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Big week for Republic: 3 major Toronto projects earn approvals

Scarborough Junction gets master-plan OK; Bellwood House, 3 Swift achieve zoning approval

A rendering of the Scarborough Junction development plan. The project is being led by Toronto's Republic Developments. (Courtesy Republic)
A rendering of the Scarborough Junction development plan. The project is being led by Toronto's Republic Developments. (Courtesy Republic)

The week of Feb. 5 was a momentous one for Republic Developments as it received a council-endorsed settlement for a major development and full zoning approval for two smaller projects from the City of Toronto.

The three projects represent 6.5 million square feet and 8,834 new homes.

“It was like a big weight off our shoulders,” Republic president and chief executive officer Matt Young, who founded the company in 2019, told RENX. “There's a lot riding on getting these approvals and I’ve found, over the last four years especially, that it's just become much more difficult to get the approvals.” 

The largest of the three developments, by far, is the Giannone Petricone Associates-designed Scarborough Junction.

It took four-and-a-half years of visioning, planning, designing, redesigning and negotiating to reach a settlement with the city for its master plan. Zoning and other approvals still need to be finalized.

“There's still a lot of work ahead, but at least the risk of what the business plan looks like and what the built-form is going to look like on the site are pretty much squared away,” Young observed. 

Scarborough Junction timeline and plans

Ideally, according to Young, development of the first phases could begin in two years. The entire Scarborough Junction project could take 20 years to complete due to its scale.

The 26-acre Scarborough Junction site is bounded by St. Clair Avenue East, Danforth Road, a rail corridor and Kennedy Road. It will include a new GO Transit station and provide access to existing Toronto Transit Commission stops as well as the future Eglinton Crosstown light rail line.

The plan is to develop 14 multifamily buildings from 19 to 58 storeys with 7,655 units, more than 200 of which will be classed as affordable. The plan is for 4,659 one-bedroom, 1,647 two-bedroom, 701 three-bedroom and 384 studio units.

The preliminary concept is for the dwellings to be a mix of condominiums and purpose-built rentals.

More than 200,000 square feet of retail space and approximately five acres of parkland will also be incorporated into the site. Amenities will include a playground, sports court, day care, 3,478 vehicle parking spaces and 6,326 bicycle parking spots.

Three towers will be built on the first two development blocks which will be connected to the GO station via a tunnel under the rail corridor. Young said there are also talks with the city to receive funding to build a community centre.

Young said Republic and an investment syndicate led by Harlo Capital -- which is comprised mostly of family offices -- owns a “substantial interest” in Scarborough Junction. Dream Impact Trust owns a 23 per cent stake, although it's looking to sell that interest.

“To do any project of this scale obviously requires very well-heeled capital partners,” Young said, adding he wants to help provide an “off-ramp” for those who want out and an “on-ramp for new partners to come in to take it from the current phase, which is zoning completion, towards actually building out the buildings.”

Bellwoods House and 3 Swift

A rendering of the two-tower, 3 Swift development in Toronto. (Courtesy Republic)
A rendering of the two-tower, 3 Swift development in Toronto. (Courtesy Republic)

Toronto-based Republic also received full zoning approval for Bellwoods House, an Arcadis-designed 229,500-square-foot mid-rise infill condo with townhouses at grade, at 111 Strachan Ave. It will replace mechanic shops and a small bar with 322 new homes while preserving a heritage building. 

Sales for the downtown west condo began in October. Young plans to live in the building upon completion.

“It's an exciting project," Young said. "We've tried to deliver a building that we think is a really positive and handsome addition that's going to become one of those really great end-user buildings."

Republic also received full zoning approval for 3 Swift, a 598,430-square-foot high-rise on Eglinton Avenue East. The Arcadis IBI Group-designed project will have 857 units in two towers and a podium, as well as providing parkland. 

Sixty-one of the units will be affordable rental replacements. It hasn’t yet been decided if the rest will be market-priced rental apartments or condos.

The project is a partnership between Republic and landowner Silver Hotel Group. The privately owned hotel investment, development and management company, based in Mississauga, has a portfolio of 22 hotels in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

“We were retained to manage a development program on a number of parcels that they own,” Young explained. 

Site-plan approvals are still needed for both Bellwoods House and 3 Swift.

Other Silver Hotel Group-partnered developments

There are four other proposed developments in the Silver Hotel Group's Toronto portfolio that Young said have received conditional zoning approvals: 45 The Esplanade; 15 Charles; 2451 Dufferin; and 6167 Yonge.

45 The Esplanade is a planned Arcadis-designed, 570,000-square-foot high-rise development in the downtown core consisting of a tower rising above a residential and hotel podium. It will house 726 residences, a 141-suite hotel replacing the site's existing hotel, and retail at grade.

15 Charles St. is a planned Arcadis-designed, 454,900-square-foot, 610-unit multifamily infill high-rise just south of the intersection of Yonge and Bloor streets.  

The 474,744-square-foot 2451 Dufferin St. would replace an existing automotive dealership with 672 residential units and accompanying retail space in a large podium and tower configuration designed by Arcadis.

The 317,277-square-foot 6167 Yonge St. project will consist of two Arcadis-designed 14-storey residential buildings comprised of 462 units along with retail at grade.

1266 Queen St. W.

Republic also plans a 266,634-square-foot infill mixed-use development at 1266 Queen St. W. to replace a two-storey commercial building with 381 residential units, retail and community space in a BDP Quadrangle-designed podium and mid-20-storey tower configuration.

“It sort of forms the gateway into Parkdale,” Young observed. “It's the first development block as you go from east to west on Queen Street and you cross Dufferin. It's directly connected to the amphitheatre, which is sort of like a mini-park or public space that right now is quite run down and I think needs some revival.” 

Young is hopeful 1266 Queen will go before council for approval in April.

Republic’s future plans

Young said Republic has had a good experience with the development management agreement with Silver Hotel Group and wants to do more with other landowners.

Republic has also started an asset management arm to help families who own real estate portfolios to add value and look at their long-term development potential.

“We think we have a really good pulse on how to maximize density and value on these types of projects,” Young said.

Republic’s eight current projects have $10.1 billion in development value and comprise 8.6 million square feet and well over 11,000 units, so it doesn’t have an immediate need for more acquisitions. 

“We're certainly looking at things when great deals come up, but our focus right now is on executing some of the projects that we have and moving some of these projects into construction,” Young explained, “And as that happens, we'll start to look at the portfolio again and see if we need to add more and when we need to add more.”

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