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An article published in the Ryersonian, a newspaper run by Journalism students at Ryerson University.


No end in site - Metropolis development wants funding, new contractor

By Ling Hui
Ryersonian Staff

If people were wondering why construction on the northeast corner of Yonge and Dundas streets has stopped, they would get three different answers, depending on who they asked.

Not a dump truck has been spotted moving into the construction area beside Tim Hortons on Victoria Street and construction workers haven’t been seen behind the blue hoardings.

The short answer: The site’s owner, PenEquity Management Corporation has dropped its contractor, Vanbots Construction Corporation, and is in the midst of finding another.

But, the definitive answer came from Gary Wright, the city planner involved with the development project, who said the current delay has to do with finding funding to continue the project.

“I think they’ve secured most of the tenants but they are looking for an investor interested in putting money into the site,” Wright said.

PenEquity has spent more than $30 million to bring it up to its current stage of construction and are now arranging for the necessary financing to continue, Wright said.

As it now stands, the site looks nothing like the four-storey entertainment mecca that was supposed to be built five years ago.

If things went according to plan, Ryerson students would be having classes in 12 of the 24 AMC theatres in the urban entertainment centre known as Metropolis.

But for a project that’s been heavily criticized for being hampered by delays, construction of Metropolis is on schedule, said Keith Travis, PenEquity’s project manager.

“The only people who have said there’s a delay are people who don’t understand that it’s a very complicated matter to construct a major downtown project that would take several years,” Travis said.

But construction of a similar amusement, dining and retail complex located in the heart of Montreal, The Pepsi Forum Entertainment Centre, was announced the same year as Metropolis and was completed in 2001.

Phase one of Metropolis’ construction, which includes the basement and ground level of the site has been completed, Travis said.

“We are in the throws of awarding a contract for the second phase of construction.”

Travis wouldn’t say why the company has decided to find another contractor, or name any companies that it is considering.

Though Vanbots has worked on the site since the hoardings went up in 1999, its contract with PenEquity was to build the basement and ground levels, says Joel Parke, Vanbots’ vice- president of client services.

Parke refused to comment on why the company has parted with PenEquity, stating only that “We couldn’t reach a mutually acceptable agreement to further construct on the site. I can’t go into the details because we haven’t sorted out the details.”

When news surfaced about Metropolis’ construction eight years ago, PenEquity CEO Glenn Miller boasted that “Metropolis will create a street-friendly environment, one that once again stimulates pedestrian traffic on Yonge Street.”

The project is part of the Yonge Dundas Redevelopment Project that was proposed by the City of Toronto and the Yonge Street Business and Resident Association in 1997.

The project, which included the development of Dundas Square, would remake the intersection into the Times Square of Toronto.

As a result of the project, ten privately owned properties along Yonge and Dundas streets were expropriated by the city.

Six were sold to PenEquity for development.

But details of how much the deal was worth were confidential, and probably won’t be found in city documents, said Wright.

According to the Ontario Municipal Board’s report on its decision to support the redevelopment project, the intersection was a “Mecca for panhandlers, drug dealers and vagrants and consequently, it is perceived as an unsafe area, an area to avoid.”

In partnership with the City of Toronto and Ryerson, PenEquity was supposed to build a 355,000-square-foot entertainment centre with AMC as its anchor tenant in two years.

Ryerson was included in the Metropolis project because the AMC theatres would be built on top of Ryerson’s parking garage on Victoria Street.

In exchange for air rights above the garage, the university would receive $10.9 million from increased parking revenue and additional classroom space that was valued at $3.6 million through the use of the AMC theatres.

The deal was supposed to help accommodate the influx of students due to the double-cohort two years ago.

Despite the delays, Ryerson is still committed to the deal with PenEquity, says Manuel Ravinsky, co-ordinator of campus planning and construction for Ryerson’s Department of Campus Planning and Facilities.

PenEquity, a company known for developing suburban malls, was selected by a group of consultants and city staff because “they came prepared with AMC to build a movie complex,” Toronto city councillor Kyle Rae said.

“The City of Toronto has done its part of the deal, but the private sector has failed,” Rae said, referring to the city’s development of Dundas Square.

As councillor of the area, Rae spearheaded the redevelopment project.

Past reports have PenEquity laying blame on the city for rushing to expropriate land before it was ready for construction, while the city has blamed the developer for its inability to attract tenants.

This is not surprising, considering how the city has failed to attract a buyer willing to pay $5 million for the naming rights of Dundas Square.

The process of awarding the contract to PenEquity was a thorough process, with the OMB weighting the redevelopment project with the interests of the 10 property owners, Wright said.

The developer has listed Future Shop and Virgin Records as its major tenants on its website.

Having rescheduled Metropolis’ completion date several times, Travis said the site is set to open in spring 2006 but is “subject to further extension.”
 

