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Unique Toronto Homes

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Condos in Toronto

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Toronto Real Estate

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New community being built from ground up for Pan Am Games new

Simone Abrahamsohn – Property Biz Canada

As the city prepares to host the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, the future Athlete’s Village will be created on schedule – and on budget, according to Jason Lester, President of Dundee Kilmer Developments Ltd, the company managing the project.

“What’s exciting, is that the plan was already 20 years in the making,” says Lester. “But, the Games just gave it momentum it didn’t have yet before.”

According to Meg Davis, Vice-President of Waterfront Toronto, the plans for the Athlete’s Village were requested by the province, once the bid for the area renewal – and 32-hectare revitalization – was already underway.

“We got a call asking,’Can you fit the athletes village into the West Don Lands block plan?’ Basically, it meant advancing the West Don Lands [development] by about five or 10 years, getting it to market that much sooner.”

The Canary District is a 35-acre post-industrial site, stretching from Cherry St. to Bayview Ave., with an extended Front St. being the centre of the area.

From 0 to 12,000 by 2020

After almost no activity for 20 years, (and having a population of 0 in 2011) the emerging new district has been steadily forming since the ground breaking in the fall of 2011. About 700 workers fill the site each day, creating the soon-to-be community and most expensive component of the $1.4-billion Games.

After originally being cleared to become a housing project called “Ataratiri”, in the 1980s, (private investors retreated, hesitant due to flooding risk), that project was cancelled in the early 90s after a real estate crash. The new neighbourhood will have a population of approximately 12,000 by 2020.

Over 50 percent sold, the condominium community has attracted various stakeholders, including the City of Toronto, Waterfront Toronto and Infrastructure Ontario.

Residential buildings along Front Street will range between 11 and 15 storeys high, while heights on narrower Mill Street will drop down to eight storeys. Additionally, four architectural firms were asked to design the buildings within the athletes’ village, to avoid a homogenous look and achieve what Dundee Kilmer calls “cohesive diversity.”

Avoiding contract overruns of the past

A funding model has been implemented through a fixed price contract between Dundee Kilmer and Infrastructure Ontario, so that the $514-million provincial cost for the village won’t increase. They want to ensure the budget does not escalate as it did in the past, such as Vancouver’s Olympic village.

“We do a lot of upfront due diligence so [developers] know exactly what they’re getting into. Everything’s out on the table, so that when they sign the agreement they are agreeing to a specific date and … a specific price,” says Mandy Downes of Infrastructure Ontario.

“They don’t get paid until the work gets done, so there is a big financial incentive for them to complete it on time. They take the risk so that the province and the taxpayers are not on the hook for things we are not in control of.”

The up-and-coming new “Urban Village” will include a new streetcar line, created on a rebuilt Cherry Street, connecting to the district from King Street, and through to the neighbouring Distillery District.

The eight buildings currently in development will temporarily be home to approximately 10,000 Athletes from 41 countries during the Games, (while the sporting events will actually take place elsewhere, such as Toronto, Markham and Mississauga) and will be 100% complete once new tenants/owners move in in early 2016.

Plan includes affordable housing

The area will include the first residence for George Brown College, (housing 500 students), along with an adjoining YMCA, housing a pool and fitness centre, 253 units of affordable housing (a project in affiliation with the Fred Victor Centre), including studios as well as 2-bedroom plus den apartments, and townhomes, some as large as 1,475 square feet. Prices start at $200,000.

The almost-800 condominiums, 28 townhomes and 12 retail store and office spaces will be fully operational after the Games. The residential buildings along the extended Front Street East will have more than 40,000 square feet of retail space for rent.

Front Street will extend with four traffic lanes and lead to a Riverfront park. The $15 million, 18-acre park, known currently just as Don River Park, will open to the public this summer.

“There’s always a chance it might be changed to a politician’s name in the future,” says Lester.

“It will act almost like a trailhead to the ravine system on the east side of Toronto, as well as to the waterfront to the south. It’s quick access to the trail system for biking and walkers,” he said.

“There’s probably more parkland as a ratio to the community being built in this neighbourhood than any other community in downtown Toronto.”

Refurbishing landmark Canary Restaurant

Included in the plans to revive the East end neighbourhood is the refurbishing of the old Canary Restaurant, situated at the corner of Front Street East and Cheery Street from the mid-1960s to 2007.

The 19th Century Heritage building, dating back to 1859, experienced several incarnations, including being the Palace Street School and then the Cherry Street Hotel, before becoming the Canary Restaurant.

As industries moved out and various Waterfront revival plans were put on hold, the kitschy diner remained a fixture. The diner, at one point a popular spot for film crews, will serve as a symbol of the new area’s revitalization.

“It kind of gives you a layer, an anchor in time,” said Bruce Kuwabara of KPMB, the architectural firm involved in the project.

“I think what it does, is it amplifies the meaning and provokes a discussion about history. Little kids will say, ‘Why is this called the Canary District? I like the name, but why?’ And then there’ll be a story to be told.”

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Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto Realtor with Century 21 Regal Realty. He did not
write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who are
interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.

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