Spotlight Development is doubling down on its “The Inclusive” brand of innovative, affordable and attainable multiresidential housing with a proposed development in Kitchener, Ont.
Plans are for the 6.5-acre site at Courtland Avenue East near Block Line Road to feature four residential towers combining for between 2,500 and 3,000 residences, with an approximate split of 60 per cent affordable and 40 per cent market-rate units.
There will be both purpose-built rental and for-sale housing.
The Kitchener site, acquired recently for $28.5 million, is within a growing employment area and served by a light rail transit station that includes connections to five bus routes.
Spotlight founder and president Sherry Larjani told RENX an agreement is in place with the municipality for a bus terminal to be located underneath one of The Inclusive’s towers.
Neighbouring community amenities and services include St. Mary’s High School, Peter Hallman Ball Yard and the Balzer Greenway East Natural Area.
Funding for projects
Affordable units will be partially funded through contributions from market-rate units, Spotlight for Affordable Ventures (the non-profit arm of Spotlight) and Aria Foundation, a charity founded by Larjani dedicated to raising funds for affordable housing.
Spotlight has also been seeking support from different levels of government — as well as working with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Infrastructure Ontario, traditional financial institutions and alternative lenders — since its affordable housing projects are so large they require multiple funding sources.
Larjani would like to see solid and lasting partnerships put in place among a variety of stakeholders and interested parties to create a model that will be repeatable for future affordable housing developments.
She welcomes anyone wanting to be part of these projects – at any scale – to contact Spotlight.
“What we are bringing to the table is so many different streams and models of financing all put together into one, because all of our not-for-profits have their own models that they've been using and finessing for many years,” Larjani told RENX.
“So what we're doing is incorporating all of that into our models and making it happen using what has been done before and doing it at scale.”
Spotlight continues to pursue strategic not-for-profit partnerships to help provide as much affordable housing as possible to community members who have traditionally been left out of the housing market.
Larjani said these groups are already affiliated with people who qualify for the developer’s affordable housing projects and they also provide valuable experience and knowledge that help get things done.
“The way to do it was to make sure that we are doing it under the not-for-profit umbrella so that we can use the incentives and benefits for that sort of entity for building affordable housing as well as to be able to partner with all the other not-for-profits and do projects at the scale that we're doing,” Larjani said of Spotlight for Affordable Ventures.
Aria Foundation’s mandate is to help the underserved with housing and other community benefits.
“All of our not-for-profits can benefit from any financial donations that are made to Aria Foundation for the benefit of the community and to help them to do more housing,” she said.
It’s early days for Aria Foundation and Larjani didn’t disclose how much money it has raised so far, but she said donations have come from a variety of organizations and individuals that aren’t necessarily related to the housing sector.
Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region, Trillium Housing and Good Shepherd Ministries will all manage a portion of affordable units for low-to-moderate income families, seniors, newcomers and others for The Inclusive in Kitchener.
There are ongoing discussions with other not-for-profit partners, with the goal of offering dedicated units to groups including Indigenous and Black Canadians, veterans and members of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community.
The project is going through the approvals process and Larjani said Spotlight has established a good relationship with City of Kitchener representatives.
She’s hopeful construction can begin on the first phase of the development — which will include purpose-built rental units, Habitat for Humanity Waterloo’s housing units and a commercial component — in the next 18 months.
In addition to more residential construction, subsequent phases will also offer support for residents through a 24/7 daycare, employment and education programs, healthcare, seniors activities, financial and other services.
The Inclusive in Toronto
Spotlight’s original The Inclusive project, announced a year ago, will be developed on a 3.5-acre site currently occupied by a strip mall and 307 parking spaces at 1635 Lawrence Ave. W. near Black Creek Drive in Toronto.
Spotlight acquired the property almost two years ago for more than $32 million.
Plans are to introduce towers ranging from 15 to 35 storeys and mid-rise buildings that will accommodate more than 1,500 units in The Inclusive’s first phase.
The site will also incorporate 100,000 square feet of medical-related space for a healthcare and mental health component, including an urgent care centre.
There will also be: retail; a 24-hour daycare; outdoor amenities; employment and skills training; food services; and clothing and hygiene product provision.
“Looking at housing in a silo is a Band-Aid solution because affordability doesn't start and end with housing,” Larjani said. “Affordability involves food, it involves hygiene, it involves clothing, it involves education and it involves jobs.
“Without having all of that in place, you cannot have a successful community and you cannot have successful tenants or homeowners.
"So to us, it has to be done together. It has to be looked at as a whole community, and wrap-around services are what's needed.”
Spotlight has partnered with several not-for-profit organizations — including WoodGreen, BlackNorth Initiative, Trillium Housing, The Good Shepherd, Brands For Canada and Habitat for Humanity GTA — for the Toronto development.
Deltera Construction Management will be the builder for the project, which is also still in the approvals stage. Larjani’s goal is for construction of the first phase to begin within two years.
Other Spotlight developments
Toronto-based Spotlight was launched by Larjani in 2010 and has specialized in acquiring properties to redevelop into high-density residential and mixed-use projects in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Its current GTA projects, which are at various stages of the development cycle, include:
• the nine-storey, 197-unit Reina Condos (Canada’s first condominium designed and developed by an all-woman team), which is under construction at The Queensway and Royal York Road in Toronto in partnership with Urban Capital;
• Cartier Condos, a six-storey, 118-unit development at Bayview Avenue and Cartier Crescent in Richmond Hill;
• the 12-storey, 301-unit Marlee Condos at 774 Marlee Ave. in Toronto;
• a 60-storey, 701-unit mixed-use building at Church and Queen Streets in Toronto in partnership with CentreCourt;
• a six-storey, 111-unit seniors living facility operated by Origin at 290 Old Harwood Ave. in Ajax;
• 24 three-storey units at 1038-1040 Jacarandah Dr. in Newmarket;
• and a commercial redevelopment involving eight buildings constructed between 1853 and 1976 that back on to the Ganaraska River at 121 Cavan St. in Port Hope.