This Junction Triangle Development Will Turn Brownfields Into Gold
Castlepoint Numa has launched Lower JCT, the transformation of an industrial site in Junction Triangle into a 1.1M SF mixed-use community catering to the creative class. President Alfredo Romano took Bisnow on a tour.
We snapped Alfredo on-site in the Automotive Building, a heritage-designated structure built in 1919 that’s being redeveloped to serve as the new home of the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, along with other arts and digital media groups. The rest of the eight-acre site—formerly a RioTinto Alcan factory complex, remediated at great cost by Castlepoint and the previous occupant—will include seven new buildings: three commercial and four residential (a portion of them affordable housing), all with retail or gallery spaces at grade. Lower JCT will also have a park, a public plaza and a community daycare facility.
An outside view of the Automotive Building. “It’s been a long haul,” Alfredo tells us, noting his firm acquired the property in 2008 and explored several redevelopment possibilities. Initially the site—at Perth Avenue and Sterling Road, just south of Bloor and Dundas streets—was poised to be the Canadian home for UK-based Pinewood Studios, with five sound stages. Pinewood ultimately moved to a 300k SF facility in the Port Lands, on a site also owned by Castlepoint and its partners, Paul Bronfman and ROI Capital.
Castlepoint put forth a new plan for a mixed-use project on the RioTinto Alcan site, where 250k SF worth of derelict buildings were demo’d to access soil for remediation. But Nestlé, whose factory lies just to the south, had concerns over the proposed neighbourhood's housing being too close to its operations. “They weren’t keen on us,” says Alfredo. The parties eventually worked things out, refining the vision via extensive community consultation, “and I thought the process produced a better plan.” Locals are thrilled Lower JCT's finally getting underway, he says. “They’ve been waiting for this kind of transition for a very long time.”
Townhouses at Lower JCT—the project’s first residential phase—will be situated along a realigned Perth Avenue. At full build-out, the neighbourhood will have 1,000 denizens and 2,500 jobs, with roughly a 50/50 mix of commercial space and housing. Alfredo's team will soon unveil plans for Lower JCT’s first residential mid-rise building, and for two more commercial buildings, one of which will be occupied by a brewery. The structures are being designed by an international architecture team quarterbacked by local talent: Peter Clewes of architectsAlliance, Prishram Jain of TACT Architecture, and Drew Sinclair of SvN.
Toronto's skyline as seen from the Automotive Building. Lower JCT’s commercial space will be geared toward creative users, building on the renaissance of Junction Triangle that started a decade ago with artists setting up studios in the transitioning industrial area. Lower JCT sits in the heart of Junction Triangle—so-called for its position at the convergence of multiple rail lines—and is minutes from two subway stations, a GO Transit station, and a UP Express stop, one of just two between Union Station and YYZ. It’s also adjacent to the new West Toronto Railpath, which connects the once-isolated triangle to the city. “A game changer,” says Alfredo.
Castlepoint’s other projects include L-Tower—named to our cool condo list—and a 13.5-acre post-industrial site on the eastern waterfront it's developing into a 2.5M SF mixed-use community in partnership with Cityzen Development Group and New York-based Continental Ventures. Phase 1 is slated to launch in 2017, but, like Lower JCT, the site requires remediation. That doesn’t worry Alfredo, a pioneer in the brownfield redevelopment realm. Besides, it won’t be like Lower JCT, the worst he's dealt with to date. "It’s worked out well, but this is not for the faint of heart.”