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Markham : Development News

14 Markham Articles | Page:

Thriving spaces need more than good design, says Park People report

As the province reviews changes to its growth plans for Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Area and the Niagara Escarpment, the advocacy group Park People is making a case for the importance of creating and sustaining vital public spaces in increasingly densely populated environments.
 
Its new Thriving Spaces report is something of a toolkit for planners, politicians and other decision makers to get them to think creatively about ensuring that our growing and densifying communities still have space to play and relax. “I also hope that the report places an emphasis on partnerships and people as well as design. We often focus very heavily on design when we talk about parks and public spaces, but the people who use those spaces, the types of activities they want to see there and how they can become more involved in these spaces, need to be considered,” says report author Jake Tobin Garrett, manager of policy and research at Park People.
 
The report examines 15 case studies, ranging from 11 Wellesley West, used as an example of how to consolidate space while work with developers, to Simcoe Promenade in Markham, used as an example of how linear parks can link residents, retail, and other green spaces. Although ideas that have worked in one community can be borrowed and adapted for other places, rising real estate prices and the density of established communities can create particular challenges.
 
“It requires planning for new categories of parks such as linear parks and urban squares, but also expanding the scope of the open space network to include opportunities in our infrastructure corridors, schoolyards, streets, and other public spaces,” states the report. “It includes creative designs that leverage adjacent street space as flexible, shared space and all-year amenities that provide people with activities whether it’s hot or cold outside. It also includes new ways of funding and acquiring parkland, whether sharing maintenance costs with nearby property owners or tapping into private donations and sponsorships.”
 
Tobin Garrett says some municipalities have improved their processes for creating public space, for accommodating varying uses and for taking into account factors like weather. “We do have many months of the year where it’s cold and some of the newer parks and open spaces we’re seeing can be used all year round, and are have active programs in the winter as well as the summer months,” he says.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Jake Tobin Garrett

How can the suburbs woo younger residents?

Can developers spark a love affair between Generation Y and the suburbs?

Certainly, the stereotype is that Generation Y dreams about social networking, not cars, craving connectedness that sprawling commuter communities have difficulty delivering. But high home prices in metropolises like Toronto, combined with better planning and transportation in smaller cities, may encourage Gen Y to re-evaluate the merits of living in 905.

A September 28 panel hosted by the Urban Land Institute Toronto examined how planners and developers in 905 can do a better job of building and shaping residential, commercial and recreational spaces that will attract those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s.

“They’re not necessarily going through anything different than previous generations, but their response to it may be different because the economic circumstances they're in,” said moderator Lou Iafrate in an interview with Yonge Street before the event. He’s executive vice president of research, valuation and advisory for Altus Group, which provides solutions for the commercial real estate industry. “The affordability issue wasn’t the same when Baby Boomers went through this part of their lives.”

Much of what panelists considered important to Generation Y may sound good to homeowners and renters of any generation: urban villages where people can live within walking distance—or easy transit distance—of where they work and play. While some complain that 905 cities aren’t especially pedestrian friendly, not all of it can be blamed on poor planning and design. Many of the cities are young and not particularly built up. Increasing density can fill in some of the gaps.

“Certainly 905 has a lot of work to do in streetscaping,” said panelist Lisa Lafave in a pre-panel interview. As senior portfolio manager at HOOPP (Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan), she helps manage a portfolio of more than $10 billion annually, including investments in real estate development. “It takes time to densify an area. It’s not going to happen overnight. In Mississauga, there are some areas where there are no sidewalks or bus shelters.”

Lafave says she won’t invest in a project that’s not transit-oriented. “I’ll move with the transit, but I won’t speculate on something that’s not transit-linked. By that definition, cities are denying themselves more investment in the city if they don’t invest in the infrastructure first,” she said.

The cities along the top of the GTA can also be smarter about connecting to each other, so work and recreational patterns aren’t all under the influence of Toronto. “If you can link Vaughan, Brampton, Markham, Richmond Hill, then people living in the 905 don’t necessarily have to come into the 416 for entertainment. The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre or the Markham City Centre are good examples of where they’re trying to create that urban village feel, that urbanized centre, in a traditionally suburban market. But it’s going to take time,” said Iafrate.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Sources: Lou Iafrate and Lisa Lafave

 

Expansion of Markham Stouffville Hospital receives LEED Silver

After almost four years of construction and another year of paperwork, the Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) has received LEED Silver certification for its new 385,000-square-foot hospital expansion.
 
