TAS, which bills itself as “an unconventional impact company,” has just received planning department approval to build 189 rental units in a 12-storey tower, to go along with seven townhouse units on a site at 880 Eastern Avenue in Toronto.
It plans to break ground on the project in the spring.
Leslieville is an established Toronto neighbourhood comprised of traditional single-family homes, but like so many other areas in the city change is afoot.
Not only is the city’s population growing at a record pace — Ontario’s population surged by 445,000 between Q2 2022 and the first quarter of this year, far and away above the 115,000 annual average since 1995 — economic activity in the Port Lands, located south of Leslieville, and nearby East Harbour, has accelerated.
That has increased demand for new housing, and given the average price of a Toronto home was $1,066,184 in July according to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, rental demand is higher than it’s ever been.
Leslieville, the Port Lands and imminent growth
Speaking to imminent growth in Leslieville, which is contiguous to downtown Toronto and is rich in green space, Georgia Brook, TAS’s director of development, told RENX rental demand is through the roof.
“There’s such massive need in the city for purpose-built rental right now,” Brook said.
“We’re in a housing crisis and rental housing is more attainable for a lot of people than in the condo and single-family home markets right now, so we try to build rental wherever we can and this site was just perfect for it.”
The Port Lands revitalization revolves around a nine-acre redevelopment site that houses Cinespace Film Studios — the epicentre of Hollywood North boasts 1.3 million square feet of production space across 25 stages — whose Marine Terminal Studio Hub is expanding.
Moreover, the Basin Media Hub is also expanding and is slated to become a Netflix production hub.
“The Port Lands and East Harbour are seeing a tremendous amount of revitalization where they’re creating new parklands, a lot of green space, but also bringing a lot of affordable housing to the neighbourhood,” said Ryan Coyle, Toronto-based co-founder of Connect.ca Realty.
“As part of that initiative, you have the East Harbour redevelopment, too.”
East Harbour is slated to become the second-busiest multimodal transit hub in the region after Toronto’s Union Station, thanks to the below-grade Ontario Line, the Queen’s Quay and Broadview LRTs, and Metrolinx’s Regional Express Rail.
The 18-year-old Places to Grow Act mandated such intensification, part of which is new housing.
“That whole node is growing substantially, and with that kind of growth and expansion for jobs and employment opportunities, especially outside of the downtown core, always comes the need for more housing,” Brook said.
“So a site like this is so right for the type of intensification we’re doing.”
880 Eastern Avenue
Brook also noted the area has an abundance of new condo development in the pipeline.
“There’s a lot in the pipeline — there’s a couple of completed condos along Queen Street and similar projects to ours along Eastern Avenue, so the demand is already there,” she said.
“A lot of developers are trying to get in and there’s not a ton of sites.
"I think every project is a catalyst for the next. We’d love to see more rental housing in Leslieville and the City of Toronto in general.”
880 Eastern Avenue was already zoned for mixed-use redevelopment.
That reduced the typically long bureaucratic approval times that encumber developers in Toronto to mere negotiations about density, which wrapped up in two years, Brook noted.
Ten per cent of units at 880 Eastern Avenue will be three-bedroom units, 15 per cent will have two bedrooms, and the rest will be a mix of one-bedroom and studio suites, which Brook said adheres to the City of Toronto’s Growing Up Guidelines.
With six affordable rental units at 880 Eastern Avenue, TAS incorporated the municipal Open Door program that was introduced to help the city meet its 40,000 rental-unit target by 2030.
This allowed the waiver of some of the development charges TAS would have paid on the project’s pro rata — ameliorating purpose-built rental building economics in the process.
TAS is also billing 880 Eastern Avenue as Toronto’s first net-zero carbon mid-rise development, and because it backs onto a laneway where the townhouses will be built, the building’s height decreases in what Brook calls a seamless fit into existing streetscapes.
“We also try, through our design, to be respectful of the context of the neighbourhood,” Brook said.
“Our site spans a full city block bordered by Eastern Avenue to the south and a small laneway called Sears Street with very few cars and kids riding bikes up and down.
"It’s a laneway for townhome typologies.”