Two years ago, when I did my first market overview article, some folks (who shall remain unnamed) were certain there were some places no one could afford to build new homes, and one of them was Scarborough.
They believed no one would pay enough to make building there profitable.
Really? Maybe that depends on what kind of margin you expect.
One of the developers doing big things in Scarborough is LASH Development Corp., best known lately for their re-development of King West in partnership with Peter Freed, and their new buildings at Bathurst and St. Clair.
Their latest project is called ME—”m” for Markham Rd. and “e” for Ellesmere Rd.
This time LASH didn’t buy land to develop in a community they were new to. This project was born when LASH recognized the rental buildings they had built and operated since the 1950s at Markham Rd. and Ellesmere needed work.
“They had aged,” said LASH Group president Larry Blankenstein. “The site was underutilized. Under their [Ontario’s] new planning act it’s not dense enough.”
Can consensus-building defeat NIMBYism?
The LASH team approached local Ward 38 councilor Glenn De Baeremaeker. A well-known environmentalist, De Baeremaeker was heavily involved in assuring the preservation of Scarborough’s Rouge Valley, and later the Oak Ridges Moraine.
Working closely with De Baeremaeker and his staff, the LASH team took five years to design a project tied in to an overall plan for the area put forward by De Baeremaeker.
“Not one single person came to our council to object—it’s unheard of,” said De Baeremaeker. “The developer, the city, and the community worked so well together.”
That’s not to say there weren’t difficulties.
ME will include over 900 homes—everything from rental bachelor apartments to condo townhomes.
The entire complex includes two highrise condos and two lowrise, one a replacement rental building and one more upscale condo building that will face the proposed $1 million public park adjacent to the project.
In the final stages of the project, 38 townhomes will be built. But those townhomes were originally intended to be a nine-storey building. The owners of the single-family homes next to its proposed site complained it was too tall.
De Baeremaeker was impressed when the LASH team “literally took out an eraser and erased it.” They proposed townhouses instead, creating a smooth transition from tall to small. Problem solved.
Open to the community
There was brief discussion around whether to have gated security, but the team opted for “eyes on the street.”
“We’re going to have retail at grade level. With good retail you bring people out to the streets. It makes the streets safer, more of a community,” explained Blankenstein.
When complete, the project will form a four-sided community that surrounds a plaza containing a landscaped pond that can be frozen in winter for public skating.
The connected park will be built by LASH for the city at the same time as the project construction and will include a splash pad, picnic area, and an outdoor adult fitness circuit that will include equipment.
Just a block from all this greenery, residents will find both the commodious Ellesmere Community Centre and the miles of bike trails that connect parks right across Scarborough.
It’s better for your health to get out and bike than spend hours at the Scarborough Town Centre around the corner. The price is right on everything the $10 million library scheduled for completion in 2015 just south of mall has to offer, provided you return all items on time.
Come on everybody. Let’s capitalize on all that infrastructure investment!
First occupancy for ME is scheduled for December of 2016, but the entire project should be complete somewhere around the time the Eglinton Avenue LRT, The Crosstown, begins dropping people a five minute walk away at McCowan and Ellesmere.
There will also be something built to replace the Scarborough LRT (De Baeremaeker hopes it’s a subway) that will also be close by, no matter what it turns out to be.
Made of brick and pre-cast concrete, ME will meet Toronto Tier 1 environmental standards, as do all projects built in the City of Toronto. It will be less expensive to operate on a cost per unit basis than the buildings it replaces.
But aside from building green, what came out of the discussion was the need for a wide range of prices, including affordable units.
For De Baeremaeker, it was important that local residents be able to buy in. Blankenstein has noticed that of the many interested buyers, most are end users who already live nearby, like it, and want to stay.
The smallest unit starts at $149,000, which is certainly doable. With a shortage of housing for Centennial College and U of T Scarborough students, a small unit in ME may also be a sound rental investment.
Aside from many public amenities, the building will have great stuff just for residents.
“You’ll get the same or better amenities that you would in downtown Toronto,” said Blankenstein.
We’ll let you decide for yourself. Here’s a list.
• Games room, billiard table, several TVs
• Two guest suites
• Exercise room, yoga area
• Outdoor pool with change rooms and shower
• Party room with celebrity kitchen
• Multi-purpose room with demonstration kitchen
• Outdoor BBQ and fireplace
• Seasonal pond and skating area
• Lobby with concierge