When the first permanent residents begin move-ins in late-March/early-April 2016, the former Athletes Village in Toronto's West Don Lands will begin its new life as the 35-acre Canary District neighbourhood. Yesterday morning, we toured the brand new community along with Jason Lester, Senior Vice President of Urban Development at DundeeKilmer, for a behind-the-scenes look at the ongoing process of converting the former village into a permanent community.

Canary District, West Don Lands, TorontoJason Lester, Senior Vice President of Urban Development at DundeeKilmer, image by Jack Landau

There will eventually be over 7,000 residential units in this community, as new blocks are set to hit the market in 2016, 2017, and 2018-2019. Block 13, which featured a preliminary design by TEN arquitectos, will be the final block to be constructed, currently scheduled for 2018-2019. When asked about the plans for that block—currently green space which was used by athletes during 2015 Pan Am Games—Lester voiced his excitement in reaching a final design for the site. He also reaffirmed DundeeKilmer's commitment to architectural quality, citing that with neighbouring developments like UrbanCapital's ambitious River City buildings, the West Don Lands is the “highest designed neighbourhood anywhere in Toronto”, and that future buildings in the neighbourhood will reach for the established architectural heights.

Canary District, West Don Lands, TorontoBlock 13, currently occupied by a temporary park space, image by Jack Landau

While the space to the south of the former Canary Restaurant—along with blocks 12 and 13—is some time away from realization, various other buildings within the community are currently being prepared for next year's influx of new residents.

Plan of The Canary District, Toronto, image courtesy of DundeeKilmerThe Canary District, image courtesy of DundeeKilmer

One of the main focal points of the community with be the new 82,000 square foot Cooper Koo YMCA, which features a swimming pool, and a large gymnasium, as well as a second-level running track that can be integrated with other programming spaces.

Canary District, West Don Lands, TorontoRunning track at the Cooper Koo YMCA, image by Jack Landau

Canary District, West Don Lands, TorontoGymnasium at the Cooper Koo YMCA, image by Jack Landau

Canary District, West Don Lands, TorontoSwimming pool at the Cooper Koo YMCA, image by Jack Landau

The green roof of the Cooper Koo YMCA is just one of many in the Canary District. In fact, all of the for-profit and the affordable housing buildings within the community are topped by green roofs, as the entire community was constructed to meet LEED Gold standards and the Toronto Green Standard’s difficult to achieve Tier 2. According to Jason Lester, it is one of the most sustainable communities in the City of Toronto.

Canary District, West Don Lands, TorontoGreen roof atop the Cooper Koo YMCA, image by Jack Landau

While many green roofs in Toronto are inaccessible and exist solely as energy efficiency measures, the green roof atop the Cooper Koo YMCA is divided: 10,000 square feet will support outdoor activities such as yoga, while 20,000 square feet has been set aside to grow without having to deal with trampling. An additional 30,000 square foot green roof can be found next door atop the adjacent new George Brown student residence. 

Canary District, West Don Lands, TorontoGeorge Brown student residence building, image by Jack Landau

Retail tenants setting up shop within the Canary District will start their fit-up process in January, with the first openings slated for April. This timeline will coincide with the first residents' move-ins, keeping with the goal of having the construction activity at least 90% complete by the time residents arrive. 

Canary District, West Don Lands, TorontoFacing south between the George Brown student residence building and block 16, image by Jack Landau

Described as the ‘best of the best’ by Jason Lester earlier this year, anchor tenants in the Canary District all share a similar theme of health and wellness, based on the site’s previous use at an athletes’ village and the presence of the 19-acre Corktown Common, which connects to the city’s extensive network of cycling paths. The retail space closest to the park, in the base of Canary District Condos, will be a Gears bike store, and is sure to become a popular stop for cyclists passing through the adjacent park.

Canary District, West Don Lands, TorontoCanary District Condos with future retail spaces visible at street level, image by Jack Landau

The Running Room, Think Fitness Studio, and full-service day spa OpusGlow are among the other confirmed retailers that play into the recurring theme of health and wellness. On the opposite side of the community, the restored former Canary restaurant will eventually reopen as new commercial space, forming a western bookend to the district that bears its name. “We’ve even signed up a butcher and a baker, though no candlestick maker” said Lester. 

Canary District, West Don Lands, TorontoFuture site of OpusGlow in the base of the George Brown building, image by Jack Landau

Among the confirmed cafés and restaurants set to open, Dark Horse Espresso Bar and Fuel Plus will serve the community with its morning caffeine fix, while Corso Italia's traditional Neapolitan pizzeria 'Pizza e Pazzi' and Midtown's Tabulé Middle Eastern Cuisine will provide dining opportunities. A yet-to-be-named Thai restaurant is also in talks to open a location here.

Canary District, West Don Lands, TorontoFuture site of Fuel and The Running Room in the base of Canary District Condos, image by Jack Landau

Public art is an important part of the neighbourhood aesthetic, and three major installations currently exist within the Canary District's cluster of buildings, of six in the overall West Don Lands. The most prominent installations along Front Street are currently Tadashi Kawamata's Lamppost, as well as Jennifer Marman, Daniel Borins, and James Khamsi's interactive piece, The Water Guardians. Another major installation called Garden of Future Folliesby Hadley+Maxwell is currently in fabrication and is expected to be installed in the Spring.

Canary District, West Don Lands, TorontoThe Water Guardians, image by Jack Landau

Canary District, West Don Lands, TorontoTadashi Kawamata's ‘Lamppost’, image by Jack Landau

Additional information and renderings about the projects within the Canary District can be found in the dataBase files linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum threads, or leave a comment using the space provided at the bottom of this page.