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By – Anna Mehler Paperny – Globe and Mail
The city has a buyer for the first property to sell after it set up an arms-length body 19 months ago to deal with lucrative sites it can no longer use.
Build Toronto is in final negotiations with Cityzen Development over 154 Front St. E., the former Greyhound parcel office that went up for sale this spring.
The Toronto Transit Commission has also signed an offer to lease a site near Yonge and York Mills and bidding has closed for two other residential developments in the city’s downtown and west end. The offers come as Build Toronto prepares to get its marching orders from a new council and a mayor who has announced his intention to capitalize on unused municipal land and leverage private-sector cash as much as possible.
Build Toronto CEO Lorne Braithwaite said the organization is preparing to move forward on the other 35 properties it has on its plate, and adding several more.
“I think there may be some thought put into the idea of speeding up the amount of properties that we attempt to monetize. … There’s a certain probability that we’ll be asked that question,” he said, adding that he doesn’t think the group has been slow to move forward.
“It’s gone by like a flash. … It’s way beyond my initial expectations in terms of what I thought we could accomplish in the short term.”
It’s still early days, said Cityzen’s Joe Cordiano, and neither party would say how much the Front Street property is selling for as financing and density are still being negotiated.
“I can tell you this,” Mr. Cordiano said, “it’ll be exciting.”
The plan is for a multistorey condominium tower, likely with retail on ground level. Others who bid on the project said their impression was that Cityzen’s winning bid was more aggressive in the density it proposed.
But “it’s just all premature right now,” Mr. Cordiano noted. “It all depends on approvals . … Right now everything’s stalled. Lots of people are complaining that approval’s not happening fast enough.”
Cityzen has been working with Castlepoint Realty and Continental Ventures on developing some of the city’s waterfront property, as well as the curvaceous “Marilyn Monroe” condominium towers in Mississauga.
Build Toronto has also reached an agreement to lease with the TTC, which came under fire earlier this year for its plans to build a fancy new headquarters and transit museum at 4050 Yonge St., which is now a parking lot at York Mills station. Build Toronto and the TTC said details of the lease can’t yet be released because financing is still being finalized.
Build Toronto has closed bids for two other properties – one at 120 Harbour St., a couple of blocks up from the water; the other in the city’s west end near the Islington subway station. Both are destined for largely residential developments.
In selling off some of the last open sites in a city whose developers are turning increasingly to infill for residential development, Mr. Braithwaite admits the group hit somewhat of a sweet spot in the market – both by luck and by design. Both their downtown properties were actually supposed to go to market next year, he said.
“We moved both of them into 2010 because market conditions changed so quickly.”
Build Toronto faces somewhat more of a challenge when it comes to selling properties farther from the city’s core that are zoned either commercial or industrial: Four of the seven sites now on the market are either for industrial, retail or other commercial purposes. While it’s part of the city’s prerogative to preserve so-called “employment areas” from the encroachment of omnipresent condo towers, it can be harder to make the real-estate case.
“Certainly, there’s less demand for commercial and industrial than there is for downtown residential,” said Cushman & Wakefield’s Jamie Ziegel. “That doesn’t mean it’s not an appropriate time to sell some of those assets. … But, yes, it’s a less active market right now.”
Build Toronto – current deals, marketed sites
Thirty-five sites have been transferred to Build Toronto since its original creation in May of 2009, for a total of 4.5 million square feet of retail and commercial space, 8.5 million square feet of residential space and one million square feet of industrial space.
Here’s where they’re at right now:
154 Front St. E.
The former Greyhound station is seen as a prime location for the kind of pricey condos that are sweeping the eastern downtown. Cityzen Developments is in final talks with Build Toronto over a price for a condominium tower and ground-floor retail.
4050 Yonge St.
Build Toronto has called the two-acre site, now a commuter parking lot at York Mills station, “one of the most undeveloped and underutilized sites in Toronto.” It’s now slated to become the Toronto Transit Commission’s swanky new headquarters, home to a transit museum that was much derided during the mayoral race. The site is projected for a 450,000-square-foot development. Financing is expected to be completed by the end of year, with community consultation next week and in January.
120-130 Harbour St.
This is where you used to go when your car got towed. Now, the city is hoping to sell it for high-rise residential developments, possibly with a retail component. A request for proposals closed this month; Build Toronto is assessing them now.
64-70 Cordova Ave.
Now a parking lot near the Islington subway station, this 3.33-acre site is being sold for residential uses. Bidding closed in August but no successful bidder has been named.
1035 Sheppard Ave. West
Fifty-four-acre site near the Downsview subway station is expected to host a mixed-use community with more than two million square feet of office and retail space and more than 3,000 units of high-rise and low-rise residential units.
260 Eighth St.
Now a mostly empty lot near Islington Avenue and Lakeshore Boulevard; the 24-acre lot is zoned for employment uses.
301 Rockcliffe Blvd.
Now a flat, vacant, 15.54-acre lot near St. Clair Avenue – likely destined either as a sale or joint-venture opportunity for commercial use.
