do many small projects anymore,” Freed chief executive officer Peter Freed told RENX during an interview at the company’s downtown penthouse office overlooking the city. “It’s too much work. You can apply the same amount of energy and time (as) on a larger project, and you can only do so many.
“Historically we’ve done many small buildings, 80,000- to 120,000-square-foot buildings with 100 units or 80 units. We would rather do master-planned communities that have commercial and residential, with multiple towers in them, if possible.”
Freed has developed approximately $1 billion worth of properties over its more-than-25-year history. Its portfolio includes condominium towers, hospitality ventures and commercial spaces in Toronto as well as Muskoka Bay Resort in Gravenhurst, Ont.
Don Valley Hotel and Suites acquisition
The $102-million acquisition of the Don Valley Hotel and Suites property at 175 Wynford Dr. and adjacent lands gives the new owners a six-storey, 353-room building including the Garden Cafe and DV Bar/Bistro, meeting rooms, a two-storey convention centre and other amenities.
“The site is already zoned for a couple of towers,” said Freed, who is proposing a residential and commercial mixed-use redevelopment.
“The original owner was going to keep the hotel and we’re envisioning applying for additional density and building a new hotel.”
The site is in a prime location near the Don Valley Parkway, the under-construction Eglinton Crosstown LRT line, Aga Khan Museum, Ontario Science Centre, Flemingdon Park Golf Club and retail and commercial properties.
It’s also between the northern and southern ravine system of trails that lead to Lake Ontario.
“We’re hoping, in working with the city, to be the missing link in connectivity with paths and pedestrian connections,” said Freed. “You really are in the centre of the city and you’ll be able to see this project from all around.
“It’s very visible, so there’s an opportunity to do something very exciting with architecture and design and programming with the ground floor with some commercial and the community connecting to it all around.
“It’s the exact type of opportunity that we look for and get super-excited about.”
Freed put imprint on King Street West
Freed spent 15 years developing projects in Toronto’s King Street West area, which early this century was characterized by largely abandoned former textile industry buildings.
The neighbourhood was ripe for revitalization with its historic buildings and ease of access to the financial district, the shopping and entertainment of Queen Street West, Lake Ontario and more.
“There were so many positive attributes from the starting point to further enhance and evolve,” said Freed. “We enjoyed master-planning King West and built 10 or 12 buildings, with residences, a hotel, bars, restaurants and retail.
“It was a full program. A lot of developers just build condos and they do that over and over and over again and they do very well at it. We like to take more of an overall neighbourhood multi-use approach to what we do.
“We would rather do a lot in one neighbourhood that we believe we understand well and make an overall positive impact in it, than do one building in 20 different neighbourhoods.”
Freed’s office is in a mixed-use building it developed at 552 Wellington St. W., just south of King Street.
The property also includes condo suites and the former Mohari Hospitality-owned Thompson Toronto hotel that closed last year and is being renovated with green design elements to be rebranded as 1 Hotels’ 1 Hotel Toronto later this year.
“We sold the hotel several years ago, so it’s a new ownership group that’s decided to renovate, update and reflag Thompson into The 1,” said Freed.
Yonge and Eglinton projects
Freed has three sold-out condos in the Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue area.
“That’s another neighbourhood that we love,” said Freed. “There’s transit, lots of life and commercial and residential uses all blended together.”
ANX, 346 Davenport and Keewatin
Freed has sold about half of the condo units in ANX, at Dupont Street and Spadina Avenue, after a few months. Freed hopes it will be 70 per cent sold by the spring and that construction can start this summer.
The Teeple Architects-designed, mixed-use project will include 105 units and 75,000 square feet of both modern and repurposed loft office space in an older building that will be part of ANX.
Freed said he’d like to add office elements to future developments due to the demand for such space.
Construction has started on 346 Davenport, a RAW-designed, nine-storey, 35-unit luxury condo on Davenport Road just south of Dupont Street being built in partnership with Trolleybus Urban Development Inc.
Marketing has begun for Keewatin, which will feature 36 luxury townhomes from 1,500 to 3,000 square feet on Keewatin Avenue near Mount Pleasant Road and Eglinton Avenue East.
They should go on sale in the next two months, with prices beginning at $1.5 million.
Muskoka Bay Resort
Freed has been involved with the 850-acre Muskoka Bay Resort site for about 15 years.
“It’s taken many years to evolve,” said Freed. “It’s a beautiful, beautiful property with wild topography. There are 100-foot elevation changes and rocks.”
Development of the master-planned community continues with condos, townhouses, single-family homes, guest villas and lofts, and an acclaimed golf course with a large clubhouse that’s used for weddings and special events.
“We’re opening a condominium/hotel building in six months,” said Freed. “It’s just about sold-out.”
Grand Park Village, Galleria on the Park
Freed just received approval for Grand Park Village, a large site in Etobicoke it’s been working on for more than three years.
The six-acre site across from the Mimico GO Transit station near Royal York Road and The Queensway will feature just over a million square feet of development in multiple buildings with approximately 1,300 condo units.
It was involved with the purchase and rezoning application before it was bought out from the project. Galleria is to comprise 2,846 residential units, nearly 300,000 square feet of retail and approximately 20,000 square feet of office space.
“We’re really proud of it and it was a really good experience working with ELAD on that development,” said Freed.
The future for Freed
Freed said the company is always looking for new projects and there’s no shortage of potential financial partners.
“You look at dozens and dozens of opportunities to pick one. They’re big commitments and big risks. It’s a long process and you have to be very selective as to what you want to do, especially in Toronto where there’s so much going on and it’s very competitive.”
Freed said he’s “deep in analysis” regarding building the company’s first purpose-built rental apartments.
“Some of our communities have multiple towers and we’d certainly like to balance them with some rentals and for-sale condos.”
Freed is a big fan of Toronto and believes it offers plenty of development opportunities. So, he’s not sold on expanding his business into other cities because he’d rather spend time with his seven- and nine-year-old sons than travel for work.
“There’s one market we’ve been analyzing and, if we decide to do something in another market, we’d probably do a lot in that one market as opposed to one building in four other cities,” said Freed.
“We’d want to set up shop properly and lay roots and do a large program over a 10- or 15-year period of time — or not at all, which I’m OK with.”