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Originate, Westdale, Cameron Stephens JV on 2 T.O. towers

Originate Developments, Westdale Properties and Cameron Stephens Equity Capital have teamed up on...

IMAGE: Originate Developments, Westdale Properties and Cameron Stephens Equity Capital are planning 48- and 55-storey residential towers along a Wynford Drive site in Toronto. (Courtesy Westdale)

Originate Developments, Westdale Properties and Cameron Stephens Equity Capital are planning 48- and 55-storey residential towers along a Wynford Drive site in Toronto. (Courtesy Westdale)

Originate Developments, Westdale Properties and Cameron Stephens Equity Capital have teamed up on a plan to redevelop a former cultural centre into 48- and 55-storey residential towers on Wynford Drive in Toronto.

“All three businesses shared the same vision for the site and we’re really excited to be moving forward with it together in a pretty harmonious relationship, where everyone has a pretty interesting skill set that it brings to the table,” Originate partner and co-founder Adam Sheffer told RENX.

“No one can whistle a symphony on their own,” added Westdale chief operating officer Mitchell Cohen. “It takes an orchestra. I think Originate, Cameron Stephens and Westdale is one darn good orchestra.”

Originate’s other partner and co-founder Darryl Firsten also founded IN8 Developments. That company has partnered with Westdale on several projects over the past decade, so there’s a long-standing relationship.

“Cameron Stephens Equity Capital is sort of a newcomer to the space, but the principals of that firm are some really seasoned professionals in the industry who added a lot of value,” said Sheffer.

Raymond Moriyama returns to project

Moriyama & Teshima Architects (MTA) has been appointed to lead the re-design for One23 Wynford. The redevelopment will preserve and adapt the vacated cultural centre that was originally designed in 1963 by its co-founder, renowned architect Raymond Moriyama.

“Sixty years after Raymond first designed this incredible building to commemorate the struggle of Japanese Canadians, and never forget the dark time of our nation when internment camps were in place, he gets to have another shot at his beloved centre,” said Cohen.

One tower will be in the northwest corner of the site and the other will be in the southeast, with a significant setback from the original structure to give it prominence on the site.

The building was originally the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre before the Lakhani family acquired the space in 2003 and transformed it into the Noor Cultural Centre to represent the identity of Canadian Muslims.

Its owners made the same decision to move on from the space during COVID-19, leaving it vacant for more than a year.

Originate approached the owners about selling and the property was acquired in a $33-million off-market deal in October. Sheffer said it’s a very complicated site and all three partners have brought past experiences to the project that have proven useful.

Current design plans preserve and reincorporate the site’s most important cultural aspects into the new development, honouring the building’s roots and Japanese-inspired design.

The proposed development will incorporate existing portions of the original building in situ, while dismantling and reinstating other key features.

The surrounding parking lots that dominate the site will be dug up and re-naturalized to reaffirm the relationship with the adjoining ravine.

About half of the three-acre site located north of Eglinton Avenue East and east of the Don Valley Parkway will be reinstated as a ravine park and dedicated to the City of Toronto.

The development will also provide residents with new connections, including proposed walkable pathways linking the site with the new Crosstown LRT along Eglinton.

MTA is working alongside a team of consultants, including ERA Architects for the heritage component, Kirkor Architects and Planners for the residential tower and Plant Architect for the work on the ravine lands.

Long-term process for approvals, construction

“We just made our first submission to the city and we’re in the early stages of the process,” said Sheffer. “It’s going to be a really long process of community engagement, dealing with the ravine, dealing with heritage and dealing with the city.”

The approvals process is expected to take two to three years before shovels go into the ground. A three- to four-year construction period is expected after that.

While the developers are leaning toward building a condominium, Sheffer said that decision could change. He added the unit mix will be geared more toward families than in many other Toronto residential towers.

Regarding amenities, Sheffer said: “It’s a lot of building so we can fit in one of everything and we’re looking at all of the standard things, from a kids’ play room to a pool to a gym.

“But what’s really interesting, and not technically an amenity, is the 1.5-acre ravine park. That’s going to be the most interesting feature for the daily lives of future residents.”

Jarvis & Earl

Elsewhere, the three development partners submitted an application to the City of Toronto on July 26 to get the ball rolling on approvals for Jarvis & Earl, a mixed-use residential tower planned to have rental apartment and condo components on Jarvis Street between Wellesley Street East and Bloor Street East in Toronto.

Plans are for 58 storeys and 690 one-, two- and three-bedroom units.

The site is currently occupied by 10 row houses and a three-storey, 29-unit apartment building.

“It was an 11-piece assembly and we are also exploring the potential of buying some additional lands in order to build a park adjacent to the site,” said Sheffer. “We really think that would be excellent for the neighbourhood, which doesn’t have a ton of programmed park space.”

Originate spearheaded the project. Work on the assembly began in February and came together very quickly. The price for the 11 properties was $39.39 million.

The site has a 99 Bike Score, a 94 Walk Score and an 89 Transit Score.

The development partners

Toronto-based and family-owned Westdale employs more than 1,400 and has owned, managed and developed real estate across North America for more than 60 years.

Westdale oversees more than 50,000 residential units in Ontario, Quebec and 11 American states. Its portfolio also includes more than four million square feet of retail, office, industrial, food and beverage, hotel and resort properties on both sides of the border.

Westdale is also involved in a number of other significant urban residential developments across North America, including projects in Toronto, Halifax, Kitchener, Atlanta, Dallas and Miami.

Originate Developments is an infill development firm founded in Toronto in 2017. Aside from One23 Wynford and Jarvis & Earl, its other Toronto projects are Six99, Bathurst & Richmond, Annex Flats and Dupont Towns.

As a complement to its mortgage-lending business, Cameron Stephens started Cameron Stephens Equity Capital in 2020 to provide a new product offering to developer clients while continuing to offer strong risk-adjusted returns to investors.

“We’re going to roll out some more projects soon,” said Cohen, who noted the three partners are seeking more opportunities to collaborate on, but it’s too early to release any details.

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