In Toronto's landscape of institutional builders and big-name developers, a new player has come on the scene, and they're aiming sky-high for their first project.
REACH Developments, founded earlier this year by two young entrepreneurs, Avery Shopsowitz and Antonio Niro, has submitted plans to the City of Toronto to build a 46-storey condo tower in Scarborough, just a stone's throw away from the newly improved Agincourt GO station.
Planned for 4151-4155 Sheppard Avenue East, near the southeast corner of Lamont Avenue, the glossy new tower with a U-shaped podium would bring 726 homes as well as over 5,000 sq. ft of retail space to the area.
"We looked specifically at this area as something where there was a lot of promise," Shopsowitz told STOREYS. "There's a brand new [GO station] entrance that Metrolinx just renovated and it could be -30° outside and if you need to get to Union Station for work, all you have to do is walk across the street."
On top of that, Shopsowitz points to the property's proximity to the highway, a bus route that runs right down Sheppard, and an abundance of other ongoing development that's going to significantly change the neighbourhood and make the area much more enticing to potential future residents. The Agincourt Mall, for example, is slated to be developed into a new mixed-use community with tens of thousands of square metres of retail space as well as almost four acres of new park land. At Sheppard and Midland, three towers with over 1,000 units have been proposed — a big change for the predominantly low-rise area.
"A lot of the time when we were speaking to people about the area, they said, 'You know, it's a little bit too pioneering,' and to me, that was really what sold me," Shopsowitz said. "I'm not a developer that's going to go into an established neighbourhood and play it safe. Maybe in 30 years that's where I'll be, and I'll have the bandwidth and the infrastructure to have a well oiled machine that can kind of do that type of business, but we really need to be visionaries and pioneers first and to be the first mover in places to get the party started."
Although tackling a 46-storey tower as a first-ever development may seem like a daunting task, Shopsowitz, who previously worked with TAS and Republic Developments, explains that the work involved in a smaller scale project of 100,000 sq. ft isn't all that different from the work involved in a 500,000-sq.-ft project.
"The only real delta is are you going to be able to rent or sell the volume of units [...] in order to generate the same return," he said. "My thesis is not necessarily looking to do the biggest projects possible, but to do the biggest projects that make sense relative to its location and market demand."
Market demand is one thing many developers have been struggling with as of late, with dozens having to postpone or cancel projects, while others are seeing their developments placed under receivership due to millions in unpaid debt. Because of this, Shopsowitz says they've taken a conservative approach with their Scarborough project, buying on the lower end of the price spectrum and structuring their loans to give themselves some breathing room.
"People are trying to move development properties in the surrounding area anywhere from the $60-a-foot range up to $85 a foot," Shopsowitz said, noting that most of those lands are already entitled. REACH's land, however, was acquired in the mid-to-low $20-a-foot range.
Since launching in the summer, REACH has been focusing on finding "hyper-oriented transit nodes" — something they seem to have achieved with the Sheppard property. In addition, the company wants to place an emphasis on using new technology and sustainable building practices.
"I think right now, the biggest component of that is on the design side of our building," Shopsowitz said. "I always found it incredibly frustrating that you'd have these amazing projects and a lot of what's actually being delivered to be utilized by both the public and the actual the building dwellers, they're not able to really utilize. What's being designed, a lot of it is to satisfy City requirements or whatnot."
He points to underutilized amenities, like poorly designed gyms, party rooms that don't work for residents' needs, or rooftop pools which are both expensive to maintain and can only be used for a few months of the year. With the Sheppard Avenue project, REACH is looking to build thoughtfully designed amenities that residents will actually get use out of. The gym, for example, will feature high-quality equipment and a functional layout to make it a space many residents can use simultaneously. For a party room, they're looking into creating a modular space that can be divided up and booked out in smaller sections to accommodate all different sizes of groups.
By having the residential units, which will consist of studios, one-, two-, and three-bedrooms, start on the third floor, REACH was able to push the outdoor courtyard, surrounded by the U-shaped podium, up to the second story. More outdoor amenity space is planned for the seventh floor.
Underneath the building will be a three-storey parking garage with 194 spaces reserved for residents and 38 for visitors. For those who bike, there will be 538 long-term parking spots, in addition to 73 short-term spots.
Although Shopsowitz acknowledged that the design will likely undergo some changes as it makes its way through the City's approval process, he says he's excited to eventually be able to bring something new to the neighbourhood.
"People in the neighborhood, they go and they park their car at the GO station parking lot — maybe there's a coffee shop across the street or a new neighborhood amenity that becomes useful every single morning," he said.
Construction timelines can be hard to predict in Toronto, but he says the hope is that residents will be able to occupy the building within six or seven years.