Canadian real estate developers welcomed Thursday’s decision by Waterfront Toronto to move ahead with a Sidewalk Labs proposal to build a high-tech community on the shores of Lake Ontario, and said they are keen to work with the Google sister company.
The vote by Waterfront Toronto, which represents the municipal, provincial and federal governments, requires Sidewalk labs to work with other developers. The agency will run a procurement process to choose one or more real estate partners for Sidewalk to develop the 12 acres of land at the foot of Toronto’s Parliament Street known as Quayside. That process will begin only if the agency gives final approval to the project next year.
Developers said Thursday they are keen to work with Sidewalk in one of the few underdeveloped areas in the city. “We would certainly be interested in participating and getting involved,” said Scott McLellan, a senior vice-president with Plazacorp, known for building condos and other residential properties in the Greater Toronto Area. “It is something we can handle, something we have the expertise in doing. … Google and Sidewalk have a worldwide recognized brand.”
Dream Unlimited Corp., a portfolio of real estate companies that co-owns a 5.3-acre plot of land next to Quayside, is also enthusiastic. “If we could develop the land with Sidewalk with a shared vision, it would be great,” said Michael Cooper, Dream’s president.
Quayside is east of Toronto’s financial district and not easily accessible by public transportation. It is dotted with underused parking lots, a handful of small businesses and defunct grain silos. However, it has become a hotspot for developers looking to invest in a city that has the lowest office vacancy rate in North America and soaring residential real estate prices.
Cadillac Fairview Corp. Ltd., a real estate company owned by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, recently purchased 38 acres of land close to Quayside and plans to turn it into a major business hub with more than 10 million square feet of office space. Brookfield Property Partners LP, Hong Kong’s CK Asset Holdings Ltd., condo builder Great Gulf and others have all been hunting for development lands.
Hines, a Houston-based global real estate company that is building condos on Queens Quay across the street from Quayside, welcomed the vote in favour of the Sidewalk project. Hines’ Canadian head, Avi Tesciuba, said his company is open to co-developing Quayside, but would have to wait for details.
Whatever developer ends up partnering with Sidewalk will have to share in the purchase of the land. Waterfront Toronto has appraised the land at about $590-million. Quayside is zoned for 3.3 million square feet of development.