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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Markham about to get a $3B makeover
Private funds launch 20-year project
Home for 9,500; workplace for 16,000
Apr. 18, 2006. 06:26 AM

Move over urban sprawl, there's a new plan in town.

The Town of Markham and a developer are planning a glittering $3 billion downtown that will gain momentum in June when a sales office opens its doors.

Don't expect a dull strip mall or rows and rows of look-alike homes. Downtown Markham will feature glamorous boutiques, restaurants, hotels, parks, offices, condos and townhouses.

Drawings for the project show wide sidewalks and ritzy shops that look like Manhattan's Fifth Avenue.

The cafes look like they came straight from Brussels' town square.

The planned nightclubs, theatres and skateboard park are all part of an effort to create a place people can live, work and play, said Serena Quaglia, marketing director for the Remington Group, which owns the 98 hectares where the downtown will be built.

The entire project will take about 20 years to build and will run from Warden Ave. to the GO Transit tracks near Kennedy Rd. and between Highway 7 and Highway 407.

About 9,500 people will call the spot home while 16,000 employees will work in the nearby shops, restaurants and offices.

The high density will reduce the amount of farmland chewed up to build new housing for the GTA's growing population. "It's better for the environment," Quaglia said.

The project may also encourage more people to leave their cars at home. It takes into account already announced transit improvements in the area, including enhanced bus service and additional GO Transit service.

In some suburban developments, you need to drive to buy a carton of milk.

In downtown Markham, "you could run downstairs and run across the street to a convenience store.

"Things are in walkable distances," Quaglia says.

Creating a pedestrian-friendly place doesn't just benefit the environment. It builds a sense of community, which is also one of the reasons behind the planned Piazza or outdoor square. "We want to encourage ... social interaction," Quaglia said.

The square will host art exhibitions, jazz quartets, fashion shows and a farmers' market. It will be a place people can mingle over their lunch hour or after work, Quaglia says. "Our vision is it's really everyone's outdoor living room."

The Remington Group and the Town of Markham have been discussing the project for more than a decade, but the opening of a sales office in June will send a signal that plans are firming up.

So far, the project has been privately funded by the Remington Group, but "a heap of public money" will go toward things like roads and utilities, says Markham Mayor Don Cousens.

"These are not small investments."

Markham council has approved the project, Cousens said.

"It will give us a new heart and centre."

1,664 Posts
It seems all so easy. If it were only that easy.

Though, 9,500 expect residents is decent, its only going to make a token difference in the battle against sprawl.

I have to admit, I like the piazza. But I doubt it will have that downtown feel.

3,718 Posts
This is almost experimental as we don't have anything else like this around. I'm sure it will work, the idea of something like that will surely draw people in. Having a place that is close to everything yet not downtown i'm sure will draw people in.

26 Posts
More info from the website..

Downtown Markham will be built in stages, with a comprehensive master plan guiding development unfailingly toward a cosmopolitan city-centre…this thoughtful, exhilarating place, strives to become your Urbantopia.

Special Features in Downtown Markham

High Street, Downtown Markham’s premier retail destination, will offer signature and flagship stores surrounded by the buttery aromas of fresh croissants and glorious, lush planters in full bloom. Bustling with shoppers, browsers and strollers, High Street will be the finest retail address for luxury and international brands.

Exclusive, discrete lobbies to office space above and to condominium residences stepped back will add to the distinctly urbane experience. Theatrical lighting and beautiful masonry will provide high drama to a High Street shopping experience.

The north end of street will be anchored by a signature boutique hotel and spa setting the new standard for those with discerning taste. The south end of High Street leads into The Piazza, the defining feature of Downtown Markham.

The Piazza, is everyone’s outdoor living room, the heart and soul of the community and a social nucleus for all Markham residents.

Framed by picturesque architecture lined with shops and restaurants, The Piazza will host memorable events and performances throughout the year, including impromptu entertainment and music, farmers’ markets, fashion shows, fairs, festivals, seasonal celebrations and civic events.

Simcoe Promenade is a grand allée that provides pedestrian and transit access to all parts of Downtown Markham. Lined with shops, offices, residences and restaurants, from Warden Avenue east to the Unionville GO Station, it will accommodate a rapid transit route in the future, linking Downtown Markham with the rest of the Greater Toronto Area.

In addition to daytime shopping, it offers plenty of choice for café and bistro dining, picnicking and people watching. A vibrant gathering place after hours, Simcoe Promenade is the place for being entertained after work, when the sun sets.

The Entertainment District, located in the central portion along Simcoe Promenade is directly connected to the shopping district and The Piazza by the evocative Gallery. Cinemas, restaurants, cafés, bars and nightclubs set the stage here for see-and-be-seen style, day and night.

The central park, still in design development, is a 10-acre urban park that completes the downtown core. Home to varied and impressive public art and cultural activities, the park is the gateway to visit and explore the Rouge River valley. Enjoy the exceptional view from your brownstone living room bay window, should you choose to live in old world elegance along its manicured edge.

Neighbourhood Parks located throughout Downtown Markham are interconnected and lead to The Piazza and the downtown core. A rousing October evening soccer game or a sunny spring morning tai chi class in a nearby parkette beckon just beyond your front door.