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In hindsight, Pen Equity was a stupid choice for this project...the city should put this out of it's misery, rather than letting it continue to fester along forever. The city probably stupidly didn't make the proper legal injuctions to give some control if this sort of thing happened...which it did...not very smart of them...the city probably has little legal clout to do much.

Somebody should find an angle to kill this Pen Equity organization...sounds harsh, but they are losers...keep them in the burbs where they can continue to build the souless crap they are expert in...just keep them out of the city...or better yet, hire a hit man to kill every one of them.

And I would love to hold a 12 gauge to the person's head and say..."PLEASE...SAY THE WORDS TMES SQUARE ONE MORE FUKING TIME....I DARE YOU".








KGB
 

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Crusteriffic said:
An article published in the Ryersonian, a newspaper run by Journalism students at Ryerson University.

...............

PenEquity has spent more than $30 million to bring it up to its current stage of construction and are now arranging for the necessary financing to continue, Wright said.

........City of Toronto and Ryerson,..........


Ryerson was .................Ryerson’s ...............
........... Ryerson ..........”
PenEquity must have a bunch of Ryerson Finance majors if they didn't have the funding in place for each stage.
 

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Bring back world of shoes and Licks, and the 'Black Flea Market', the watch dealers and the sidewalk chalk artists... re-instate the culture that was lost at Yonge and Dundas. That would be pedestrian friendly enough for the city.

What's with the name 'Dundas Square'? Everybody I knew referred the area as Yonge and Dundas, or 'The Eaton Center, Dundas side'.


BTW.. what are they doing to Atrium on Bay? I drove by there and noticed that Pickle Barrel isn't there anymore, that or it's covered.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
dtx03 said:
BTW.. what are they doing to Atrium on Bay? I drove by there and noticed that Pickle Barrel isn't there anymore, that or it's covered.
They are extending the front part of the Atrium to house a few new anchor stores to reflect eventual development of Metropolis. One of the tenants reflected in a rendering is Boathouse. They sell surfer/skateboard and outdoors apparel. Also, the pickel barrel is renovating in the process to be relaunched as the "Pickle Barrle Grand" at the Atrium. It supposed to have a waterfall housed in it somewhere. The pickel barrel website pegs completion around August 2005.
 

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Not too sure what is going on there but I read about AMC wanting to get out of Canada. So that will have an impact if it already has not. Virgin still wants in and badly. Maybe they will find another location but I doubt it since they like very visible locations.
 

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Istrian said:
"Half Finished Building, Part II". Hehehe...Toronto is establishing
a new art ...(unfinished developments)
We can also add the Inn on College (half finished boutique hotel) to the list. And I believe there is an excavation ditch somewhere in the Eglinton/Marlee area that's been abandoned for years now.
 

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What's shamefull about it, is that no-one is taking any responsibility for what is obviously now quite a boon-dogle.

Pen Equity is pretending nothing is wrong, and saying something as idiotic as "it's on schedule". Uh...yea.

The City is pretending they chose wisely by stating they came with a lead tenent of AMC. Big woop...checking their financial capabilities isn't just simple common sense...it's mandatory.

It's the city's fault ultimately, as the factors involved could have been foreseen. It's further their fault for not having things built into the contract with the developer to handle this problem. And it's the city's idea in the first place...they just chose a private company to get involved...perhaps they shouldn't have, and just had it built and managed like any other city-owned venue, and made it a revenue generator just like the square itself. Dumb assed politicians.

The fact that Penequity is just a deadbeat is after the fact.






KGB
 

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what truly amazes me is how little press this travesty gets. as i said yesterday (in my mysteriously gone missing post), there should be an op-ed in a local newspaper everyday from a rightly concerned/disgusted citizen publicly shaming everyone involved in this project, most notably the city and Pen Equity. instead we have to search ryerson student papers for any mention of (lack of) progress.

nearly a friggin' decade of blue hoarding on one of the city's most prime pieces of real estate and in the end all we'll end up with is a garish second rate mall built around a parking garage. sad. pathetic. embarrassing.
 

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"...don't forget the skeleton of a building that was the Oriental Plaza (?) (that was to be Bank of China Centre) at Sheppard and Brimley for five or so years."

I thought this was a different situation. Due mainly to the developer taking off with the money for the project. I think they are still looking for that person. It is a sad situation when things are left undone. We are going through a big development boom here!

Whether or not it is a residentual or commercial, if you start something, you should be on track to finishing what you started. Don't build something half assed and then when times change, just walk away and leave your nonsence there. Make the rules tougher and make them pay for things like that. Levy a fine!

They certainly know how to tackle the regular city dweller with all the parking tickets they hand out at night. Why not use the same on developers who want to save some money and run when things get rough?
 
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