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York Mills TTC parking lot slated for hotel, office complex

Toronto developer the Gupta Group/East’s Group buys prime subway site for $25 million to construct seven-storey building.

Susan Pigg – Toronto Star

The Toronto Transit Commission parking lot at Yonge St. and York Mills Rd. has been sold to a Toronto developer who intends to replace it with a seven-storey, 480,000-square-foot office, hotel and retail complex.

The $25-million deal for the 3.2-acre site on the northerly section of the Yonge subway line was finalized between Build Toronto, the city agency responsible for selling off underutilized real estate, and the Gupta Group/Easton’s Group on Dec. 22.

The Gupta Group/Easton’s Group plans to move some of the 266-spot TTC parking lot underground and relocate its own offices to the site, which will connect to the York Mills subway station and is within easy reach of Hwy. 401.

Most of the building — about 320,000 square feet — will be so-called office condos starting at 2,000 square feet which will be sold, rather than leased, largely to professionals looking to have control of their own space, says founder of the development company, Steve Gupta.

York Mills TTC parking lot
The building is close to three hospitals, Sunnybrook, North York General and the new mega-hospital, Humber River Regional Hospital at Keele and Hwy. 401, which Gupta hopes will make it a big draw for doctors, health clinics and other medical staff looking for control of their own space.

Zoning on the site does not allow residential condo development and the city was intent on creating more employment in the Hoggs Hollow area, which is one of the more affluent residential neighbourhoods in the city.

“It’s a valuable employment node that the city was looking to protect, so we were looking for someone with a proven track record in that kind of (mixed-use) development,” said Bill Bryck, president and CEO of Build, which had multiple bidders for the site.

“This was seen as a great site to generate employment opportunities.”

The $300-million project is expected to create about 300 jobs and bring a new hotel, most likely a four-star Marriott or a Hilton, to the Yonge St. corridor of North York which now has just one hotel, said Gupta in a telephone interview.

4050 Yonge Development
Just over one acre of the site, which sits on flood plain abutting the Don River, will be turned over to the city for conservation purposes, he added.

Gupta had been looking in North York for some time for a hotel site, as well as a new flagship office for his own business, which started out 30 years ago in 1,000 square feet of office space and now needs to expand beyond its current 12,000 square feet on Steele Ave. at Hwy. 404.

For some time the site had been considered as the new headquarters for the TTC, but politicians nixed that idea.

But by the time it went up for sale through commercial brokerage CBRE late last year, Build had negotiated increased density on the site, addressed concerns around the flood plain lands with the regional conservation authority and talked to local residents and businesses about plans for the site, said Bryck.

“We don’t just sell land, we approach it in terms of a value-creation process,” he added. “Basically, we created a lot of value on the site by taking a lot of uncertainty out of the deal for the purchaser.”

Gupta, who moved to Canada in 1973, started out his business by buying a major gas station on Hwy. 401, between Port Hope and Cobourg. He owned it until just three years ago.

It wasn’t until 2011 that he first entered the condo market, with the King Blue project at the corner of King St. W. and Blue Jays Way, just as the market was facing a downturn.

While sales got off to a slow start, some 85% of the units had been pre-sold by last year when Chinese developer Greenland Holding Co. — which was on an aggressive international acquisitions binge — came “shopping for a site,” in Gupta’s words.

Greenland paid $113 million for the one-acre, prime downtown site.

The Easton’s Group builds and manages hotels. It now has 15 hotels in Ontario and Quebec, under the brand names Hilton, Marriott and Holiday Inn.

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.


Target pullout leaves condo project in the lurch

Menkes’ Harbour Plaza project was meant to house first downtown Target

Susan Pigg – Toronto Star

Target’s pullout from Canada is going to leave shopping centre landlords with some challenging space to fill — tops among them is condo builder Menkes Developments which was banking on the U.S. retailer to be the anchor tenant of its new Harbour Plaza development in the South Core.

Its first downtown store was slated to open in October of 2016 as part of the two million square foot office, retail and condo complex on southerly York St.

The pullout leaves Menkes, and its partner in part of the project, the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP), in an unusual bind in that Target would have filled 145,000 square feet of the 200,000 square foot retail podium of the project and acted as a major draw for other retailers.

Comment: How about a grocery store? Downtown needs more food store options.

Harbour Plaza development
Menkes said Thursday that it had yet to hear from Target officials directly about their intentions for the Harbour Plaza site.

“… We remain very confident in this landmark mixed-use office, retail and residential location in the heart of Toronto’s South Core, and believe that it will be fully leased by world-class retail partners upon the completion of construction in two years,” said company president Peter Menkes in a statement.

It’s unlikely that any other retailer would snap up all 133 Target stores slated for shutdown, especially because many were in less than ideal locations, retail experts say.

But the suddenly availability of prime sites like Harbour Plaza and its recently built new store in the west-end Stockyards may open the door for Walmart or Costco to make a move into the burgeoning downtown market, said Ross Moore, director of research for commercial brokerage CBRE.

“At the end of the day it will all come down to how good is the space.”

The drastic decision to shut down all 133 stores across Canada — many of them anchor stores and major shopping attractions in secondary, suburban malls — is likely to further shake consumer confidence in the wake of slumping oil prices, said retail expert John Crombie, a former retail real estate broker who is now senior vice president of Triovest, a commercial real estate investment and management company.

“It’s going to have a further dampening effect,” said Crombie in a telephone interview. “This is going to take more jobs and consumer spending out of the Canadian economy. That’s a lot of square footage suddenly coming to the market.”

