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SmartCentres fast-tracks huge GTA mixed-use redevelopment

SmartCentres REIT (SRU-UN-T) has obtained a Minister’s Zoning Order from the Ontario government t...

IMAGE: This conceptual plan shows a proposed future layout for the Smartcentre Cambridge shipping centre redevelopment. (Courtesy SmartCentres REIT)

This conceptual plan shows a proposed future layout for the SmartCentres Cambridge shipping centre redevelopment. (Courtesy SmartCentres REIT)

SmartCentres REIT (SRU-UN-T) has obtained a Minister’s Zoning Order from the Ontario government to start “immediately” redeveloping its 73-acre SmartCentres Cambridge shopping centre into an 11-million-square-foot, mixed-use neighbourhood.

Plans for the project, stretching from 18 to 60 Pinebush Rd. in the city just west of Toronto, extend out over a 20-year period. Current plans include more than 40 buildings ranging from high-rise multiresidential towers to townhomes, seniors housing, commercial/retail and privately owned public spaces. It also incorporates a transit hub.

In its submission to the city, SmartCentres proposes residential high-rise towers of up to 35 storeys and mid-rise buildings of up to 15 storeys.

The project as envisioned today would provide up to 10,000 new residential units.

Prior to applying to the province for the MZO, which allows SmartCentres REIT to circumvent many of the normal approvals required for such a development, the trust sought and received the support of Cambridge council for the redevelopment.

“We are very pleased that, with the support of City of Cambridge elected officials and senior staff, minister Steve Clark has agreed to issuing the MZO,” said Mitchell Goldhar, executive chairman of SmartCentres, in a release.

“Both the minister and (Cambridge) Mayor Kathryn McGarry recognize the significant economic benefits of accelerating our redevelopment plans including the tens of thousands of jobs that will be created and sustained over the 20-year period.”

MZOs are a part of the Ontario government’s strategy to fast-track significant real estate projects to help the economy recover from the pandemic, as well as addressing housing shortages in its urban areas.

The SmartCentres Cambridge site, plans

The current SmartCentres Cambridge, built 22 years ago, is situated along Pinebush Road at the intersection of Hwy. 401 and Hespeler Drive.

The power centre is a major regional shopping destination, anchored by stores such as Walmart, Rona, Staples, Best Buy, Winners, Michaels and Dollarama. The centre’s website lists 44 retailers as current tenants.

Adjacent to the site is significant other retail including Lowe’s, Home Depot, Canadian Tire and more.

The MZO changes the zoning of the site, which currently allows only retail uses, to permit various forms of residential, retail, office, institutional and commercial land uses.

“We believe this significant new community will help address demand for housing located strategically around the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area,” Goldhar said in the release.

“Working with staff, our goal is to begin Phase 1 in 2021. SmartCentres will continue to proactively change its property uses to align with ever-evolving communities and marketplaces across Canada.”

SmartCentres plans a cross-section of housing types for the site, including rental apartments, condominiums, townhouses and seniors housing.

“This is very exciting news for Cambridge and means that this important development will be expedited,” said McGarry in the release. “This is a 73-acre property that will be transformed into a large vibrant mixed-use community hub.

“We know more and more people are moving to our city and this project will certainly help in terms of economic recovery post-pandemic.”

About SmartCentres REIT

SmartCentres REIT is one of Canada’s largest fully integrated REITs, with a portfolio featuring 166 properties across the country.

SmartCentres has $10.4 billion in assets and owns over 34.2 million square feet of income-producing retail space with occupancy exceeding 97 per cent on 3,500 acres of owned land across Canada.

SmartCentres also continues planning and developing mixed-use communities on its existing retail properties.

Its $12.1 billion intensification program ($5.5 billion at SmartCentres’ share) represents the REIT’s major development focus on which construction is expected to commence in the next five years.

This intensification program includes rental apartments, condos, seniors’ residences and hotels to be developed under the SmartLiving banner, and retail, office and storage facilities to be developed under the SmartCentres banner.

SmartCentres’ intensification program is expected to produce an additional 59.3 million square feet (27.9 million square feet at SmartCentres’ share) of space, 27.3 million square feet (12.4 million square feet at SmartCentres’ share) of which construction has or will commence within the next five years.

Vaughan Metropolitan Centre update

Included in this intensification program is the Trust’s share of SmartVMC which, when completed, will also include approximately 11 million square feet of mixed-use space in Vaughan, just north of Toronto at the terminus of the GTA’s subway network.

Construction of the first five sold-out phases of Transit City Condominiums (2,789 residential units) is ongoing.

Final closings of the first two phases of Transit City Condominiums began ahead of budget and ahead of schedule in August 2020 and as of Sept. 30, 766 units (about 70 per cent of the 1,110 units in the first and second phases) had closed, with the balance of units expected to close before year end.

In addition, the 631 units in the sold-out third phase along with 22 townhomes, are expected to close in 2021. The fourth and fifth sold-out phases, representing 1,026 units, are also under construction and are expected to close in 2023.

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