A few of Toronto’s most recognizable buildings will soon be given fresh purpose, as a plan to alleviate the city’s housing crisis is officially underway.
The City of Toronto announced today it is adopting the ModernTO plan, setting the stage for the redevelopment of a number of City-owned sites -- including the Toronto Coach Terminal and TTC Head Office -- for affordable housing development.
The approval of the plan’s next phase -- which was launched by Mayor John Tory in 2019 -- will also put into motion the city’s modernization strategy to reduce its office footprint from 55 to 15 locations in efforts to improve its space efficiency, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has moved many city staff to a hybrid work environment.
Overall, the plan will save money and help the City strategically make use of its real estate assets.
As leases for these spaces are ended, the City will instead create office hubs within key civic buildings such as City Hall, Metro Hall and the civic centres in Scarborough, North York, and Etobicoke.
However, the highlight of ModernTO will be the unlocking of eight City-owned properties -- with an estimated land value of $450M -- for building purposes, which includes the creation of affordable housing. These sites include:
- 610 Bay Street
- 277 Victoria Street
- 931 Yonge Street
- 33 Queen Street E.
- 75 Elizabeth Street
- 1900 Yonge Street
- 18 Dyas Road
- 95 The Esplanade
The plan proposes to deliver 500 to 600 affordable rental and ownership homes on these sites, all of which are located in prime downtown and midtown locations, along with new infrastructure, civic spaces, and services improvements to surrounding communities.
“ModernTO saves millions of taxpayers' dollars on an ongoing basis, it opens up some properties for different uses including affordable housing, and the modernized spaces will allow for more jobs to be located in city-owned buildings as opposed to expensive leased space,” stated Tory. “This is exactly what people expect us to do here at City Hall – find sensible ways to do things in the most efficient way possible, reducing costs so as to keep our city operations affordable, and creating more opportunities for top priorities like affordable housing."
Local councillors expressed their enthusiasm for the new developments and services the plan will bring to their wards.
“Repurposing the sites at 610 Bay Street and 931 Yonge Street present an exciting opportunity for the City to transform two underused City assets to increase access to affordable housing and to deliver other City priorities,” said Councillor Mike Layton of University-Rosedale. “In addition to prioritizing housing, CreateTO will be seeking innovative proposals to reimagine the Toronto Coach Terminal, which will also accommodate a Toronto Paramedic Services Hub, new retail and commercial space, while incorporating and preserving the existing heritage structure and providing public realm and streetscape improvements.”
Said Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam of Toronto Centre, “Expediting the sale of the City-owned property at 277 Victoria Street and accelerating the relocation of the existing occupants in the earliest possible time frame, while ensuring minimal disruption to Toronto Public Health service delivery, will serve as a catalyst to revitalize the area surrounding Yonge-Dundas Square, including improvements to the public realm, traffic flow, and pedestrian and cycling mobility in line with the yongeTOmorrow plan.”
While the redevelopment opportunities -- and development contracts -- for the sites are still in the works, CreateTO, the City’s Corporate Real Estate Management division, City Planning, and other City agencies have undertaken a site visioning process to determine the best outcome and use for each space. Redevelopment plans will be formed in collaboration with the City, local councillors, communities, and current occupants, as well as external partners.
The eight properties have been divided into two groups, with five -- including 610 Bay Street, 277 Victoria Street, 931 Yonge Street, 95 The Esplanade and 18 Dyas Road -- to be repurposed in the short term. The remaining three will be the subject of longer-term, significant infrastructure projects.
“Working with our partners in the City’s Corporate Real Estate Management division, City Planning and other City agencies, CreateTO has undertaken a preliminary due diligence and site visioning process, resulting in a recommended portfolio strategy that optimizes the city-building opportunities across the eight City-owned properties targeted to be unlocked through the ModernTO program,” stated Vic Gupta, CEO of CreateTO, which was created in 2018 to manage the City’s $27B real estate portfolio.
As well, a portion of the lands’ value will be allocated for the Land Acquisition Reserve Fund (LARF) as per City Council direction. “By repurposing these sites, the City is able to explore how it can make better use of public land and leverage the land value to build more vibrant and livable communities with greater investments in city-building priorities,” states the City’s release.