The shutdown will inevitably drive up mall vacancy rates and drive down rents and force some mall owners to subdivide the space, where possible.

Some older malls will likely be driven out of business altogether because secondary tenants are bound to lose traffic without Target as a neighbour, said Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business.

“One of the many things Target did wrong was bad locations,” added Middleton, which will make many of the big-box stores tough to lease.

As Crombie puts it: “Just because you put on your uncle’s old, worn-out shoes doesn’t mean they’re going to be the best fit for you. I think that was part and parcel of the problems Target had — they ending up taking the lesser locations from a real estate standpoint.”

The South Core location was meant to be a sort of new start — a major, urban location in sparkling new space close to all those downtown professionals and condo-dwelling millennials who, notes Middleton, are value conscious because just living in the city eats up so much of their income.

Other major retailers such as Walmart and Canadian Tire that might be a fit for some of Target’s space — its stores ranged from 80,000 to more than 140,000 square feet — aren’t really in major expansion mode right now.

Another challenge is that Canada is no longer the sought-after darling for U.S. realtors that it has been in the last five years now that the U.S. economy is in recovery mode.

Few of the stores are believed to be suited to dividing into smaller shops.

Target also has some 4.8 million square feet of distribution space across Canada, including 1.3 million square foot facilities it built in Milton, another just north of Calgary and a third in Cornwall. It also leases another 900,000 square feet of space elsewhere.

The Milton facility is likely to be snapped up quickly because the industrial sector is growing in the region right now in the wake of the weak dollar, slumping oil prices and the strengthening U.S. economy, said Stuart Barron, national director of research for commercial brokerage Cushman & Wakefield Ltd.

Others, because they are in much smaller industrial markets, will have a harder time finding new tenants: “This will return some significant additional space to market,” said Barron.

“People will be asking themselves, will this deter other foreign retailers from setting up shop in Canada,” says CBRE’s Moore. “Retailers are a pretty savvy bunch and will see this as a Target-specific story, not a Canadian story.

“They realize that retail is all about logistics and that you’ve got to get it right.”

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.


The state of real estate in Toronto

5 numbers that may surprise you

Kendra Mangione – CTV News

A housing boom in the Toronto area is masking the growing challenges to the market, according to a report from TD Economics released Monday.

The report said experts have been distracted by a housing boom in the Greater Toronto Area, with resale value increasing steadily over the past 10 years.

The 20-page report was prepared by together by TD’s Deputy Chief Economist and Vice President Derek Burleton and Economist Diana Petramala. Read the full report online.

More people are moving to the GTA, leading to an increase in demand for homes. And it’s that increase in demand that is also partially to blame for the raise in housing costs, the report said.

Comment: It is that demand that is almost entirely responsible. Combine that unfailing demand with ever decreasing supply (in the low-rise market) and you have the Economics 101 reason for rising prices.

But that boom also created jobs in the area. TD estimated that about 25% of jobs created in the last decade were in some way related to the housing boom.

Comment: Sure, if you say the people working at IKEA selling furniture for condos are in some way related to housing, then sure.

However, the report said that media coverage of the boom has overshadowed growing challenges to the market. Many can’t afford to own homes, and there are very few options. The report also criticizes public transit in the Toronto area.

Comment: Not really… The fact that prices are high and people cannot afford things is in the media Every. Single. Day. And yet home ownership rates have risen from 50% to 70% over the past 20 years. Obviously a lot of people can afford homes.

Real estate in Toronto
Here are five numbers from the report that may surprise you:

1. Nearly half of GTA renters are spending 50% of their pay cheques on rent. TD looked at earners in the bottom 40%, and found that average rent was about half of their annual income.

Comment: That has nothing to do with the price of houses. And that is selective data if ever I’ve seen. They purposely chose the bottom instead of all renters. That is spin at its worst.

TD also found that those with higher income levels and homeowners are also spending similar amounts on housing.

Comment: The banks won’t lend to people if housing costs are 50% of their income. TD itself has a 40% limit. So I have trouble believing that.

“What’s more, rising costs have been instrumental in driving up average debt-loads in the region, leaving households vulnerable to any unanticipated negative economic shock,” the report said.

2. Likely as a result of the steady growth in resale value, more Torontonians own houses. Approximately 20 years ago, the number of renters and owners in the GTA were split about 50-50. In 2011, the home ownership ration tilted, with about seven in 10 choosing to own.

Comment: Meaning it is obviously not too expensive for a lot of people. Home ownership jumped 40% in 20 years? Obviously the entire system is working well in that case. And mortgage defaults have not risen, so people are not having trouble paying for the homes they own. This is a wonderful stat.

3. In the 1990s, approximately 25,000 new households were created each year. Since the early 2000s, the average has been closer to 36,000. TD also said that the number of single women owning homes has increased by three percentage points during that period.

Comment: And we aren’t building 36,000 new housing units each year, we are not keeping up. This is why demand is constantly higher than supply, creating sellers’ markets and pushing prices up.

4. In the late 1990s, about 40% of new homes built were condo units. By 2014, 80% of new households built were condos, and half of them were built downtown.

Comment: Because the entire market is shifting away from the suburbs and urban sprawl. It is a fundamental change in the way people view housing.

5. Condo market and Toronto Community Housing Corporation estimates suggest that approximately 40% of condo units currently under construction will be used as rental properties.

Comment: And many others estimate it to be half that. The CMHC estimates it at 5%. I put it in the 20% range, more generally in the 10-25% range. Truth is, we have no idea.

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.