Mixed-use super projects on the way for GTA

Toronto and its surrounding area is currently undergoing massive development, a fact to which the steel forest of construction cranes will attest, but that spate of condo-led building will soon be followed by a wave of mixed-use “super projects” that will ensure those condo dwellers have somewhere to work, play and eat.
These so-called super projects were the topic of a panel discussion at this week’s annual Land & Development in Toronto featuring heavyweights from Cadillac Fairview, Oxford Properties and First Gulf Corporation.
Cities around the world are under increasing pressure to grow faster, but the pressure on the Toronto area is greater than most, panel moderation Michael Brooks of Aird and Berlis LLP noted in his introduction.
Toronto’s GTA currently boasts 5.6 million people or 945 per square kilometre, and in the city itself, the density rises to 4,000 per sq. km. It is also one of the fastest-growing regions in North America, ahead of Chicago in that respect, and currently feature more cranes on the skyline than Los Angeles and New York combined.
Real estate demand is not expected to stop any time soon: 50,000 immigrants come to the city every year and by 2031, expect another 3.7 million people in the city.

Oxford’s casino craps out
While Oxford Properties’ proposal for a casino at the heart of its $3-billion redevelopment at the city’s downtown convention centre drew attention and attracted rising opposition, failure to win support for a gambling temple will not be a fatal blow to the project.
“It doesn’t affect our development, our development was actually going to accommodate a casino, the casino didn’t drive the development,” said Johann Schumacher, vice-president of development with Oxford Properties. “So all we are really doing now is re-planning that little bolt hole of a casino to another use.”
Oxford’s planned makeover of the Front St. site is massive and potentially migraine-inducing: comprising up to 7 million sq. ft. of retail, hotel and convention and meeting space, it is located in prime space surrounded by Union Station, the fast-growing south office corridor and the two playpens of its major sports teams, the Air Canada Centre and Rogers Centre.
Two types of infrastructure
In fact, Oxford’s project has physical infrastructure in spades, primarily due to its location next to the city’s main transit node of Union Station, the city’s key train and subway junction.
What the area currently lacks in the process of “densifying a city” is what Schumacher dubs “social infrastructure,” namely places people want to hang around when they are not working.
“At our downtown site, we are leaving a lot of that social infrastructure to the parks and also onto the retail which provides people with things to do.”

Challenges, Oxford has plenty of. One of the selling points of the current Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC), is its location in the heart of the downtown core. Improving the site will mean time-consuming planning and approval processes as well as engineering hurdles.
“There are a lot of technical things in here,” said the Oxford VP.
“We have big 90-foot spans to run a 60-storey office above without actually having the core go through to the ground,” he said of the challenge of building a tower to sit atop the current convention facility. “So very exciting engineering being done.
“Not only that, we are tunnelling under Metrolinx and if that is not enough, we are actually going over Metrolinx as well and over a couple of railway lines that can't be interrupted.”
Oxford will also likely run out of space before it runs out of ideas.
“It is 11 acres so it is a big site but you would actually be surprised how fast you actually run out of site when you start looking at some of these large developments,” Schumacher said.
Read part 2 of this article: Cadillac Fairview starting from scratch on 'densification project in the suburbs'



Paul is a writer, editor and media trainer based in Toronto with over 25 years of experience as a business reporter. He has written for Canada’s major news services on…

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Paul is a writer, editor and media trainer based in Toronto with over 25 years of experience as a business reporter. He has written for Canada’s major news services on…

Read more




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