Saturday, November 30, 2013
Mattamy to partner on Downsview Park redevelopment
The partnership, to be announced publicly Wednesday, is expected to reignite anger in the North York community among residents who had been promised by Ottawa back in 1999 that the former military base would be turned into Canada’s first urban national park.
The well-respected new homebuilder has agreed to, in essence, take over construction of some 1,000 units of stacked townhomes, single-family homes and midrise condo apartment buildings that Urbancorp has planned — and already started selling — for a 25-hectare master-planned community on the site.
It hopes to start construction next year.
The modern, urban infill community, which won approval from the Ontario Municipal Board earlier this year despite fierce opposition from the community, is a dramatic departure from the largely suburban homes for which Mattamy is famous in some 150 North American cities.
“This is something that Mattamy has identified it wants to do more of,” said Mattamy chief operating officer Brian Johnston, noting that the builder is running out of large parcels of ready-to-build land in the GTA.
It’s a bit of a David and Goliath meeting of the minds, given that Mattamy has some 60,000 new homes under its belt — some 10,000 of them in Milton’s Hawthorne Village community alone — and had been toying with moving into the highrise condo market.
Urbancorp has built 6,000 homes, many of them condo apartments or townhomes in Toronto’s King St. W. and Queen St. W. areas.
The Mattamy/Urbancorp project is the first of some five communities, totalling some 10,000 units of housing in all, eventually planned for the 231.5-hectare former CFB Downsview site which has been mired in bureaucratic red tape for much of the past two decades.
While local councillor Maria Augimeri said it gives her some comfort knowing that an experienced homebuilder like Mattamy will actually be overseeing construction of the first Downsview community, it’s unlikely to appease area residents at all.
“They are quite angry that 10,000 units of development are going to go right where they were promised a park. We don’t have the infrastructure, the roads or the sewers, for this tremendous build out and we already have nightmarish traffic.”
Johnston acknowledges that there are real issues with the site, including servicing and neighbourhood concerns.
That’s part of the reason the massive Urbancorp sales centre on the site — Urbancorp has already pre-sold more than 300 of the planned units — is being shut down and sales halted temporarily.
Mattamy has a meeting planned with Augimeri Wednesday and plans to also meet with each of the people who’ve bought so far.
Mattamy had been starting to shift more of its building focus outside the GTA — to Calgary and Edmonton and into U.S. cities such as Orlando, Phoenix and Minneapolis — because of concerns there’s not enough serviced land left and new home prices, which now average more than $650,000, are becoming unaffordable.
The Downsview lands are seen as a rare opportunity to build a new, more urban style community close to subway lines and within easy reach of the downtown on a sizable parcel of land.
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