Innovation Centre a Waterfront Talent Magnet
It was a veritable political who’s who at Corus Quay last Friday as Waterfront Toronto unveiled plans for a 350k SF innovation centre in East Bayfront, a funky-looking facility that developer Peter Menkes says will reinvent how leading creative and tech firms do business in our city.
Toronto Mayor John Tory joined federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver and Ontario Economic Development and Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid for the big rollout of the innovation centre, first reported by Bisnow last year. The Sweeny & Co Architects-designed building — powered by a waterfront-wide ultra-high-speed broadband fibre optic network — will feature a series of interconnected private, semi-private and public spaces aimed at facilitating collaboration and innovation. Amenities at the centre will include a presentation theatre, workshop areas and digital production facilities.
Menkes has developed several high-profile office projects in the vicinity: 25 York Street (TELUS House) was a pioneering office tower in the South Core district, where it's now building One York Street (Sun Life Tower). Commercial division president Peter Menkes — whom we snapped after the event — said there's growing demand from businesses whose employees “want to be located in the heart of the action, not outside of it.” East Bayfront “fits the bill." No tenants have been signed at the innovation centre yet, but Peter expects it will attract a broad spectrum of firms in the creative arts, film, TV, digital media and tech sectors.
The complex, overlooking Sugar Beach, will have street-level retail servicing tenants and the surrounding area. Its westernmost portion, The Exchange, will offer interactive meeting and conference spaces that are accessible to all tenants, and open to the broader community. The facility's largest component (the source of most rent, Peter says) is The Hive, at the eastern end, with leased office space (and 30k SF raised-floor plates that can be easily reconfigured). The third section, The Nexus, an atrium, will function as a public link between the centre's other parts, an informal space with retail where people can mix, mingle and network.
Waterfront Innovation Centre's development will be 100% private-sector funded, Waterfront Toronto CEO John Campbell stressed to the gathered media, and the building's expected to bring 2,000 employees to the waterfront. The innovation centre — targeting LEED Platinum — represents the latest addition to the rapidly growing East Bayfront precinct, home to Corus Quay, George Brown College and several new condo developments, a dynamic mixed-use community with 20,000 new residents within a half mile of the site, Peter noted.
The Toronto-Waterloo corridor is the talk of Silicon Valley, Minister Duguid said, adding Toronto ranks sixth in the world for startups, and has lured big names like Google and Cisco in recent years. “They’re coming because they’re attracted to the talent." Menkes will soon be going on the road to find an anchor tenant for Waterfront Innovation Centre, Peter says, and construction could begin in 18 months.