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NWVP, Alignvest buy T.O.’s Stewart Building, plan redevelopment

Historic 1894 property located at edge of University of Toronto campus

Northwest Value Partners Inc. (NWVP) and Alignvest Student Housing REIT have acquired The Stewart Building at 149 College St., in Toronto. (Google Maps)
Northwest Value Partners Inc. (NWVP) and Alignvest Student Housing REIT have acquired The Stewart Building at 149 College St., in Toronto. (Google Maps)

Northwest Value Partners Inc. (NWVP) and Alignvest Student Housing REIT have acquired The Stewart Building in downtown Toronto, with plans to rezone and develop it into a mixed-used, high-rise property that will include student housing. 

The six-storey, 43,118-square-foot building on 0.62 acres at 149 College St. was purchased for an undisclosed price. 

The Stewart Building is located on the southern edge of the University of Toronto campus in close proximity to the MaRS Discovery District and hospitals along University Avenue, as well as public transit.

Alignvest managing partner Sanjil Shah told RENX that NWVP had secured the site and was preparing to execute on it, when the firm got in touch with Alignvest a couple of weeks ago. 

Toronto-based NWVP is a privately owned and controlled entity that’s separate from Northwest Healthcare Properties REIT, but is the largest unitholder of the REIT. It’s wholly owned by president Paul Dalla Lana.

NWVP and Alignvest partnership

“It’s their development project that we have invested in as a partner,” said Shah, noting Alignvest is leveraging the work NWVP had already put into exploring The Stewart Building’s redevelopment potential.

“We expressed an interest to explore whether or not there's an opportunity to include some component of student housing in the redevelopment plans. And as we started to have further discussions, we realized that we have a like-minded approach towards the potential opportunity here.

“We decided to move quickly in order to structure a partnership where we would have the ability to provide input and add value on the redevelopment of what could potentially be the premier student housing opportunity in all of Canada.” 

The Stewart Building is fully leased to the University of Toronto for the next five years, providing holding income while housing administrative offices and Rotman School of Management programs.

Redevelopment plans aren’t fully formed

Since the partnership is so new, Shah said it’s too early to provide details on what The Stewart Building could become in the future. Potentially, however, it could include academic, life sciences or ancillary uses as well as student housing and traditional rental housing.

“We don't know what shape or form this redevelopment will look like, but certainly we will pursue whatever is permitted,” said Shah.

“The partnership is working with top-tier consultants on the architectural, planning and historical angles to make sure we're looking at all the different alternatives. Ultimately it's a function of what can be achieved in totality.”

The Stewart Building was designed by renowned Toronto architect E.J. Lennox, who was responsible for more than 70 buildings in his hometown, including Old City Hall, the King Edward Hotel and Casa Loma. It was originally built in 1894 to support the activities of the Toronto Athletic Club and included the city’s first indoor swimming pool.

Any redevelopment will very likely have to respect and incorporate the building’s significant heritage aspects.

NWVP is overseeing the approvals and entitlement process, with input from Alignvest as it relates to the student housing component. 

Seeking additional student housing opportunities

Toronto-headquartered Alignvest has grown its student housing portfolio to 12 properties in Waterloo, Hamilton, Oshawa, Halifax, Edmonton and Ottawa since its inception five-and-a-half years ago. Those buildings have 5,208 beds, are 99.6-per cent occupied and are valued at $945.3 million.

“Across Canada, there's a real need for student housing,” Shah said. “So we're looking at a variety of opportunities across the country right now. 

“We have several opportunities under evaluation, both acquisition and development opportunities. We're also starting to look at some conversion opportunities. But these things all take time.”

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