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Canary Park condos prepared for Pan Am Games

District to undergo quick conversion from Athletes' Village to legacy uses this fall
Monday, February 9, 2015
By Michelle Ervin

The Canary Park condos are nearly ready to be turned over to the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games organizers for fit-up for the athletes, coaches and officials who will bunk there this summer. Soon after the games, running from July 10 to 26 and August 7 to 15, respectively, the condos, along with the rest of the 35-acre site, will undergo another round of rapid transformation as the Athletes’ Village is converted to its legacy uses.

“The Village will turn into a neighbourhood literally months after the games are over, and I think that’s what’s so remarkable about what has gone on in the planning and development of this project,” said Rob Spanier, partner and principal, LiveWorkLearnPlay.

Dubbed the Canary District, the new master-planned community is designed to become Toronto’s next great neighbourhood, Spanier said while moderating the Jan. 26 Urban Land Institute (ULI) Toronto event Pan Am Village: The Games and Beyond.

The former industrial and rail lands, bound by Old Eastern Avenue to the north, the Bayview extension to the east, Mill Street to the south and Cherry Street to the west, sat idle for years due to flood protection and remediation challenges. The Pan Am Games expedited their revitalization.

The revitalization project began in earnest in 2001, with Waterfront Toronto laying the groundwork. By the time the province approached the city agency to ask whether the West Don Lands would be suitable for the Pan Am Games Athletes’ Village, it had completed the area’s precinct plan, urban design guidelines, environmental assessment, bylaws and subdivision work.

“We’d also designed all of the public realm, all of the infrastructure, so when we went out with the bid, proponents had very detailed specs, so they were able to give Infrastructure Ontario a really good idea of pricing and a lot of certainty,” said Meg Davis, vice-president of development, Waterfront Toronto, speaking at the ULI talk.

Dundee Kilmer Developments L.P., a partnership between Dream (formerly Dundee Realty Corporation) and Kilmer Van Nostrand, won the $514-million design-build-finance contract. The developer commissioned four firms, architectsAlliance, KPMB, Daoust Lestage and MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, to design the buildings that will serve as the Athletes’ Village during the games.

“It’s almost unprecedented, certainly in Toronto, of how you create an instant neighbourhood over a period of two years,” said Peter Clewes, partner, architectsAlliance, speaking at the ULI talk.

The challenge of creating a cohesive but diverse neighbourhood, while working within the master plan, prompted Clewes, and Bruce Kuwabara, partner, KPMB, to invite additional architects to the table.

“Our decision was to have multiple architects, different architects design different buildings on different sites,” said Kuwabara, speaking at the ULI event. “It would not be with one hand, one eye.”

In September 2015, the KPMB-designed condos will be returned to Dundee Kilmer to be converted to their legacy use. Preparations will include painting, installing hardwood flooring and kitchens, and tearing down temporary walls used to accommodate the athletes.

Whereas the Vancouver Olympic Village accommodated 2,800 athletes in 1,000 units, the Toronto Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Athletes’ Village will accommodate 10,000 people in 1,300 units — 8,000 during the Pan Am Games. The need to accommodate more people in less space resulted in the design of wide, shallow units, said Clewes. This design also took into account how the developer would pre-sell the units in the current Toronto market, which is demanding affordability.

The phase one Canary District condos, featuring 369 suites in eight- and 11-storey towers, are now 90-per-cent sold. The phase two Canary Park condos, featuring 441 suites in 11- and 15-storey towers, are now 50-per-cent sold.

When end users move in, starting in April 2016, they will not only have access to building amenities such as a hotel-inspired lounge and rooftop pool, but they will benefit from the infrastructure left behind after the games. That infrastructure includes the 82,000-square-foot Cooper Koo YMCA, which houses a basketball court, variable-depth pool, running track and more.

Also in 2016, a mix of best-in-class, independent retail and service operators hand-picked by LiveWorkLearnPlay will move in. They will bring to life the 40,000 square feet of ground-floor spaces along the double-width boulevard on Front Street, which acts as the neighbourhood’s spine.

On the district’s eastern edge, the 18-acre Corktown Common, opened in spring 2013, connects the neighbourhood to the Don Valley trail system. On the district’s western edge, a Cherry Street streetcar loop will provide curbside transit access beginning in 2016.

And the neighbourhood will become the site of Canada’s first open-access ultra-high-speed broadband community network, meaning unlimited data, Internet and Wi-Fi for residents.

All told, the fully accessible, LEED Gold-standard district will deliver 810 market units including townhouses and lofts, 253 affordable housing units in a range of housing types, and a 500-bed George Brown College student residence.

Under its contract, Dundee Kilmer will build out another three residential market blocks after the games.

Michelle Ervin is the editor of CondoBusiness.