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Office Space Conversions

rdaner

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There should be a place to gather the increasing number of proposals to convert commercial uses to residential, hotel and increasingly cultural/post-secondary.

Calgary just unveiled an incentive program to convert commercial to university/college space and it looks like the University of Calgary’s Architecture and Planning School is moving downtown.
 
From what I remember reading, Toronto has a legal problem when it comes to converting downtown commercial office properties to residential. There’s a law that prohibits any loss of office property in the downtown core. I forgot where I came across it but it was mentioned as one of the challenges to converting buildings over in Toronto.
 
From what I remember reading, Toronto has a legal problem when it comes to converting downtown commercial office properties to residential. There’s a law that prohibits any loss of office property in the downtown core. I forgot where I came across it but it was mentioned as one of the challenges to converting buildings over in Toronto.
I believe that's a city wide policy?

This is what you're discussing:

1704015664565.png



Its achieved mostly through the Official Plan, but may also be partially enacted in some Secondary Plans.

Council can change these for any site via an application to amend; however, Planning is unlikely to deliver significant approvals w/o a clear change in policy.

****

It does not apply to every office space in the City, but does apply to most in the core.

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Toronto has approved conversions in the past, many in fact, though these predate the above.

Conversions of office to residential occurred on both the N/E and S/E corners of Yonge and Wellesley, the S/E Corner of Yonge/Davisville, King East, just east of Yonge, south side, as well as in Thorncliffe, at the corner of Overlea/Millwood.

All of the above happened more than 20 years ago.
 
Are there cities that have done well with turning offices into homes or other uses? And what changes in Toronto's policies might help make these conversions easier, given the legal challenges?
I know that Calgary is the leader in conversions and in fact has expanded the range of uses that qualify for grants to include arts facilities and post-secondary education. For example the Architecture department for the University of Calgary is going into a renovated office tower downtown.
 
Cross posting this from its dedicated thread in the Buildings section. Will also add that a 1950s office building in central Windsor is being converted into a boutique hotel.

 

Landmark Toronto office tower granted new life as residence after special exemption​

The plan would see the former CPR building at Yonge and King streets house 127 condos along with retail and restaurant space on the lower levels.

https://www.thestar.com/real-estate...b3e4ec3748a.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=ymbii
https://www.thestar.com/real-estate...b3e4ec3748a.html?li_source=LI&li_medium=ymbii

Given the size of the old CPR office building, this conversion makes a lot of sense. I’m glad to see that some of the original details will be restored.
 

The complaint against the province for punting re-assessments since 2016 is spot on; the complaint against the City on office replacement is basically nonsense.

Whatever the City's policy is on paper, in reality the City is approving conversion/non-replacement now; and doing so, in many cases to benefit affordable housing.

Multiple projects have been approved..........as yet, none of size have gone forward. This is always a big thing for me to point out.........when developers and/or zone and flip artists say 'if only' the City got out the way, they often omit all the examples of when it has, and they did squat with the result.

As it turns out, a small number of conversions and/or non-replacements are relatively easy; but most are not. Differing requirements for residential vs office in terms of windows and elevator needs etc etc. mean that its not just a switch-flipping exercise to convert.

The G&M's only fair observation is that the City's proposed written policy isn't the right one. But the problem is not that it seeks to protect some office space for future employment need, its that it attempts a blanket rule (25% replacement) where the correct choice is to let some go entirely and keep 100% of others. But that requires one of two tracks, either a much more complex evaluation tool or..... .perish the thought, trust your City Planners to make reasonable decisions using their judgement. Just lay out some high level principles, then let things go as they go.
 
I found this interesting. On the London thread of SSP it is being said that an office building at 376 Richmond Street has been sold by court order to a numbered company. It is a smaller structure that will most likely be torn down and developed as residential. I wonder if this is going to become more common as the residential market heats up?
 

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