The project is located in The Mimico Triangle area of south Etobicoke, which has been recognized as a priority regeneration area by the City of Toronto. VANDYK is the majority landowner of the 55-acre site, with Freed Developments also holding a significant stake.
VANDYK started assembling its properties in the area from different existing landowners in 2017 and received the final rezoning approvals for its mixed-use development plan late last year. Vice-president and managing director of real estate Sherman Chan said the Mississauga-based company’s aggregate land acquisition cost for the Grand Central Mimico assembly was approximately $150 million.
Why VANDYK liked the area
“The main attraction for us was the amount of external investment activity that was occurring, and that not a lot of people were recognizing,” Chan told RENX.
This included the City of Toronto investing in improving roads, sewers and infrastructure while revitalizing a 15-acre park. Metrolinx and the Ontario government also invested in upgrading GO Transit stations and service on the Lakeshore West line.
“Because there were a lot of improvements that were happening immediately within this area, that was very attractive for VANDYK, because what was missing was for a developer-operator to come in and stitch all of these pieces together and deliver a new community,” said Chan.
The Grand Central Mimico site is largely made up of post-World War II, single-storey industrial buildings. VANDYK’s properties are primarily occupied by: a former film studio; vacant land that’s being leased to Metrolinx for commuter parking; and a former failed development property that was taken over by a bank, which is now empty.
Plans for Grand Central Mimico
The privately owned real estate development and investment management company, founded by president and chief executive officer John Vandyk, plans for 2.5 million square feet of development for the site, which will be built in three phases.
It will span more than four city blocks and include nine towers, anchored by more than 1.85 million square feet of new residences.
The first phase will include: 765 condominium units; approximately 20,000 square feet of retail space, including an urban grocery store and restaurants; and approximately 30,000 square feet of office space. The commercial components will be in a podium underneath the residences.
Decisions are still being made about suite mixes, sizes, pricing and internal amenities. VANDYK is building a presentation centre it hopes to open in late January or February to launch condo sales.
The second and third phases will also be mixed-use, primarily residential, with 2,500 condo units and a new Mimico GO Transit station.
“There will be a green way that traverses people to and from this new neighbourhood in Mimico and connects them to other neighbourhoods like Mystic Point and the commercial area off of Royal York,” said Chan. “People are looking for a little bit more space and that’s an offering that we can provide here.”
VANDYK is funding Grand Central Mimico with its own money along with conventional debt financing, although it may be open to taking on a partner down the line.
“Even though we’ve had longstanding relationships on the equity side, we understand that real estate development is a risky proposition,” said Chan. “What we like to do is shoulder all of that risk ourselves initially.”
VANDYK’s other GTA developments
VANDYK is working on two other Greater Toronto Area (GTA) developments before launching sales for Grand Central Mimico.
The sold-out Backyard Neighbourhood Condos project is also located in south Etobicoke, just north of The Queensway. It will feature four buildings upon completion. The last two 10-storey condos, The Queensview and The King’s Mill, are tentatively scheduled for occupancy in April 2022 and February 2024, respectively.
UPTowns is a collection of 331 two- and three-bedroom townhomes overlooking the Turnberry Golf Club and near the Heart Lake Conservation Area in Brampton. The units are 75 per cent sold, according to Sherman.
“We’re a little delayed on that project due to COVID,” he said. “It’s one of those projects that we’ve been challenged on, but the good news is that we’ve recently started construction.”
Sherman is unsure about the completion date for UPTowns at this point.
VANDYK’s Florida developments
VANDYK extended its base of operations from Ontario to Western Florida in 2012. Its first two developments were the now-completed five-storey, eight-suite ONE88 Residences and Orange Club, which features 15 condo suites and nine townhomes, in Sarasota. One townhome remains unsold at Orange Club.
VANDYK is gearing up to start sales and marketing next spring or summer for SIX88, a 15-suite waterfront luxury condo on Sarasota’s Golden Gate Point peninsula.
“Through the success of ONE88, there’s been an influx of new offerings in Sarasota by other American developers,” said Chan. “We took a bit of a pause to allow those projects by others to start and finish. Those projects have now been absorbed in Sarasota and we’re re-entering that marketplace to put the cherry on top.”
VANDYK purchased Seafood Shack Marina and Bar, a local landmark in the historic Gulf Coast fishing village of Cortez, for $4 million in the autumn of 2014. Cortez is 24 kilometres north of Sarasota on Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway.
The deep water marina is on the eastern side of the bridge between Cortez and the popular tourist destination of Anna Maria Island. It features 1,000 feet of water frontage and is one of the few places on the Intracoastal Waterway between Tampa and Naples to fuel boats.
While the six-acre site was acquired as a long-term real estate redevelopment play, the two-storey, 650-seat restaurant, marina and other amenities provide good holding income in the meantime. VANDYK is looking to increase revenues through improvements, including adding more boat slips, a bakery and possibly a tiki bar.
VANDYK’s past and future developments
VANDYK’s roots extend back 40 years in designing and building custom luxury homes, commercial offices and retail developments in the GTA. It recently expanded operations to include developing master-planned communities with townhouses, high-rise condos and single-family homes.
Past developments include: Mississauga’s Brownstones on Trillium Lane, Park 570, Highgrove Towne Manors and MeadowGreen on the Park; Etobicoke’s Humberview Trails; and Brampton’s Brownstones in Olde Brampton.
Chan said VANDYK is looking to add to its development pipeline, preferably with other projects similar to Grand Central Mimico.
“We’re looking for projects that aren’t just independent buildings, but are truly city-building efforts.”
While the GTA and Sarasota remain VANDYK’s primary areas of interest, that could change.
“When you’re well-equipped internally and an opportunity arises, we can plant our expertise anywhere in the world,” said Chan.