It's almost here. Toronto's Canary District will be welcoming its first residents and retailers in April, with the Cherry Street gates set to open to the public late this month. Ahead of the big reveal, we toured the former Pan Am Athletes village with DundeeKilmer President Jason Lester, taking in the street-level experience and the final stages of construction. 

DundeeKilmer President Jason Lester, image by Jack Landau

Beginning at the Cherry Street gate—framed by handsomely restored red-brick heritage buildings—we emerge onto the Front Street Promenade. A grand pedestrian space, the almost 400-metre promenade will be the 35-acre neighbourhood's central artery. Featuring a wide pedestrian plaza on either side of the narrow two-lane street, the promenade is already outfitted with landscaping, outdoor furniture, and public art. 

Tadashi Kawabata's 'Lamppost,' image by Jack Landau

Two prominent art installations draw the eye on the north side of the promenade. Tadashi Kawabata's 'Lamppost,' a chaotic tower of diversely sourced lighting fixtures, uses lampposts—a common element of many geographies and eras—to create a playful tangle of infrastructure. Slightly to the east, 'The Water Guardians' stands as a somewhat friendlier presence on the streetscape, with a padded children's play area surrounding the bright blue sculpture. 

Looking west across 'The Water Guardians' and the expansive Front Street Promenade, image by Jack Landau

"We also wanted to be careful about the type of retail we bring in," Lester tells us, describing a fine-grained retail strategy with a focus on health-oriented retailers. "All GTA-based businesses," the retailers were secured through DundeeKilmer's partnership with LiveWorkLearnPlay Inc., with the goal of fostering a healthy and dynamic community. "We're been careful about the type of tenants we secure," Lester explains, describing a multi-step process to find the best independent retailers for the area. "Retail candidates were evaluated on the quality of their business case, and on how well we thought they would serve the community." 

The double-height retail space at Canary Park Condos' southwest corner will house Pizza e Pazzi, image by Jack Landau

"Four new retailers have been announced recently," Lester adds, with Gears Bike Shop, Sukhothai, Tori's Bakeshop, and East Side Meats set to open in the coming months. The new retailers will join the previously announced Dark Horse Espresso Bar, Fuel Plus, OpusGlow Concept Spa, Pizza e Pazzi (their location is shown above above), Think Fitness Studio, and The Running Room.  

At Canary Park Condos' southeast corner, Gears Bike Shop will be the first retailer to open, image by Jack Landau

The first retailer to open will be Gears Bike Shop (above), which targets a mid-April opening "to take full advantage of the cycling season." Throughout the Spring and early Summer, other retailers will join the neighbourhood, with 80% of the Phase 1 retail space—totalling some 30,000 ft²—now rented. Other retailers (not yet announced) are slowly being filled in, though DudeeKilmer and LiveWorkPlay stress the selectiveness of the process, ensuring that each new tenant fits both the neighbourhood context and the healthy living retail philosophy. 

A row of future retail frontages along the Front Street promenade, image by Jack Landau

Our tour also included a visit to the Cooper Koo YMCA. which is now being retrofitted from a Pan Am venue to a community facility. The 82,000 ft² complex "will be among the largest YMCA facilities" in the region, with administrative spaces and a community programming areas now being installed to replace the temporary Pan Am facilities.

The YMCA swimming pools are set to become a hub for the community, image by Jack Landau

The two swimming pools have recently been filled in anticipation of the first visitors, with the basketball court and second-level running track also nearly ready for an influx of Toronto's recreational athletes. 

Finishing touches are being added to the gym/basketball court, image by Jack Landau

Alongside the YMCA, a new George Brown residence is also joining the area, with the influx of students expected to significantly enliven the new neighbourhood. The 500-bed facility will bring a student presence to the area, adding a youthful vibrancy to the former Pan Am Athletes Village. 

The George Brown College residence, image by Jack Landau

Continuing east along the Promenade, we reach the KPMB and Page + Steele / IBI Group-designed Canary Park Condos, taking in one of the development's first finished suites. With interiors appointed by Studio Munge, the 2 bedroom + den 1,067 ft² 'BB' suite features a spacious open-concept living/dining space, with a panoramic view of the Don Valley to the east.

The living/dining area, image by Jack Landau

"During the Pan Am games, the kitchens and floors were left unfinished," Lester explains, "A thin, temporary membrane was installed for flooring at the time," he explains, adding that the installation of floors and kitchen following the Games "lets residents have brand-new interiors when they move in."

The kitchen features in-built stainless steel appliances, image by Jack Landau

Overlooking the 18-acre Corktown Common below, our tour through the model suite gives us an aerial view of the highly celebrated Michael van Valkenburg-designed park. The park—which provides flood protection to the area—is notable for its wealth of public programming and its carefully chosen plantings, all of which are native to Southern Ontario. "Together with the promenade, it's going to be an important and family-friendly public space for the neighbourhood," Lester notes, explaining that providing ample outdoor space was an important priority in the Canary District's development.

A view of Corktown Common from the 'BB' suite, image by Jack Landau

Gazing out over the neighbourhood from one of Canary Park Condos' unfinished west-facing Penthouse suites, a panorama of the city unfolds across the horizon. Below us, however, the Canary District's pedestrian promenade and collection of green roofs also draw the eye, with impressive coverage—substantially exceeding the City's 20% requirement—across the neighbourhood's buildings.

The Canary District seen from a Canary Park penthouse (looking west), image by Jack Landau

"The whole Canary District targets LEED Gold certification," Lester explains, "and our goal was to build one of the most sustainable communities in North America." Alongside LEED Gold certification, the entire community is designed to meet Tier 2 of Toronto's Green Standards, a notable feat for individual developments and a very ambitious target for an entire master-planned community. 

One of the community's many green roofs, image by Jack Landau

Featuring predominantly two-bedroom suites (as opposed to the one-bedroom units that dominate most new development), Lester describes the Canary District as an "end-user dominated community," with most of the buyers set to be tenants rather than investors. While many developments feature a wealth of investor-friendly one-bedroom units, the Canary District is dominated by larger—and arguably more livable—suites.

Looking west towards Block 15 (front) and George Brown, image by Jack Landau

Alongside the Canary District's market-rate condominiums, two of the area's buildings will be turned over to the Fred Victor Mission and the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC), bringing much-needed new affordable housing to the neighbourhood. Located north of the Front Street Promenade and just east of the YMCA, the Block 3 and 15 (above) buildings will add to the City's supply of affordable homes. Meanwhile, Blocks 12, 13, and 16 will be built out with market-rate units as part of a later phase. 

More development is coming the area over the next few years, image by Jack Landau

Built on land overseen by Waterfront Toronto, DundeeKilmer has created a new neighbourhood with their team of partners including George Brown College, Toronto Community Housing, the YMCA, architectural practices architectsAllianceKPMB ArchitectsDaoust LestageMacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, landscape architects The Planning Partnership and Michael Van Valkenburg Associates, as well as builders EllisDon and Ledcor PAAV

'The Water Guradians' features a padded play area for kids, image by Jack Landau

Although still sealed off the public at the time of our visit, the Canary District is already showing signs of an impressive pedestrian realm, with the promenade and retail program likely to become highlights of the area. We will keep you updated as the gates open and the first residents and visitors begin to inhabit the new neighbourhood. In the meantime, make sure to check out our associated dataBase files for more information! Want to share your thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment in the space at the bottom of this page, or join in the ongoing conversation in one of our associated Forum threads. 

Related Companies:  architects—Alliance, Baker Real Estate Incorporated, Dream Unlimited, EllisDon, LiveRoof Ontario Inc, Snaile Inc.