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RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust says it will turn some of the retail shopping centres in its portfolio into mixed-use communities that have the potential for more than 20,000 residences in six major Canadian markets.

The announcement of the RioCan Living brand on Monday formalizes the real estate trust's efforts to address the residential market.

It says construction has started or will soon begin on about 2,800 units – including about 2,100 rentals and 700 condos.

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Six of the eight initial projects are in Toronto, while one is in Ottawa and another is in Calgary.

The Toronto properties include locations in the Yonge and Eglinton area as well as the Front and Spadina area, both prominent residential and commercial areas under redevelopment by various companies.

The Ottawa site is at the Gloucester Silver City Shopping Centre and the Calgary project is at Brentwood Village.

RioCan says there are a total of 43 projects within its portfolio that can be converted over the longer term to mixed-use properties.

"It's incumbent upon RioCan to figure out ways to make our properties better, more effective, and more valuable," RioCan senior vice-president Jonathan Gitlin said in a statement.

He said each new residential development will have easy access to major commuter routes and retail experiences.

"There's a huge opportunity to take what exists within RioCan, namely numerous strong connections with very strong retailers, and merge that with our residential developments to deliver a true diversity of uses and tenant mix," Gitlin said.

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