At the southeast corner of Don Mills and Sheppard in North York, Douglas Coupland's row of tall, brightly coloured "Four Seasons" sculptures announces the Emerald City community. Now becoming a more complete neighbourhood of towers, townhouses, street-level retail, and public amenities, the master-planned site is continuing to grow, with new towers adding further density and vitality to ELAD Canada's flagship Toronto development. 

Emerald City, Toronto, by ELAD Canada, Douglas Coupland, WZMH ArchitectsDouglas Coupland's Four Seasons; colourful art gracing Emerald City, image by Craig White

Now well over a decade in the making, we caught up with ELAD's Dror Duchovny to get a better understanding of how the master-planned neighbourhood has come to be, and what's in store for the future. "We've been involved in the community for a long time" Duchovny explains, stressing that ELAD's continued "long-term presence forms the basis of the company's strategy." 

Dror Duchovny among the Emerald City scale models, image courtesy of ELAD CanadaDror Duchovny among the Emerald City scale models, image courtesy of ELAD Canada

"When we acquired the site in 2004, the circumstances were very different," Duchovny notes. Operational since late 2002, the Line 4 Sheppard subway was still relatively newly opened, bringing with it the obvious development potential that accompanies higher-order transit. "At the time, the community at Don Mills and Sheppard consisted of mid 20th century apartment towers," he adds, with large swaths of underutilized green space characterizing an ageing tower-in-the-park community with limited retail and amenities. 

Emerald City, Toronto, by ELAD Canada, WZMH ArchitectsDouglas Coupland's Four Seasons in 2014, image by Jack Landau

"Aside from bringing in more density, we wanted to ensure that the community developed with greater variety and more options," Duchovny stresses. Aside from the new street-level retail frontages that accompany the towers, "the scope of our presence in the neighbourhood allowed us to also invest in a 50,000 ft² community centre, in addition to a 5,000 ft² aquatic centre." New plantings and landscaping have also contributed to a more inviting public realm, while the introduction of a slightly tighter street grid—and a new signalized intersection—makes for a more animated and inviting urban realm.   

Emerald City, Toronto, by ELAD Canada, WZMH ArchitectsThe Parkway Forest Community Centre, image by Craig White

Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, the Parkway Forest Community Centre opened in late 2015, with a second phase following last year. Fronted by another of Douglas Coupland's whimsical public art installations—the horizontally striped cones and pylons that line the neighbourhood—the community centre provides a focal point for the neighbourhood's social life, as well as an important public health amenity.  

Parkway Forest Community Centre, Diamond Schmitt ArchitectsInterior of Parkway Forest Community Centre, image by Craig White

In terms of the buildings themselves, "investing in a community over the long-term also changes the incentive structures of development. Even if we wanted to, it wouldn't make sense to cheapen the projects," Duchovny explains, "because our presence here means we develop a reputation within the community, and we want to maintain that." 

Emerald City, Toronto, by ELAD Canada, WZMH ArchitectsEmerald City Block A, image by UT Forum contributor Mafaldaboy

With the three completed Block A towers now an established presence at the corner of Don Mills and Sheppard, five new-build rental replacement buildings fronting Sheppard, and rows of townhomes filling in a more intimate street presence, ELAD's community is continuing to grow. South of Block A, Emerald City's trio of Block B towers is under construction, while another pair of upcoming buildings—marketed The Peak and The Point—are coming as part of the Block C further south past Helen Lu Road. 

At Block C, "the focus is on larger layouts," Duchovny emphasizes. "Livable spaces are a huge priority for buyers, and particularly end uses," he adds, describing how Block C's "flex" layouts are meant to replace the compact (and sometimes nearly unusable) 'dens' that flood the market with more functional spaces. "Even if every unit doesn't have two bedrooms, the den space should be something people can actually use. In this case, the flex layouts are designed to accommodate a real secondary sleeping space."

Emerald City, Toronto, by ELAD Canada, WZMH ArchitectsThe Emerald City community, with The Point and The Peak at right, image via ELAD Canada

For the Block C towers, a shared podium also allows for a generously apportioned amenity area, which will bring together residents of both The Point and The Peak—as well as a future Block C tower. By splitting maintenance costs between residents of both towers, the configuration also allows a wider variety of amenities to be introduced without passing on prohibitively high expenses to residents. This means that amenities like an indoor pool and hot tub can be offered while keeping per-unit maintenance costs relatively modest. 

Emerald City, Toronto, by ELAD Canada, WZMH ArchitectsEmerald City's The Peak, image via ELAD Canada

Meanwhile, the wider community's mix of rental replacement buildings, new-build rental supply, and condominiums, includes townhouses along with the towers. "I think it's good to have that sort of variety in the neighbourhood," Duchovny suggests, explaining that the combination of longtime North York residents and new homeowners has contributed to a fairly diverse mix of tenants. "For new buyers, it's a comparatively affordable entry point into the Toronto maket," he notes, "while for many long-term residents, the rental replacement units mean a higher quality of life."

Emerald City, Toronto, by ELAD Canada, WZMH ArchitectsEmerald City's The Point, image via ELAD Canada

Architecturally, Emerald City's WZMH Architects-designed towers are functional—with lines that echo the curving streets—rather than spectacular. In the context of what was not so long ago a somewhat isolated—and much emptier—North York tower neighbourhood, however, the new development means a lot, offering a more urban variation on the tower-in-the-park typologies that preceded them. Filling out the neighbourhood with almost 3,000 new homes, the Emerald City community's new retail, public art and amenities, and improved street-level conditions, have already changed the face of the Parkway Forest neighbourhood. And at Block C, Dror Duchovny offers that there's plenty more to come. 

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We will keep you updated as more information about the 'Block C' towers becomes available, and the start of construction nears. Priced from the $300,000s, suites at The Point are designed to provide a relatively affordable entry point into Toronto's increasingly high-priced real estate market. More information about the project is available via our Database file, linked below. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment on this page, or join the ongoing conversation in our associated Forum threads.

To request more info directly from Emerald City: The Point click here