“I was jumping for joy,” says Suman Bahl, vice president, corporate services and capital development at MSH. “Overall we finished our project on time and under budget so this LEED Silver certification was like icing on the cake. Not that there was any doubt, but it’s a very tedious process. At one point we managed to get furniture that met the requirements of LEED and it was spreadsheets of every single item we ordered. There were thousands of line items for that one point.”
 
The LEED features, which are assessed and assigned points by the Canada Green Building Council after the building is complete, include a white roof membrane and green roof areas, exterior lighting designed to minimize light pollution and installation of low-flow fixtures to reduce water use. About 16 per cent of materials came from recycled content, while 31 per cent of material was manufactured and harvested within 800 kilometres of the project, or within 2,400 kilometres if shipped by rail or water.
 
In the year since the building was completed, hospital employees have gotten quite a bit of feedback, including compliments about the art. “It’s a calm, simple building without a lot of busy details,” says Bahl.
 
The expansion, which doubled the size of the hospital at a cost of about $400 million, makes MSH the first hospital in Ontario to build a central utility plant that supplies thermal energy, electricity and emergency power through Markham District Energy. Staff are still working on managing the new energy system to achieve maximum efficiency.
 
“The systems are all there and the technology is there to improve our energy usage, but we need to make a focused effort to get our usage down,” she says. “In some areas, you don’t have the same flexibility. An operating room runs 24/7 and even if it doesn’t run all night, you have to have the systems running in case there’s an emergency case. It’s not like we can just shut the lights off.”
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Suman Bahl

Chief Planner talks suburban mobility

At Monday’s meeting of the Chief Planner’s Roundtable, consultant Jane Farrow announced to the 200 attendees that 60 per cent of the people living in eight so-called tower neighbourhoods in the inner suburbs do not have drivers' licenses.
This is big news.

These suburbs, built at a time when cars seemed the natural tools for urban expansion, are no longer inhabited by car people. They are, in fact, decreasingly suburbs at all, but rather less dense cities of their own, and as Vaughan and Markham, among others, seek to redress the change in various ways, the Chief Planner’s Roundtable is looking into how people do, can and should move around.

"A tremendous number of them walk," Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat says, "even when walking conditions aren’t that good."

So one of the ways Keesmaat would like to address that is by studying how and where people are getting around now, and adapting the now outmoded infrastructure to accommodate them.

Some aspects of this could be relatively easy, like making sure paths are shoveled, taking down fences that obstruct natural routes, and keeping them well lit after dark. But there are more profound ways to address the issue as well.

"It's about how we can re-adapt very suburban, car-oriented environments," Keesmaat says, "by getting a much finer street network, and adding development parcels, recognizing the importance of land-use planning and infrastructure changes in order to increase the options."

In other words, as these suburbs expand, they expand with these more reasonable, responsive forms of transportation and mobility in mind.

By the end of the roundtable, which was open to the public but attended mostly by those in related professions, they came up with a list of seven things that, Keesmaat says, need to happen now, including improving the walking infrastructure where people walk already, ensuring walking and cycling infrastructure links up with transit, improving data collection so future decisions can be made on solid ground, improving signage, loosening land-use controls to allow for more organic change as it is warranted, develop to allow people to live closer to where they work, and encourage individual "champions" to get behind significant infrastructure investments in these suburbans and push them through.

Video records of this and previous roundtables are available on the chief planner’s website.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Jennifer Keesmaat

Big building draws criticism, promises boost in Stouffville

Stouffville’s not accustomed to development downtown, and its residents have been antsy about a proposed new condo building.

It’s not a tower exactly. In fact, the variance that city council just approved was for a four metre extension – from 14 metres to 18.

The real concern seems to be the effect the new building built by Geranium Homes for Pace credit union, which already has a two-story building on the site, will have on the historic nature of the Markham suburb’s core.

"The heritage committee in the town worked with the developer to come to the final look and presentation," says Whitchruch-Stouffville councillor Rob Hargrave, saying that it went through five drafts. And though the committee is still "not 100 per cent" happy with it, council has given its approval. Citizens have until about the end of the month to appeal the decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Hargrave, who was the only councillor to speak in favour of the development at last week’s public meeting on the subject, says that part of the problem is that though Stouffvilliers are used to development on surrounding farmland, redevelopment in the core is a novelty.

