Two upcoming developments will change the Forest City’s downtown forever

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Two major developments — one an office project, the other residential — are on track to refashion downtown London’s York Street in the next year.

The city’s urban-design review panel has reviewed plans to build a new headquarters for telecom Start Communications, at 639 York St., and a 24-storey Tricar residential tower at 40 York St.

The chief executive of Start Communications said he hopes construction will begin by the end of the summer if the company gets all the needed approvals from city hall. The new 7,500-sq.-m. building will incorporate three older industrial buildings on the site that will be expanded to three storeys.

“We are repurposing the buildings that are there and tying the new building into it to really revitalize that whole property,” said Peter Rocca.

Rocca said the company has outgrown its 1,300-sq.-m headquarters at 148 York St. because the staff is growing rapidly and now numbers about 150.

The company will keep the 148 York St. building, even after the new headquarters is completed. Start Communications will also temporarily use a vacant commercial site at 700 York St. while construction is underway.

Start Communications provides Internet and telephone service to more than 50,000 customers from Ottawa to Windsor, taking on giants such as Rogers and Bell, and has also created a fibre-optic network in downtown London.

The company is also expected to announce plans later this year to expand into cable-television services.

Just down the street, near the intersection of Thames Street, Tricar is getting ready to start a new residential tower just as the company’s Azure condominium tower on Talbot Street nears completion.

The company plans to build a 24-storey tower on York with 245 residential units and ground-floor office/commercial space.

Tricar has submitted two variations of the plan, one that has some frontage on Thames Street and another that occupies only York Street frontage.

The 0.5-hectare site, east of Ivey Park and the Peace Gardens, is occupied by Provincial Glass and Mirror and Escape Canada, an escape-room business.

Brett Lucier, vice-president of Provincial Glass and Mirror, said the company has already begun renovations to move to a new location at 229 Horton St.

Lucier said Tricar wants to have the York properties vacated by Sept. 1.

The new store will be about 1,100 sq. m,, about double the size of the York Street building where the company has been located since 1988. He said the company is committed to downtown London

“It would have been cheaper to go to the suburbs, but being centrally located has done us very well,” he said.

Shawn Nagy of Escape Canada said the entertainment venue plans to move into a nearby location in a yellow-brick home across the street at 13 York St.

Escape Canada opened in 2015 and was part of wave of escape- room businesses that challenge teams of players to escape from a room using clues and deduction.

639 York St.

  • New 7,500-sq.-m headquarters for Start Communications, a London-based telecommunications company.
  • Three existing buildings to be rebuilt and combined with a new addition at the front.
  • Existing building at 148 York St. will be kept.

32-40 York St.

  • 24-storey tower with 245 residential units and ground-floor office/commercial space.
  • Planned by Tricar Group, which also built nearby Azure condo tower and twin Renaissance towers.
  • Site now occupied by Escape Canada and Provincial Glass and Mirror.

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