How SmartCentres Is Creating Downtown Vaughan From Scratch
SmartCentres is helping Vaughan create a city centre from scratch, with a 100-acre mega-project that includes a KPMG office tower. As construction gets underway, development VP Paula Bustard tells us how this sets a new standard for suburban redevelopment.
SmartCentres has the largest single-owner controlled parcel within the 400-acre Vaughan Metropolitan Centre at Highway 7 and Highway 400, designated a growth node by the province. And what a node it will be. The SmartCentres swath—10M SF of residential, 4M SF of office and 2M SF of commercial development—will have three key transit tie-ins, notably a TTC subway station, the northern terminus on the University-Spadina line extension to York Region. There’ll be a Viva bus rapidway stop and Viva bus terminal on site, too, all with underground connections, Paula says. “This will be a true mobility hub.”
SmartCentres CEO Mitchell Goldhar flanked by Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua and Premier Kathleen Wynne at the KPMG Tower groundbreaking last fall. SmartCentres—developing VMC in a JV with Calloway REIT—has owned the land for 20 years. The site, with an existing Lowe’s, Walmart and Future Shop / Home Outfitters, was going to be developed as a traditional big-box SmartCentre, Paula explains, but the growth node designation and subway line extension “fundamentally changed” their approach.
The VMC master plan calls for an urban-style mixed-use community that makes public realm a top priority, with mid-block pedestrian connections and bike lanes. There'll also be an eight-acre central park and public square that's the same size as Yonge-Dundas Square. Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, the KPMG Tower, targeting LEED Gold, will have a two-storey retail podium with underground transit connections (KPMG has 125k SF on five floors). The tower, snapped earlier this month, overlooks the square and central park. It’s slated for 2016 delivery.
It's an enormous project. Laid over a map of downtown Toronto, the 100-acre site extends from University Avenue to Church Street, and from Richmond to Wellington streets. Integrating existing suburban-style big-box retailers into an urbanized city centre will be a challenge (they’ll likely be redeveloped in urban format), but Paula says the vast amount of vacant land around them gives SmartCentres an unprecedented opportunity to execute a “holistic vision” at VMC over the next two decades. “It’s certainly like nothing we’ve done before, and it’s very exciting.”