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Assembly Park is a residential complex under construction east of Highway 400 between Highway 7 and Highway 407 that will eventually house more than 23,000 people and include green spaces and areas for public gatherings.COURTESY OF MENKES DEVELOPMENTS LTD.

Complex in Vaughan, Ont., gives its residents the best of two worlds

The mass exodus of people moving from the downtown core to the suburbs during the height of the pandemic is now reversing as more people, especially families, seek out the lifestyle benefits that city living offers.

For the developers behind Assembly Park, the residential complex currently under construction and located east of Highway 400, nestled between Highway 7 and Highway 407, the objective is to give residents living there the best of two worlds.

One is to build a master-planned, diverse, heart-and-soul community with a true downtown feel that, when completed over 83 acres, will incorporate retail, commercial and residential spaces as part of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC).

It’s the project’s public transit connections that make it unique, with access to all points over the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) via Vaughan’s newest TTC subway stop, the VIVA and Züm rapid transit systems, and the GO Train. That means all the lifestyle benefits of downtown Toronto, such as going to a Raptors basketball game, having dinner at one of Toronto’s world-class restaurants, shopping in Yorkville or attending the theatre, are readily accessible by hopping on public transit.

“I couldn’t put it any better way than that,” says Jay Claggett, vice-president of development at Quad-Real Property Group. That’s the company that has been planning Assembly Park for years. Giannone Petricone Associates and IBI Group are the design team.

Menkes Developments Ltd., in partnership with QuadReal, has already launched a project in Assembly Park called Mobilio, which is a mix of 400 townhomes and 750 condo units. That project is well under construction, with occupancy set for this year. The Festival community is another Menkes project there that features four towers: Phase One (Towers 1 and 2), comprised of 59- and 48-storey towers that was launched in the spring of 2020 with 1,325 units; Phase Two (Towers 3 and 4) launched last spring with 1,145 units in the 55- and 41-storey towers; and Phase 3, launching soon.

Once Assembly Park is completed, there will be more than 12,000 units and a population upwards of 23,000 people.

“[Assembly Park] provides an opportunity for buyers who maybe grew up in the suburban community [around Vaughan], and their families continue to reside there; maybe first-time buyers where their parents are still in the area, or perhaps it’s empty nesters where their kids are still in the area,” Claggett says. “It provided that bridge between where a lot of the buyers may have grown up and expected to be able to continue to live, but also at the same time linking them into the core of Toronto for work and theatre and all the things that make downtown Toronto a dynamic spot.”

He says it will take 12 to 15 years to complete, so the objective now is to launch temporary community spaces at Assembly Park, the “bones” of a community that will one day be permanent fixtures there. Arts and culture and green space are primary focuses.

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The Gardens are 1.47 acres of green space, a temporary natural setting for communal dining and gathering as well as herb, flower and vegetable gardens. Socially oriented public spaces will be among the foundational “bones” when the project is ultimately completed.

Last summer, The Studios was launched, which is a temporary multi-use art and content studio, gallery, event and residency space that is meant to serve as a hub of creativity. Community events such as the Vaughan International Film Festival, haunted attraction Screemers, Holiday Nights of Lights and the Vaughan Pizzafest have already been held on the site. There will be a post-pandemic public launch event for Assembly Park in May.

“There are a lot of good examples of downtowns that are around and there are unfortunately some bad ones,” Claggett says.

“I think, first and foremost, the downtown needs to be an inclusive community. It needs to be available and designed for all ages, demographics and backgrounds. [Downtowns] have to strike the balance between public and private spaces and understand how they are linked. And you need a variety of residential [spaces]. You need a dynamic variety of choice in terms of retail opportunities. You need employment opportunities both for startup incubation businesses as well as larger, established office and employment bases.”

And that’s all tied together with the arts, cultural and community requirements of school and community spaces, and interwoven with parks and open space.

“It has to have all those kinds of elements coming together with a unified understanding of what you are providing within that downtown,” Claggett says.

Art, for one, is an important element that makes downtowns work, he adds, and which complements great urban design and open space.

“An arts and culture community isn’t something that just happens,” he says.

“You can’t just turn on a switch. You have to incubate it as the larger community grows around it. So, by creating those activation spaces now, we are starting to build those relationships.”

Assembly Park provides the best of both worlds: a special, inclusive community in Vaughan with fast access to all that is great about a growing, vibrant, world-class city.

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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