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From Pan Am Games athletes’ village to Toronto’s newest hood

A look at athletes’ digs, eventually to be condos and student dorms in Toronto’s new downtown Canary District

Jennifer Pagliaro – Toronto Star

How do you build a whole new neighbourhood in time for the biggest sporting event Toronto has ever hosted?

The answer is with hundreds of construction workers – and two sets of blueprints.

What will soon become household vernacular as the “Canary District” is that place you can see rising up out of the West Don Lands, tucked in the elbow where the DVP and Gardiner Expressway meet. For years, organizers for the Pan Am Games have been staring at it on maps and drawings – imagining a $709-million village for 7,400 athletes within what will later be a village in its own right for hundreds of stroller-pushers, students and residents with active lifestyles.

Comment: It is truly amazing that so much is happening in the east end. The West Don Lands Project, both the public and private aspects; the Pan Am Games; and the completing rebuilding of Regent Park. Add in Corktown Common, Lower Sherbourne, East Bayside… the Corus building. Everything from Sugar Beach east to the Don. This is why I have been telling people for years to buy in the east end.

“I don’t think there’s a village I’m aware of that’s been right beside such a dynamic neighbourhood,” said Jason Lester, the senior vice-president of urban development for Dream (formerly Dundee), which partnered with Kilmer on the $1.8-billion project. “Where you can just go right outside the entrance and then get another feel for Toronto and what it has to offer.”

The new community – injected into the well-established downtown core – will shift twice before it settles into the landscape. Organizers have separated the physical space in their minds between Games status and “legacy” space.

Comment: And here you can see what can be done with empty land. When there are no neighbours to cry NIMBY, amazing things can get done.

Canary District Pan Am Games
On a recent tour, those organizers are still looking out at empty lots from a yet-to-be-finished green roof atop what will be George Brown College’s first residence. The residence will house 500 students.

But first the rooms will hold hundreds of athletes for the Games – four for every washroom available. Two condo buildings will also serve as bunking space, with up to 10 athletes sharing a two-bedroom unit divided by temporary partitions.

The rooms will still be mostly concrete boxes by then – the first couple of coats of paint, a concrete slurry floor and sparse furnishings between the partitioned walls. It’s condo living without the perks – what will essentially be dorms with a view.

That’s the way developers Dundee Kilmer have explained the interim phase of these buildings to prospective buyers. There is space for 2,000 homeowners when they open in spring 2016.

“The suites will just be bare bones ‘shells’ with concrete floors, walls and bathrooms,” reads the pitch on the development’s website about the Games version of the condos.

In the end, the neighbourhood will feature a mix of market condos, affordable housing and the student residence. It’s anchored by a new, sun-soaked YMCA and an 18-acre public park to the east.

Lester, a fourth-generation Torontonian, said it has been rewarding to take on the project, despite the enormous pressure on reputation that the Games spotlight brings.

“It was such a tremendous opportunity for city building,” he said. “You’re not just building one building, or two, or three buildings with multiple phases. This was multiple city blocks that will have a very, very lasting effect on the city.”

There were challenges, he said, like developing two unique architectural drawings for each version of this village. He said their team has looked to other large events, like the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, for best practices.

Construction for the Games version of the build will be finished this fall, Lester said, and the facilities will be handed over to the Games’ organizing committee at the end of January. The committee will furnish and finish the suites and set up the outdoor facilities.

This athletes’ village will see the most overlay – temporary structures and builds – of any Games in recent history, said Allen Vansen, the executive vice-president of operations sport and venue management for the TO2015 organizing committee.

From the top of the future student residence, Vansen points to the leveled dirt around him. A massive dining tent will go there, he says, a multi-purpose clinic there, and an Internet café over there. Down below, men in orange T-shirts hammer paving stones to make sure they are even.

The dining tent with full kitchen will seat 2,400 to 2,600 and offer free meals, encouraging the athletes to eat together, Vansen said. A polyclinic built into portables will sit in the middle of the village for medical and physiological needs.

An international welcome zone will greet delegations from 41 countries off Front Street East They’ll pass through two historic buildings, including the neighbourhood’s namesake, the Canary Restaurant, built in the late 1800s.

Comment: I do find it awesome that they kept the Canary and the CN Police building as “gates” to the neighbourhood. Especially abutting the history of the Distillery District, we need some reminders of where we came from. Soon enough people will be able to head across the river for some fun at the New Broadview Hotel. It’s exciting!

During the athletes’ stay, some “legacy” facilities, like the YMCA, which is already built but not officially opened, will be available for use. The facility’s gym will be used for boxing training; a sloped, upstairs running track will be unfinished, but open; and several pools will be available for relaxation.

The village will have modern conveniences: wi-fi provided throughout all the residences, movie nights, blinds on the windows.

“One of unique things that we’ve done for the Games that we don’t normally do for a residential job is put the blinds in,” said Tim Dittmar, construction manager for EllisDon, which has partnered with Ledcor PAAV Inc. “Because the athletes want blinds.”

Those blinds will still hang come Aug. 15 when the Games are over, for homeowners (who might also want blinds) to keep or dispose of.

EllisDon said the company will work to convert the space for condo and student living – temporary walls out, flooring in, kitchens built, bathrooms finished and a new coat of paint applied.

Designers hope that when the King streetcar eventually loops between the Distillery and Canary districts, this neighbourhood will start to meld into its surroundings.

Lester said there is also 30,000 square feet of retail planned in the first “legacy” phase.

Though occupants are yet to be announced, shops will be geared towards an ongoing theme of health and wellness (think bike shops and clean eating) – what would be a lasting legacy from the Games.

Comment: By 2020 we will all just enjoy the area. We will have forgtten what was there before and all the construction. Does anyone remember the abandoned factories and gravel lots of Liberty Village in 1998? Drugs and hookers and vacant lots, that is what it used to be. We all forget that sitting on the Brazen Head patio on a fine Saturday afternoon.

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

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent 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.


From Pan Am Games athletes' village to Toronto's newest hood
Article Name
From Pan Am Games athletes' village to Toronto's newest hood
What will soon become household vernacular as the "Canary District" is that place you can see rising up out of the West Don Lands, tucked in the elbow where the DVP and Gardiner Expressway meet.