Hargrave estimates that $20-million development could generate as much as $3 million in revenue for the city annually in increased economic activity spurred by the 67 new condo units.

In addition to the credit union, there are several 80-100-year-old wooden houses on the site that would be demolished.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Rob Hargrave

First residents move into Upper Unionville

Extending the reach of a neighbourhood has long been an urban technique for paying tribute to a popular neighbourhood, and trying to make a little money off properties that are almost-but-not-quite there. In Toronto, we’ve got spots like the Upper Beach and West Annex.

Now Markham’s picking up the ball with its Upper Unionville development by TACC developments.

Built on the old Beckett Farm at Kennedy and 16th Avenue (which sold for $100 million), Upper Unionville is the 1,600-unit result of a consortium of four builders: Arista Homes, Fieldgate Homes, Paradise Homes and Starlane Home Corporation.

The homes, a combination of townhouses, semi-detached and detached houses, started to go up in September. Paradise just closed on between 30 and 35 of them between late March and early this month.

"We’ve all designed our own houses," says Daniel Salerno, director of sales and marketing for Paradise, "but we all have the exact same lot types, which fell under the same architectural control."

The control architect -- the one responsible for lending the new development the feel of a cohesive neighbourhood -- was Williams and Stewart.

Salerno figures most of the houses will be occupied by 2015. There is also what Salerno calls a live-work area, an area along the south end of the site that will be a combination of homes and businesses, which should be finished by 2016.

Prices range from about half a million to just under a million. Upper Unionville is about a 20-mintue walk to Main Street, Unionville.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Daniel Salerno

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.


Bondfield gets construction contract for major Pan Am venues

We have a builder for the Pan Am Games.

Infrastructure Ontario announced Monday that Bondfield Construction has been awarded the contract to build and finance the three major venues for the 2015 Pan Am Parapan American Games.

The contract, valued at $80.5 million, covers the Markham Pan Am Centre, the two-field Pan American Field Hockey Centre on U of T's downtown campus, as well as renovations to the Etobicoke Olympium.

The original request for qualifications went out in October, 2011, with the request for proposals being issued this past March.

According to Jennifer Asals, a spokeswoman for Infrastructure Ontario, which managed the bidding process along with TO2015, the cities of Toronto and Markham and the University of Toronto, "the next step is that construction will begin on the Markham Pan Am Centre in the coming weeks, and the Pan Am field hockey and Etobicoke Olympium will start in 2013."

Bondfield has also recently begun work on the new Women's College Hospital.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Jennifer Asals

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.


Shops on Steeles reduces residential units from 1787 to 1235 and is approved by OMB

The Shops on Steeles will move head, thanks to a decision from the Ontario Municipal Board.

The project, which planner, architect and Kirkor principal Clifford Korman calls "urban intensification at its best," will sit on the border between Toronto and Markham. It was largely supported by Markham council and opposed by the city of Toronto.

The mixed-use plan, which originally called for 1,787 residential units, has been scaled back to 1,235. It is a redesign of the current Shops on Steeles, at the corner of Don Mills and Steeles, and will resemble the layout and effect of the Shops at Don Mills.

According to Korman, there will be both interior and exterior shopping, with all medical and dental services remaining indoors in a mall portion of the project.

The project will begin soon, and will take between 10 and 12 years to complete.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Clifford Korman

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.

Times Group unveils plans for $2-billion, 88-acre Uptown Markham residential development

Markham is getting a new master-planned community with some genuine urban touches.

On April 11, the Times Group Corporation unveiled the plans for the 88-acre residential development they're calling Uptown Markham.

"Uptown Markham will significantly contribute to the continued growth of Markham as a leading economic and high-tech community," Markham's mayor, Frank Scarpitti, said in a press release for the occasion. "It is a well-planned and sustainable community that is a significant part of our vision for Markham Centre."

The intention, according to the developer, is for none of the residences to be farther than 200 metres from public transit.

The development is between Birchmount and Warden along Highway 7, and will ultimately consist of about 4,500 condo units and more than half a million square feet of commercial space.

The first phase of the development, dubbed River Park, will comprise three towers, two high-rise and one mid-rise, ranging in sale price from $240,000 to $600,000, as well as the first commercial space, called Uptown Square, with space for 15 retailers. The plan is for the plaza to be ready in time to receive the first occupants of the towers.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Mark Wessel

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.


