Tag Archives: ambitious project
Ambitious project eventually will be transformed into 2,100 housing units
Anna Mehler Paperny – Globe and Mail
In a fourth-floor conference room at the Board of Trade’s Adelaide Street headquarters, a well-heeled group of Toronto’s city-building elite watches a slideshow of the city’s mission impossible.
The clock is ticking on one of the most ambitious residential projects in the city’s history: a billion-dollar athletes village for the Pan American Games that will eventually be transformed into 2,100 housing units. Developers are intrigued – and leery of a model that’s largely untested here.
Building an athletes village doesn’t sound like a big deal. Except when it’s three times the size of the one that saddled Vancouver with an unexpected price tag and is one of Toronto’s most challenging residential projects in terms of units and the tight time frame. It comes with an armload of prerequisites (including hundreds units of affordable housing and an as-yet-undetermined mix of student housing, rental and market-rate condos the developer will provide) and a long list of people to please.
“I thought it was extremely ambitious. That’s a lot of housing to be built in one fell swoop,” says Howard Cohen, principal of Context Development. Like just about everyone else at the information session, he’d like to know what exactly the plan will be. And, specifically, where the money to finance the construction will come from: Traditionally, developers sell the majority of their units in advance – it’s difficult to get bank financing otherwise. But for a village that will be first leased out to more than 8,000 athletes, coaches and officials, that could get complicated.
“If we’re to build these things and assume the liability, then it’s quite a risky proposition for a builder to come along, build the entire building and then sell these things after the Games,” said Joe Cordiano, a partner with Cityzen condo developers.
Even Waterfront Toronto doesn’t yet know how this project will roll out. A “market-sounding” exercise, headed up by consultants from Deloitte and Scotia Capital, launched on April 23. The aim is to test the waters of Toronto’s notoriously overheated housing market and determine whether there will be demand for 2,000 units of high-end waterfront condos five years from now.
The recommendations they bring back will inform the plan Waterfront Toronto brings to city council and, ultimately, the task handed to developers early next year, said Waterfront Toronto president John Campbell. Once the contract is awarded and design completed, the developer will have just under three years to sell, finance and build the village, not necessarily in that order.
When Toronto was awarded the Games last November, it kicked a dawdling, multi-decade urban reinvention project into high gear: A 25-year timeline shrunk to five; the city has until early 2015 to hand over a completed athletes’ village it hopes to showcase to the world.
John van Nostrand, the principle architect behind the original bid design that helped Toronto win the Games, has big things in mind for the residential community that will help define the long-dormant Don Lands after the athletes pack up and leave.
What he’d really like to see in addition to the 20 per cent affordable housing planned is “affordable ownership” that gives lower-income families a chance to own their homes, usually by having a third party take out a second mortgage.
It’s a complex model Toronto is testing – the Daniels Corporation is partnering with Habitat for Humanity on a couple of developments in the city; ArtScape is trying to do the same thing with live/work spaces for artists.
“It needs special consideration. … That’s a relatively untested concept here,” Mr. van Nostrand said. “London and New York get involved because that kind of housing houses the teachers, the nurses, the bus drivers, the garbage truck drivers. And you want those people to be able to live in the city. If they can’t afford to live in the city, you’re in trouble.”
But it’s still not clear what the 20 per cent “affordable housing” pledge will mean.
“Affordable’s a very loaded term,” Mr. Campbell said. “Our definition is about average rent. It’s to ensure that when we’re building a community there’s housing for everybody.
It’s an exciting project, Mr. Cohen says. But in many ways it’s a first for Toronto, and the country.
“We haven’t had very many of these in Canada. The Olympics in Montreal, all the housing was built by the Olympics organization and then sold off afterwards,” he said. “This is the biggest concentration of housing, ever, in Toronto to be built all at once.
“So it’s really ambitious. And I hope it’s done well.”
By Derek Raymaker – Globe and Mail
Perched on a prime slice of attractive lakeshore and further graced with the lush Seaton conservation area and Rouge River ravine system, Pickering is turning into the Oakville of the eastern GTA.
Pretty good for a city that suffered from the unenviable reputation of hosting a nuclear power generating station. Buyers seem to have gotten over it.
The city is rapidly growing more affluent and tops the list of preferred locations for new buyers moving to Durham Region. City officials and regional planners, egged on by a vocal residential conservation movement, have responded with rigid planning guidelines.
Pickering‘s low-rise development was also greatly affected by the provincial government’s effort to establish a greenbelt around the Golden Horseshoe in 2005. In essence, the land supply for new low-rise housing was frozen, as was the municipality’s ability to expand its boundaries.
Developers have been making the best of it, with ambitious projects launched to redevelop land near Brock Road and Frenchman’s Bay into mixed-use condominium communities. San Francisco by the Bay, a two-tower condominium redevelopment of a former strip mall, has enjoyed especially strong sales, especially among empty-nesters, and given the city some intensification credentials.
On the low-rise front, Pickering especially resembles Oakville. Precious few communities – a total of seven – can be considered new with available homes or lots for sale, with not much on the horizon.
Construction began on just 22 low-rise houses from January to April, 2008, in Pickering. That’s just a small fraction of the 638 total low-rise starts throughout all of Durham Region in that period, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. data.
As a result, the average price of a new detached home in Pickering has skyrocketed over the past year, to $614,224, for the first four months of 2008. That’s a 46.1% jump over the $420,552 average detached price in the same period in 2007, and more than $200,000 higher than the average price of $398,334 throughout Durham Region.
At the top end of Pickering‘s new low-rise communities is the Ravines of Buckingham Gate, by Glen Rouge Homes, located in a fairly central community off Kingston Road east of Brock Road and backing on to secluded greenspace.
Fifty-three homes were launched last March, ranging from $583,000 to $750,000 for between 2,466 and 3,922 square feet, with 26 still available.
The more prestigious and expensive models, sitting on 60-foot-wide lots, are almost sold out, with only one of eight still available.
Everything about the Ravines of Buckingham is oversized, from the four-bedroom layouts to the columned porticos leading to the front door.
Another highly priced and coveted new community is Louisville Homes’ Amanda’s Enclaves, also fairly centrally located as an infill project in an established residential neighbourhood just north of Kingston Road.
Out of 18 lots launched in 2005, only one remains available, a 3,400-square-foot, five-bedroom home priced at $679,000 (most were in the $500,000-to-$560,000 range).
Finally, on the more affordable side of the market is Altona Trails, launched a year ago by Sunset Valley Homes at the southeast corner of Altona Road and Finch Avenue on the north end of town.
This infill community is also built on a smaller-than-usual scale to fit in with the existing surrounding neighbourhood, and consists mostly of townhouses.
A small number of semi-detached models is available, on compact, 18-foot-wide lots, ranging in price from $387,000 to $390,00 for 2,516 square feet.
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