With many of Downtown's development plots being snapped up for new condo and office buildings, some future expansion plans for Toronto's business core is stepping outside the traditional boundaries. First Gulf Corporation's Globe and Mail Centre near King and Parliament Streets, on the shoulder of the Financial Core, marked an important eastward step in the developer's goal to find new markets and spaces for high-quality office space.

Further east, the former Lever Brothers factory and surrounding property at the mouth of the Don River is quickly becoming a space of intense interest for new businesses to set up shop. After over 100 years of factory production on the 28-acre site, the plant was shut down in 2009. First Gulf bought the site in 2012 with big plans to re-purpose the 225,000 square foot factory building for office uses and lease out the large warehouse as a first step of a large scale redevelopment of the site, which they are calling "Project 21".

First Gulf Corporation, Lever Brothers, 21 Don Roadway, Project 21Proposed Repurposed Factory at Project 21, image courtesy of First Gulf

Details of that project are now coming forward thanks to a proactive community engagement workshop held Tuesday on Queen Street East near Broadview Avenue. First Gulf are working to first actively engage the community and set up a comprehensive Stakeholders Committee to figure out what residents, businesses and visitors to the area want as part of the redevelopment, with various opportunities for all parties to work together. Ongoing outreach with the broader community and youth involvement was a consistent theme of the night's discussion, and First Gulf are planning a walking tour of the Project 21 site to get the community more engaged. An Official Plan Amendment will be submitted to the City in the Spring, and a preliminary concept vision is expected in May/June.

Site redevelopment is happening with three main parties in lockstep—First Gulf who own 28 acres, The City of Toronto who own roughly 20 acres, and the remaining land owners who together round out this 60-acre strategic area—as a 'South of Eastern Employment Area' study is under way. A Master Plan for the redevelopment area is expected in early autumn.

First Gulf Corporation, Lever Brothers, 21 Don Roadway, Project 21Project 21 and Master Plan area Context, image courtesy of First Gulf

Current plans call for 12 million square feet of new office space to be developed in the area and First Gulf hopes to make costs here as competitive as office parks in Toronto's suburbs. With the GTA needing 100 million square feet of new office space by 2031 according to forecasted economic growth, First Gulf Vice President of Development Derek Goring is confident Project 21 will attract new firms to the region and will be successful.

To unlock the potential of the site, First Gulf is counting on its infrastructural "3Rs": Road, River and Rail. Gaining access to Project 21 from a reconfigured Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway is critical to connecting the site to the wider region from where firms can access a growing pool of educated labour, as well as allowing companies to get their goods to market. Re-naturalization of the Don River mouth is essential to removing the site lands from the flood plan of the river. Waterfront Toronto and their government partners are working towards a final funding agreement to see this long-held vision realized. 

First Gulf Corporation, Lever Brothers, 21 Don Roadway, Project 21Infrastructure 3Rs: Road, River & Rail at Project 21, image courtesy of First Gulf

Lastly, the creation of a transit hub on the site where GO Transit/SmartTrack, the Relief Subway Line, and a southern extension of the Broadview Streetcar all converge is sought to get Project 21 going. The modern commute is about public transit and active transport first, and First Gulf are striving to make Project 21 a truly Transit Oriented Development. Without transit, Project 21 won't happen.

Governments would see their costs recovered through an additional $1.3 Billion in annual incremental tax revenue when the redevelopment is complete. An estimated 50,000 new office and retail jobs are expected from the redevelopment. The map below shows where the Project 21 development lies in the midst of the huge growth taking place in the city's eastern core.

First Gulf Corporation, Lever Brothers, 21 Don Roadway, Project 21Overview of planning activity taking place in Toronto's Eastern Core, image courtesy of First Gulf

As First Gulf moves forward with its redevelopment plans for Project 21, UrbanToronto will keep you up-to-date with the latest details. Let us know what you think of Project 21 in the comment section below or join the discussion by clicking our Forum link from the project page below.