Hyde Park: A Toronto-area company sitting on retail land in London’s burgeoning northwest now has its eyes on a big housing project instead

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From big box, to home.

London’s housing market is so hot, a Toronto developer is now pitching a big residential development in Hyde Park on land that had been slated for more retail expansion.

SmartREIT, a real estate investment trust, has applied to rezone a vacant 7.3-hectare site it owns at 1235-1295 Fanshawe Park Road W., near Dalmagarry Road, directly behind the Boston Pizza and Tim Hortons outlets.

Vaughan-based SmartREIT has filed a plan with the city to add medium-density housing to the service-commercial zoning and built 552 low-rise apartment units and 130 townhouses.

“We have done some market research and the residential market there (in London) is strong,” said Ornella Richichi, an executive vice-president with SmartREIT. “We thought it would be a nice mix of uses to add residential to complement the shopping centre.”

The shift in plans comes with the London area in the midst of its hottest housing market in years.

The number of housing construction starts this year is running at a record pace, with almost 2,000 in the first half of the year while the resale market for existing homes has shattered monthly sales records every month this year.

In contrast, the rapid expansion of big-box shopping centres around the city’s fringes has prompted concerns the city is “over-retailed.”

SmartREIT is mainly a commercial-retail developer and also owns the Argyle Mall in London and the SmartCentre in St. Thomas.

But Richichi said SmartREIT also has some experience in residential development, including condo and townhouse projects near the company’s headquarters in Vaughan, north of Toronto.

If more commercial space is needed in the future at the Hyde Park centre, Richichi said SmartREIT still has some available land in the area near the Lowes home improvement store.

In a plan filed to the city’s urban design review committee, the proposed townhouses would be clustered on the northern portion of the site to transition to the single-family homes on Tokala Trail. The southern portion would have four apartment buildings clustered around a parkette.

Michael Tomazincic of the city’s planning department said the rezoning application will likely be heard by city council’s planning committee in November.

He said SmartREIT’s plan doesn’t conform with the city’s existing official plan, but it does jibe with the new London Plan, a blueprint for the city’s future that is now before the Ontario Municipal Board.

The London Plan is more flexible in allowing the switch between residential and commercial uses, and promotes mixed uses that allow for services and shopping, said Tomazincic.

“It anticipates that commercial space could transition to residential or mixed space. The London Plan is more forward-looking, so we can expect more of these in the future,” he said.

Richichi said there’s no date as yet to begin construction, but the company would like to partner with a London home builder to develop the project.

— — —

SmartREIT Foxh Hollow residential development

— 7.3-hectare site bounded by Fanshawe Park Road, Dalmagarry Road and Tokala Trail.

— Existing businesses fronting on Fanshawe Park Road include Tim Hortons, Boston Pizza, Royal Bank and Bank of Montreal

— Plans include 130 townhouses on the northern portion near Tokala Trail and four four-storey apartment buildings with a total of 552 one- and two- bedroom units on the southern portion.



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