Downtown Markham offers a variety of parks – some that offer naturally planted areas and some that transition to the nearby valley; some that feature ornamental gardens and some offering children’s playgrounds; some paved and some landscaped; some for people-watching and some for settling down with the latest best-selling novel.

8,354 Posts
North Wind

By Albert Warson

Jul 1, 2006 12:00 PM

For 12 years, the Town of Markham, on Toronto's northeast fringe, was in limbo as developers, elected officials and residents wrangled over how to enliven the city's downtown. At stake was a 243-acre site, redevelopment of which will reshape this city of 265,000 residents.

Government officials especially have been concerned about containing urban sprawl. And it has taken intense back-and-forth talks with developers The Remington Group to come up with a plan, unveiled in late June, that everyone, finally, seems to be happy with.

The deal was announced with great fanfare as the developers and city officials stood together triumphantly and held a press conference unveiling the $2.66-billion project, which will take 20 years to build out.

How was Remington able to break the deadlock after so long? The answer is mixed-use.

“The incentive 10 or 12 years ago would have been to do a conventional development, and get in and get out quickly,” says Rudy Bratty, Remington's chairman and CEO. “By following the municipality's preference for New Urbanism [enshrined in Markham's official plan], you get more density, but you have to be far more patient getting to the point of construction.”

The trend that U.S. developers have been pushing for the past two years is now making the leap north of the border. And Canadian developers are not just aping the idea of blending uses, but also seeing the projects as a key part of revitalizing urban cores. The majority of the mixed-use developments in the works are in Canadian cities, with projects sprouting in and around Quebec, Vancouver and Toronto that blend retail, office, residential, hotel and other uses.

Remington's Markham will combine Euro-style streets, lined with small shops, with condos and other commercial uses, and the 243-acre development will be interspersed with parks and other public spaces. First up: 200 condominiums and 175 townhouses. After that, 1 million square feet of commercial space ranging from luxury retail, small shops, a boutique hotel, restaurants, cinemas, cafes and nightclubs, will follow, as well as 4.2 million square feet of office space.

In developing the plan, Bratty — along with Markham mayor Don Cousens — made repeated trips around the U.S. looking at how cities were approaching urban revitalization. There they saw examples, such as City Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., that helped shape their vision. In the end, Cousens and Bratty hope that by 2026, developers and city officials from all over the continent will be making similar treks to Markham to follow its example on how to rebuild.

“This is a model that will be emulated by many municipalities across North America, as a solution to urban sprawl,” Cousens says.

Blake Hudema, an urban planner and president of Hudema Consulting Group Limited, believes mixed-use will work in Canada and he expects it to progress more smoothly than it will within the U.S.

“Canada in some respects can lead this development,” Hudema says. “Our inner cities are much more vibrant, typically, than many U.S. cities, where there is a need for a lot of revitalization. Most Canadian cities are healthy and offer a good platform for developers and investors to look at [when considering] redevelopment into mixed-use centers.”

Inner cities, he says, are good places for “densification.” Around Vancouver, land is scarce and expensive. That, he says, “is creating an impetus to create a greater amount of mixed-use. We've also always had fairly intense, dense development, so developers, investors, retailers and customers are attuned to underground or structured parking.”

Although many parts of Canada are embracing mixed-use, the province of Alberta, where the office vacancy rate is a microscopic 2 percent, is an exception. There, six high-rise office towers are under construction, but no other uses are involved.

Edmonton, closest to the oil sands drilling projects in the far northern reaches of the province, is the same. Robert Knight, vice president, retail, of Western Canada, Oxford Properties Group, says, “the Bay and Sears department store anchors function like regional shopping centers in downtown Calgary and are renovated and upgraded periodically, but there are no mixed-use centers.” Nor do they exist in the provincial capital: Edmonton City Centre downtown, with its three high-rise office towers, which is essentially the same as similar developments in other Canadian cities, with their bustling retail concourses.

“People will come downtown on weekends for shopping and entertainment, although parking is difficult and they work there during the week, so there is no novelty,” he says. Mixed-use is not hugely popular with local developers because there are “significant operating challenges. It's great to think of adding a hotel into a cluster of office buildings, but it's hard to add on and could obstruct views,” Knight says. “The crossover between hotel guests utilizing the retail to a significant degree is so-so. Tourists staying at a hotel will likely shop at its stores, but business guests will shop when they're back home.”

But aside from Alberta, the rest of Canada seems won to the concept.

Peter Sharpe, Cadillac Fairview Corp. Limited president and CEO noted at an ICSC regional conference in Montreal in June that, “many of the new projects underway in Canada appear more ‘hybrid’ in nature, combining various elements of design and function and offering a different glimpse of the future. It is a trend to pay attention to.”

“No one is building enclosed malls.”

Jean-Francois Breton, copresident of development company Le Groupe Devimco, noted at the ICSC conference that, “demand is very strong because no one is building enclosed malls in Quebec.”

RioCan Real Estate Income Trust, Toronto, the largest REIT in Canada, has a 50 percent interest in the Quartiers Dix 30 project outside Montreal. The firm is contemplating expanding the 1.5-million-square-foot mall, which hasn't even opened yet, with a hotel and convention center.

