88 Queen: From Parking Lot To Downtown East Hotspot
St. Thomas Developments will turn a parking lot at 88 Queen St E into a 1.35M SF mixed-use community with condos, a boutique hotel, parks and retail-lined mews. President Patrick Quigley gives us a preview.
We snapped Patrick on-site, a full-block parking lot bound by Queen and Shuter, Dalhousie and Mutual streets. His team’s transforming it into a new centre of gravity for Downtown East. The project’s first phase, 88 North, a 26-storey, 380-unit condo on the northwest corner, will have a 9k SF urban-format grocery in its podium. Future towers—three more of them—will also house ground-level retail, including a food hall (150k SF retail total). Shops and eateries will feature retractable windows, enabling them to open onto pedestrian mews connecting Shuter to Queen.
Toronto’s first condo launch of 2016, 88 North sold out fast, Patrick tells us, and “for a substantial premium over what’s been selling in this area.” Buyers recognize the value in getting into the inaugural phase of a community that’ll eventually be a hub for Downtown East, one of TO's hottest residential submarkets (resale prices there grew 5% in 2015, according to Urbanation). Larger suites were 88 North’s fastest sellers, Patrick says, a sign the condo market is “oversaturated" with one-bedroom product. Two-storey podium suites will have double-height glass-enclosed balconies.
The project includes a public park and a private pocket park incorporated for public use, both designed by Claude Cormier (of Sugar Beach and Evergreen Brickworks fame). Phase 2 brings two more condo buildings, 28- and 29-storey towers tied together by open sky gardens every five floors. The final phase will entail a 54-storey condo tower along Queen—the development's tallest—plus an eight-storey boutique hotel, also on Queen. There’s been huge growth east of Yonge, notes Patrick, “but what’s been missing is a central gathering point. We want to create that here.”
88 Queen is one of few remaining full-block sites downtown. Nearly every other developer in town tried for years to buy the lot, Patrick points out, but his company, owned by a private Hong Kong-based firm, succeeded in 2014 by compelling the vendors with a straightforward offer. Previous propositions came with conditions, he explains, and purchasers wanted to make changes before closing. “(The property owners) didn’t like that.” In Hong Kong, he points out, buyers do due diligence first, then make a firm deal. “And that’s what we did."
St. Thomas, a boutique firm, tends to tackle one project at a time. Across town, construction is nearing completion on 7 St. Thomas, a nine-storey, 93k SF office condo that incorporates six Victorian townhomes (above). Previous developments included luxury condo 1 St. Thomas, and six Scarborough condo buildings, among them Ellipse 1/2, the distinctive elliptical-shaped towers along Highway 401. At 88 North, Patrick's aiming to start construction this fall, with the entire community completed in seven years. “We'd like the sales and construction process here to be continuous.”