| by Salena Barry |
The largest redevelopment proposal triggered to date by the construction of the Crosstown LRT has been received by the City of Toronto. Electronics manufacturer Celestica International Inc. is looking to amend the Official Plan for its 24 hectare/60 acre headquarters property at Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue East to allow for the redevelopment of the under-utilized land; the company's low-rise buildings only occupy 27% of the property while much of the rest is currently used as surface parking lots. With an underground LRT station opening here in 2020, market forces will undoubtedly drive up the value of the land, potentially making the low density use of it financially unsustainable and undesirable from a broader planning perspective.
The proposed redesign of the area would transform the plot into two zones that would include residential units, office space and retail space. The final product would be based on seven development blocks served by new public streets and open space. The property at the northwest corner of Don Mills and Eglinton is bordered on the northwest by Canadian Pacific Railway tracks.
During its December 2013 meeting, City Council considered a request to convert the Celestica headquarters, which were originally designated as employment lands, for non-employment purposes. The City decided to designate them as General Employment Areas instead, zoning which permits places for business and economic activities generally located on the peripheries of employment areas, and which also permits retail and service uses such as restaurants, fitness centres and ice arenas. This zoning does not include residential uses.
This new application hopes to amend the status of the land as employment areas, splitting it into a general employment area and mixed use areas, which would allow a substantial amount of residential housing. The area of the plot located to the far southwest, designated as Natural Area, has had no amendments proposed.
If this amendment is approved the residential conversion proposal would accommodate 2,897 dwelling units, 77,136 m2 of office space, and 9,105 m2 of retail space. In this plan Wynford Drive is proposed to be extended westward and southward through the site to connect to an existing interchange at Eglinton Avenue. A new public street would begin at the existing right-in-right-out driveway from Eglinton Avenue and extends northward beyond the proposed Wynford Drive extension, turning eastwards to another right-in-right-out outlet at Don Mills Road. This street would divide the mixed use portion of the west and central areas from the employment uses on the east side of the site. A second new public street would run east-west through the central portion of the site and provide access to the residential, retail and office spaces.
The conceptual site plan of the mixed use areas includes eight high-rise buildings, ranging from 24 to 40 storeys, stacked townhouses, convenience retail, open spaces, and community uses. A hockey arena along with below-grade and at-grade parking to accommodate approximately 930 vehicles has also been proposed. The general employment area uses include two retail buildings and two office buildings ranging in height from two to eight storeys. Celestica does intend to lease back office space for headquarters use and potentially some research facilities as well.
The existing buildings, which contain 113,248 m2 of office and manufacturing space, are proposed to be demolished. However, there is a chance that portions may be retained for posterity's sake; a Heritage Impact Assessment was completed for the 844 Don Mills Road headquarters, a former IBM plant. ERA Architects, who prepared the assessment, indicated that the building's the primary facades and landscape elements could be recommended for restoration where opportunities exist to to re-integrate original features. The former IBM plant is listed on the City of Toronto's Inventory of Heritage Properties.
Properties on the other three corners of the Don Mills and Eglinton intersection are City holdings and have recently been turned over to Build Toronto for redevelopment, while the Crosstown LRT station will impact them. The main entrance for the station is currently planned for the southwest corner, closest to the Ontario Science Centre to the south. A secondary entrance with bus platforms are planned for the northeast corner. The southeast corner is currently a parking lot.
The City's greatest concern with the proposal is that such a large amount of space would be removed from the city's inventory of lands designated for employment, while many other issues must also be assessed. They include the proposal's conformity to applicable provincial legislation, traffic impacts on the existing road network and intersections, conservation of the heritage resources at the site, and the general viability of a new community in this area. We will keep you updated on how the City responds to this proposal and what that will mean for the Don Mills and Eglinton intersection and surroundings.