In neighboring Ontario, Toronto Eaton Centre's cavernous 1.6 million square feet of retail space, meshed with three high-rise office towers and a 459-room hotel, will be completed this fall after unfolding for nearly 30 years. The last pieces on its downtown city block include three new levels of parking, a new three-story business school and 130,000 square feet of new large-format retail.

John Sullivan, senior vice president, of development with The Cadillac Fairview Corporation (CF), Toronto, says the company is scouting large mixed-use opportunities in Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.

“Fifteen years ago the focus was on huge regional malls and huge downtown office buildings. Today there isn't a great demand for either of them. We want to keep that same scale, but because of the demand for individual components, we're mixing it up a bit,” he says.

Inside out

The company is redeveloping its 50-year-old Don Mills Shopping Centre, in suburban Toronto. At the time of construction, the 462,000-square-foot mall sat in a 200-acre greenfield site. The mall was enclosed in 1978. Development around the site has put it in a more urban setting. So Cadillac Fairview is starting from scratch. It demolished the center early this summer and will put in its place an open-air, mixed-use town center development with retail in the first phase and residential in the second phase.

A similar story is unfolding in Vancouver, where the first open-air shopping center there, the 56-year-old, 1.2-million-square-foot Park Royal Shopping Centre, has also morphed into a mixed-use project. In addition to retail, it now has 100,000 square feet of office and self-storage space and 500 rental apartment units.

The land under the center is owned by a First Nations group, to which the mall's developer, Larco Investments Ltd., pays rent. That relationship has eased the project's transformation as First Nations has given Larco flexible zoning, which enables multiple uses close to each other.

“Shopping center land is typically zoned for specific uses, and municipal planners have become very single-purpose-oriented. We had the flexibility to do different types of real estate, depending on market,” says Rich Amantea, Larco's vice president.

Nearby, Larco is trying to take advantage of the open zoning to build Morgan Crossing, which Amantea describes as “Canada's first pure mixed-use project, from the ground up,” which, if approved by First Nations, will contain 450,000 square feet of lifestyle retail and 450 condo units. He expects to start construction early next year and open in the fall of 2008.

“Residential development is generally driving mixed-use from a retail standpoint,” Amantea says. “Developers want to build residential, and planners want a soft street-side edge to them, so they're encouraging residential developers to do retail street level to achieve greater social interaction with the local community.”

Success not guaranteed

While mixed-use centers tend to meet developers' expectations, success is not always guaranteed. Financial performance can be mixed. Hazelton Lanes, in Toronto's upscale Yorkville neighborhood, for example, was developed in the late 1970s by William Louis-Dreyfus, chairman of the New York-based Louis Dreyfus Group.

It incorporated retail, office and residential uses (some of the condo units have 2,000-square-foot terraces) in a single, medium-rise and very classy building. It was a winner for many years, but then retail began to slide and that segment bled red ink for years. It didn't recover until a new owner brought in Whole Foods Market Inc., an Austin, Texas-based chain of organic food supermarkets.

It was the first Whole Foods store in Canada, and it was successful from the day it opened, which has also turned Hazelton Lanes' retail around.

Ivanhoe Cambridge's MetroTown in suburban Barnaby, for example, with the largest regional shopping center in British Columbia (1.7 million square feet of commercial space) has a new Hilton Hotel with conference facilities, among other uses.

Keeping people in the city

And under construction is Grosvenor Canada's The RISE, a 290,000-square-foot development on a sloping, 2.2-acre full block under construction in downtown Vancouver. It's designed for 10,000- to 60,000-square-foot retail tenants and 92 residential units which will actually sit on top of the center. Not everybody gets to have a shopping center in their basement.

“It keeps people in the inner city from driving out to suburban shopping centers, so there is less traffic congestion [and polluted air] and it brings more new-format retailers downtown,” Hudema says.

Entertainment centers (cinema multi-plexes/game arcades/food concessions) will be “cautiously developed” in newer mixed-use centers because of high construction costs and unpredictable income (except for popcorn sales). Residential and other commercial developments are a more likely category, such as Bosa Properties' Highgate Village residential/commercial project in Burnaby, which is being built on a former strip mall site.

Some mixed-use centers don't start out that way. Aberdeen Centre, a 380,000-square-foot Asian mall in suburban Richmond, B.C., is one example. Michael Heeney, executive director of Bing Thom Architects in Vancouver, which designed the mall, says Thomas Fung [chairman and CEO of The Fairchild Group, a mixed media enterprise], decided to integrate a 120-unit condo into the mall a few years after it was built.

It is under construction, Heeney says, and in the meantime Fung has moved most of his office and broadcasting studios into the complex, which also allows him to offer on-site print and broadcast promotional services to his tenants.

830 Posts
I'm just happy to see that suburbs are taking proactive steps towards un-suburbanizing themselves. Since most of the damage has already been done, I think we have no choice but to adopt ideas from edge cities or new urbanism as we have seen in North York, Mississauga, and now Markham. It's better than saying lets build more subdivisions.
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