by Neil Sharma
Toronto is experiencing one of the world’ s largest building booms, but it’s the city’s mixed-use developments that have become the world’s envy.
One such development is Union Park, a sprawling 4.3 million square foot, $3.5 billion office, residential and retail complex in the city’s core. Not only will it be one of the largest developments in Toronto’s history, it’s part of a growing intensification trend that maximizes every last available square foot. Toronto has over 50 occupied mixed-use developments with more on the way.
Matti Siemiatycki, associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Geography and Planning, told Canada.com that developers had a light bulb moment in which they realized they could satisfy several crucial aspects of building.
“A cohort of developers has realized that projects are more profitable, that resident lifestyle is improved, and that communities are more vibrant when they embrace a broad, diverse and creative mix of land uses,” he said.
Mixed-use developments can often take on the larger form of a master-planned community—a type of development that’s proliferated the GTA housing market for much of the past decade. Joseph Felman, Camrost’s director of development, says the key to a good master-planned community is integrating into a new community and then ameliorating it.
That often comes through Section 37, a municipal planning stipulation that requires developers to make a community donation, usually in the form of a park or community centre.
Master-planned communities often emphasize healthier living, which, in tandem with intensification principles, often means pedestrian-friendly amenities.
“We’ve buried our parking below grade so we’re not a four-storey parking deck with condos above it,” Felman told Canada.com. “This has really opened up the pedestrian realm to ensure we have a walkable site rather than a walled city block. Our central piazza gives us seven frontages, and we intend to turn them all into vibrant retail zones with the same kind of stylish dining as in downtown Toronto.”