75 Billy Bishop Way
The 4.62-acre site is slated for retail, likely a lease opportunity but with a potential for purchase, as well.
30 Tippett Rd.
The site, 5.5-acres near Wilson Avenue and Allen Road, is designated for industrial use.
Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they reproduce them here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.
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The idea of not having to use a vehicle to commute or go shopping is becoming more and more attractive
By Barbara Lawlor – Toronto Sun
Location is always at the top of people’s lists when looking for a new home or condominium. And as many of you know, the new wave in Toronto is to leave the car at home and take the subway.
With the increasing sensibility toward leaving less of a carbon footprint on the environment, many buyers — condominium in particular — are choosing to live close to public transportation and amenities. The idea of not having to use a vehicle to commute or go shopping is attractive. In fact, many urban condo dwellers do not even own cars anymore.
The benefits to decreased vehicle use include fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and there are many pluses for the residents themselves. For one thing, they get more exercise by bicycling or walking to local shops and subway and bus stops.
For another, they save thousands on the cost of a vehicle, gas, licence, maintenance and repairs — all money they can put toward their mortgage to build equity. This is especially helpful for first-time buyers, who can save more easily for a down payment if they don’t have a car payment and the other expenses that come along with vehicle ownership to worry about.
Quality of life
Today’s condominium builders in the GTA are coming through with wonderful buildings that are on or close to subway and/or bus lines. This practice is in line with Ontario’s Places to Grow legislation, which has the double goal of sustainability for communities and a higher quality of life for those who live and work in them.
Certainly, building a condominium close to the subway is a great example of using the existing infrastructure efficiently, which is also part of Places to Grow.
Spectacular examples of new condominiums that are situated near the subway include FIVE — Condos at 5 St. Joseph and One Bloor Condominiums, both at the dynamic intersection of Toronto’s Yonge and Bloor Streets. Merci Le Condominium and The Bayview are in the multi-award-winning NY Towers community at Bayview and Sheppard, and are steps from public transit. Pears on the Avenue, at Avenue and Davenport Roads, is only a few minutes’ walk to the subway. The Palm at Yonge and Finch is so handy to public transportation, that commuting downtown is a breeze from this locale.
And Emerald City at Sheppard Avenue and Don Mills Road in North York even offers direct access to the Sheppard subway and an underground pathway to the fabulously revamped Fairview Mall. Response to all of these condominiums has been enthusiastic. What is amazing today is the number of condominiums that are coming to market with a full one-third of the suites not available with parking. Five years ago, we would not have dreamed of offering less than 95% of the suites with a spot attached to them. Nowadays, this is not considered a negative, even for resale, because of the consciousness-raising that has gone on in the public regarding environmental responsibility.
Alternatives to driving
People are realizing that there is an alternative to driving a car, sitting in gridlock much of the day and spending thousands each year for the privilege of doing so. A bit of exercise walking to the subway is good for the heart and the waistline.
Plus, taking public transportation is easier in the winter and allows for reading and doing paperwork on the way to and from work. And when you consider the fact that in 2009, the Toronto Transit Commission accommodated 471,233,000 passenger trips via bus, streetcar, subway and RT, the implications for the environment are obvious.
The great news is that if living near public transportation is important to you as a condo shopper, you will find an array of gorgeous buildings to choose from in Toronto and the 905 municipalities.
To help achieve intensification, builders are clustering buildings around transportation hubs in these areas that connect with the city’s system. It’s good for everyone involved, and will help to create a sustainable future for us all.
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Robyn Doolittle – Yourhome.ca
For months, city hall had been singing the same tune: We are broke. Homeowners would be asked to carry a considerable chunk of the burden. A 4 per cent property tax hike was necessary to balance the books.
What this would mean to the average homeowner: a $93 increase.
But despite the tax hike, Toronto residents could expect fewer services. City officials called for 5 per cent budget cuts across the board. Though most departments failed to hit the target, considerable cuts were made to virtually every area.
But at a news conference Wednesday morning, Mayor David Miller made the surprise announcement that the city’s financial picture was not as bleak as projected.
An extra $100 million in surplus had been found, mostly through property tax figures that arrived late and city investments that performed more strongly than expected.
Now some have quietly questioned just exactly how much in the dark some city personnel really were.
Was the sob story just a tool to get difficult budget cuts made?
The library board decided some branches might need to close Sundays. The Toronto Transit Commission found about $10 million through job reorganization and energy savings. The police board struggled to cut $10 million by deferring some spending and delayed hiring.
Alok Mukherjee, chair of the police board, said it wasn’t for him to speculate about the timing.
“I think the budget process is very much an evolving process and numbers are crunched on a routine basis, and it isn’t until all the numbers are in and there’s an ability to make some final estimates that one has a clear picture,” he said.
At the end of the day, Mukherjee says, he promised to help get control of a rapidly ballooning police budget, which will probably hit $1 billion by 2011.
Michael Church, chair of the library board, had a similar view.
“We had a meeting last week with the budget committee and we came in with a very tight budget. And we were asked to come in even tighter, which likely entailed Sunday closures,” he said. “And I’m just hoping that’s off the table now.”