“Investments like this require a complex analysis of factors we have to consider, including location, geography, market and, most importantly to us, access to employee talent,” said GM corporate communications representative Jennifer Wright. “Given the vision that we have for the site, we’re really happy to have found this location.”
GM plans to develop a multi-use property comprised of: office space; research and development facilities; vehicle sales and services, including sales of electric vehicles; and a public experience centre featuring innovations in mobility. Achieving this will likely involve redeveloping and tearing down some existing buildings as well as constructing new ones.
“It’s going to take a number of years to realize the full vision for the site in working with our City partners and architects,” said Wright, who added that she couldn’t provide a timeline or projected cost for the project.
Deal works well for both sides
The complex currently features five studios ranging in size from 8,000 to 25,000 square feet along with two furnished production office suites, carpentry shops, storage and costume departments.
Neither Wright nor Cinespace vice-president Jim Mirkopoulos would disclose the price of the property at 721 Eastern Ave. However, Mirkopoulos said the timing and structure of the deal — which includes Cinespace leasing the property from GM for the next year — works well for both sides.
“The whole Booth Avenue, Eastern Avenue and Lakeshore Boulevard corridor has a lot of redevelopment happening. One of the redevelopments that got us to consider this sale is a SmartCentres development on Eastern Avenue that incorporates an eight-storey hotel and some other developments. We’re planning well ahead of heavy construction being right next door to film and TV operations, which don’t mix very nicely.
“We have a large TV series in there and the lease-back cushion is large enough that this show can finish production, and potentially another show could go in there and finish in time as well.
“The plans are to consider relocating that studio capacity either in that same area of Toronto or elsewhere. There are no sites in mind yet. We’re looking at lots of different options.”
World-class centre of innovation
GM employs more than 9,000 people across Canada. This new campus is expected to create 130 jobs once it’s fully functional in addition to those involved in the earlier planning and building stages.
“We really want to have a centre that will be able to demonstrate world-class innovations in the heart of Toronto,” said Wright. “What better market to demonstrate the future of mobility for GM of Canada while at the same time being able to provide exceptional customer experiences and creating an urban test bed in one of North America’s largest and most dynamic cities.”
GM Canada is headquartered in Oshawa, Ont. and Wright emphasized that this new campus in no way means that the company plans to lessen its presence in the city northeast of Toronto.
“Toronto really represents the hotbed of needing urban mobility solutions,” she said. “As we move to more of a technology focus for our company, it’s a great location for this new vision to come to life.”