Riding on the tailwinds of last week’s Mirvish + Gehry announcement, Oxford Properties Group today announced plans for the large-scale redevelopment of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and its surrounding areas. The development would span south of Front Street between Simcoe and Blue Jays Way. Dubbed "Oxford Place," the project will include much more than a refurbishing of the convention centre. Oxford plans to build four towers: one residential, one office and, of particular interest, two for a hotel that would serve a proposed casino at the corner of Blue Jays Way and Front. Connecting these projects together will be a 5.5-acre park that would see a substantial portion of the existing rail corridor covered.
Taken apart, this proposal contains some of the largest developments we’ve seen in Toronto recently. Combined, the redevelopment eclipses most other projects in North America in square footage. While the decision to announce the development was undoubtedly influenced by last week’s Mirvish + Gehry announcement, it also conveniently coincides with the meeting held this past Wednesday that addressed the zoning status of casinos within the city. The inclusion of the casino in these plans doesn’t necessarily indicate that it's moving forward; the City still needs to make the final decision on the matter. The plan does, however, offer a convenient framework for the City to work in.
The casino will occupy 450,000 square feet of the 7.35 million square feet proposed — less than 10% — however it will serve as the driving force behind the entire development. Particularly reliant on the casino is the 1.7 million square feet of hotel space that will rise above, divided between two towers on Front Street.
The northeast corner of the site is currently home to the Intercontinental Hotel. Oxford proposes to demolish the tower and erect two new towers containing 2.5 million square feet of office space and 600,000 square feet of residential. 1 million square feet of retail is located at the base of these two towers. 4,000 sub-grade parking stalls are also proposed.
The site has been master-planned by Foster + Partners, led by Sir Norman Foster. No stranger to large-scale developments, Foster has experience working on complex multi-phase urban development projects such as CityCentreDC, Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City and Marseille’s Vieux Port. Foster’s glass and steel buildings are known for being edgy and sci-fi in their appearance, influenced by his early work on high-tech buildings. His projects often incorporate technologies that seek to improve interior air quality, access to natural light and overall building efficiency.
The $3 billion project would be entirely funded by the private sector. The casino would be operated, built and funded by the Province, while park maintenance and ownership was left unspecified. The entire plan is contingent on the approval of a casino in the downtown core, leaving it in a state of limbo for the time being. Oxford has stated that they will submit the rezoning application following the decision.