$500,000 Trillium grant helps Sanatan Mandir Cultural Centre build 10,000 square foot addition

With the help of a $500,000 Trillium grant, announced last week, the Sanatan Mandir Cultural Centre is building a 10,000 square foot addition.

The new building, built on a vacant lot to the east of the current 33,000 square foot building, built in 1994, will cost a total of $3 million. The balance of the money will be coming from fundraising and bank financing.

According to Mike Mehta, a lifetime trustee with the Markham centre, which caters to Toronto's Hindu community, "space was very limited" in the old facility, and the new space will allow for five classrooms, a library, and a centre for youth and seniors.

Work will start in mid July, and be finished by March, 2012.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Mike Mehta

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.


The Times Group Corp. to build 88-acre, 5,000 unit Uptown Markham development starting this year

The urbanization of Markham continues with the imminent development of an 88-acre site near Unionville.

Though the towers will be high and tightly packed, totaling about 5,000 units, the $2.5-billion plan, developed with Kirkor, includes 50 acres of greenspace.

The site is currently undeveloped greenfield.

The first phase, two towers with 560 condos between them, is scheduled to begin construction later this year, with an end of 2013 or beginning of 2014 completion.

Elmar Busch, marketing director for the developer, Times Group Corp., says the project, named Uptown Markham, is "probably one of the three or five largest new developments in North America."

Despite its suburban location, greenfield construction and Markham's transit shortcomings, Uptown Markham is gunning for LEED Gold certification.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Elmar Busch

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a cool new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.


Developer sees urban future for Main Street Markham, launches 143-unit, 6-storey condo

The urbanization of Markham continues with the launch of Sierra, a 143-unit, staggered 6-storey condo on Main Street in Markham Village.

Developed by the Sierra Group and designed by John Beresford of the Woodbridge firm of Flanagan Beresford and Patteson. The complex will significantly raise the density of the old neighbourhood.

"Condominiums epitomize to a certain extent urban living," says Sierra president Morris Kansun, "the idea of living in a higher density area where you walk downstairs and all the amenities are there without having to get into your car. Condominium living is downtown living, but so many condos today are built in Greenfield sites where you still have to get in your car."

The condo, known as 68 Main, will be built on the site of a 1960s strip mall, across the street from a community centre and in the middle of a 19th-century main street that's still an active retail strip.

Kansun expects to break ground this summer, and for his building to be ready to occupy by late 2012.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Morris Kansun

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a cool new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.


Quadrangle gets urban intensification award for work in Markham

Toronto-based Quadrangle Architects have won a design award for urbanization work they've done in Markham.

The firm got the Urban Intensification Award for the four-building Rouge Bijou development, downtown Markham's first condo project.

The project gets its name in part from its proximity to the Rouge River at the western edge of Markham's city centre.

"The ambition is to establish a context for the next buildings and support the vision of Downtown Markham as a compact, sustainable, walkable and transit-oriented community," said Quadrangle principal Sheldon Levitt in a press release.

Rouge Bijou, whose buildings range in height from seven to 10 storeys and which house a total of 450 living spaces, is part of a larger, nine-building collection of buildings that also includes Verdale, Nexus North and Nexus South.

Rouge Bijou is also built to LEED Silver standards, and includes in-suite energy recovery ventilators, super-lobby green roofs and will collect rain for grey water use.

The award was presented on November 8.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Sheldon Levitt

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a cool new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.


Tridel nearing completion of its first Markham development with 396-unit tower

Tridel has finished everything but the interiors of its latest development, Circa 2, which is also its first foray into Markham.

The 396-unit condo tower is the second phase of a two-phase project that also includes a tower finished in 2006, and several houses, which Tridel is calling carriage homes, which are also complete.

"Circa's a more family-oriented building," says Tridel spokesman Samson Fung. "Suite sizes are a little bit larger, with two-bedrooms and two-bedrooms plus den making up the majority of the suites," he says, adding that, appropriately for the location, Tridel is taking "a more suburban approach to condos" with Circa. The smallest unit will be about 1,000 square feet.

Turner Fleischer are the architects for the building, which should be ready for its residents by May.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Samson Fung

14 Markham Articles | Page:
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