Sequoia Grove Homes’ $75-million acquisition of a former bingo hall on Toronto’s St. Clair Avenue West closed on Sept. 29, but its redevelopment plans for the property have been in motion for months.
Delta Bingo and Gaming gave Sequoia Grove permission to submit an official plan amendment, a rezoning application and a subdivision application to the city in August, while it was still the official owner. The plan proposes development of 30-, 40- and 45-storey condominium towers containing a total of 1,151 units.
“We felt that the area of growth was high-rise and we’re always interested in doing something near a transit hub,” Sequoia Grove owner and principal Giulio Bianchi told RENX. “So when this came in and it was within close proximity to the proposed Metrolinx line, we figured it was the right one for us.”
Colliers began marketing the 3.76-acre property at 1799 St. Clair Ave. W. in the summer of 2020 while the Delta bingo hall was closed due to government-imposed COVID-19 safety precautions, according to Colliers senior vice-president and sales representative Ryan Thomson.
“That area has been gentrifying for many years. There have been a multitude of planning policy reviews and transportation reviews, all of which were laying the groundwork for a higher and better use for the site,” Thomson said.
“That was certainly part of the rationale for the decision to sell.”
Delta had occupied the site on the south side of St. Clair, just west of Old Weston Road, since 1985. The company was launched in 1967 and has raised more than $150 million for more than 875 local charities since 2005.
Delta has 18 other locations across Ontario and plans to find another Toronto site to replace the one purchased by Sequoia Grove.
St. Clair West and its Stockyards District have been growing in popularity for multifamily, mixed-use and retail developments in recent years. Thomson told RENX the Delta site attracted “healthy interest from private and institutional groups, both from the condominium and rental perspectives.”
Bianchi said it took about six months for Sequoia Grove’s acquisition to close.
Plans for the new acquisition
IBI Group is the planning consultant and architect for the project. The first submission calls for 508 one-bedroom, 482 two-bedroom and 161 three-plus-bedroom units, with 100 of the units designated as affordable ownership.
Sequoia Grove’s proposed development would replace the existing two-storey building.
It would have a total gross floor area of approximately 1.16 million square feet and include: more than 100,000 square feet of office space; more than 15,000 square feet of retail space; a 15,700-square-foot privately owned, publicly accessible block along an extension of Davenport Road; 778 below-grade parking spots on three levels; and storage space for 1,213 bicycles.
“That’s very preliminary,” said Bianchi. “We just started discussions with the city and we’re trying to understand what their vision for the area is. We obviously want to make sure that they’re happy in terms of bringing additional employment and some retail and good, affordable, quality residential.”
Sequoia Grove is considering building smaller condo office units of approximately 1,200 square feet that can be purchased by professionals such as accountants, doctors, dentists and lawyers instead of leasing the space.
Boutique and convenience retail, which would likely include a restaurant and/or coffee shop, will be prime candidates for the project.
Bianchi believes young families and first-time buyers will be a major target demographic.
With a proposed new transit line stop very close to the site, Bianchi said it should take just 12 minutes to reach Union Station downtown.
By the time the project receives all approvals and goes through the construction process, Bianchi anticipates first occupancy to take place in seven years.
Other Sequoia Grove developments
Vaughan-based Sequoia Grove was founded in 1999. Its only current development is the sold-out Next at Elgin East condo in Richmond Hill that should be delivered in the first quarter of 2023. Bianchi said construction is progressing well.
Next at Elgin East will include 304 boutique townhomes and two mid-rise buildings with 258 suites at Elgin Mills Road East between Bayview Avenue and Leslie Street.
There’s nothing else in the acquisition or development pipelines at the moment, according to Bianchi, who’s interested in adding future inventory in the Greater Toronto Area — where most of the construction and tradespeople Sequoia Grove has long-term relationships with are based.
“We don’t like to go outside of that boundary because our trades don’t want to waste a lot of time travelling because productivity declines. Going further west or further east to places like Cambridge, Whitby and Ajax, you have to employ locally.”
Sequoia Grove’s past communities include: the 70-home Wychwood at Upper Churchville in Brampton; the 90-home Riverstone Golf and Country Club in Brampton; the 40-home Twin Peaks in Thornhill; and the 144-townhome Kings Grove Courtyards in Mississauga.