Toronto is getting a transit-oriented community (COC) a short distance from the downtown core – one complete with a commute made simple, thanks to a shiny new GO Station at its doorstep.
Leading North American city-builder Vandyk Properties will set the stage for future innovative TOCs in Canada with its aptly named Grand Central Mimico development.
The recently announced, world-class community is the first signed, binding agreement between a developer and Metrolinx for a TOC in Ontario. Just as notably, the project will completely transform the currently tired and uninspiring Mimico Triangle in South Etobicoke.
Recognized as a priority “Regeneration Area” by the City of Toronto, the 55-acre Mimico Triangle sits west of the city, close to major roadways, like Lakeshore Boulevard, The Queensway, and the Gardiner Expressway. Vandyk Properties’ ownership of most of this land will greatly influence – and urbanize – the surrounding neighbourhood.
When Will it be Ready?
Slated for completion by the mid-30s in is entirety, the mixed-use development will bring over two million square feet of planned development and span over four city blocks. With nine design-forward towers, it will house hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail and office space, thousands of condo units, and a vast multi-use greenway path.
The TOC concept is especially timely now, when parking lots have increasingly disappeared from the downtown Toronto core. Pre-pandemic, Toronto was already moving in the direction of New York City when it came to the car – or lack thereof. With increasing density with every new condo building, maddening traffic, and a newfound priority of pedestrians and cyclists, Toronto was done making way for the car. At the same time, Toronto residents are increasingly done with the city, turning their eyes and dollars toward its outskirts.
Why Does the GTA Need This?
In short, the city was more than ready for something like this. And will be post-pandemic, when the lifeblood returns to its streets, theatres, stadiums, and office buildings.
“As the most populated city in Canada, Toronto residents rely on transit and connectivity no matter what end of the city they reside,” says Andrea Wong, Vice President, Marketing, Vandyk Properties. “As our provincial and federal governments continue to invest in public transit, having a true transit-oriented community was a necessary next step in providing world-class connectivity encompassed in the design and concept of the future Grand Central Mimico neighbourhood.”
Before Vandyk Properties entered the equation, Metrolinx and the provincial government had already invested in upgrading the GO Transit stations and service on the Lakeshore West line, including the Mimico GO.
“As part of their mixed-use development, Vandyk would construct and integrate a new main station building, covered parking to replace current surface parking spots, and a cycling and pedestrian path in front of the station,” says Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins. “Metrolinx will deliver the other station improvements, making the station fully accessible and barrier-free.”
The development is designed as an all-inclusive community. “There are clear benefits for every age group of living in a community that has connectivity at the forefront of planning and design,” says Wong. “We do anticipate that the connectivity aspect of Grand Central Mimico will attract urban, working professionals who wish to live outside the downtown core without compromising easy access to transit lines in every direction.”
The vision is to create a community that not only offers new housing, she says, but fosters a thriving business community; “a true urban experience that puts Mimico on the map as one of Toronto’s most significant and innovative neighbourhoods,” she adds.
The first of three residential towers – which will eventually house a total of 3000 residents – is the amenity-packed, 751-unit Buckingham, which kicks off its sales this spring.
Mimico isn’t the only GO Station where Metrolinx is looking at partnerships for TOCs. “We currently have $75 billion in transit building underway in the GTHA and as part of this historic opportunity; Metrolinx is creating partnerships to deliver Transit Oriented Communities at new and existing transit stations,” says Aikins.
The appeal of GO-accessible real estate in places like Durham, Peel, and Halton Regions has soared to new heights in recent years. The pandemic has only heightened this appeal – thanks to a collective craving for more space for fewer dollars – with suburban real estate currently smashing sales records in the GTA. TOCs are a natural evolution in the future of the GTA.
“The plan for Mimico GO Station is just one example of exciting opportunities available when you work with the private sector,” says Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster. “This is how great cities are built and this is how a connected transit system is built.”