While the number of people in need of long-term care in Toronto is set to grow drastically over the next decade, long-term care facility owners and operators in the city are dwindling as Downtown real estate costs soar. Similarly, opportunities for new affordable housing seem few and far between. Rekai Centres have joined Options for Homes to develop a vacant site at 55 Eastern Avenue on the southwest corner with Cherry Street in the West Don Lands, into the 10-storey long-term care ‘Rekai Centre’, alongside a dedicated affordable ownership condominium tower of up to 200 units to be called 'Cherry Place'. The joint venture, designed by Montgomery Sisam Architects and Architecture Unfolded, seeks to ‘bring much needed long-term care beds and affordable housing back into the City’s downtown core’, and is slated for completion by late 2021. 

Site Plan for Rekai Centre and Cherry Place, image via Architecture Unlimited

The West Don Lands, with the Distillery District on its west side, Eastern Avenue to its north, and the Don Valley on its eastern perimeter, has long been a redevelopment site. Following the 2015 Pan American Games whereupon some the area was developed to house athletes throughout the games, the ‘conversion’ of the site into a new community began taking place, quickly redeveloping into a diverse mixed-use neighbourhood. According to Waterfront Toronto, ‘Excellence in the design of public and private buildings, infrastructure (streets, bridges, promenades), parks and public spaces’ are the guiding forces in the area’s redevelopment, with a view to promoting quality and beauty, in the previously industrial, urban brownfield. 

Proposed Rekai Centre and Cherry Place Development, West Don Lands, image via Architecture Unlimited

Elevations of Rekai Centre and Cherry Place condominium, image via Architecture Unfolded

Rekai Centres, who have been pursuing the waterfront site over the past several years, hope this development with Options for Homes will mark an important step towards progressive city building, setting an example worldwide. These images and diagrams were prepared for a recent Design Review Panel meeting and reflect an early concept for the development.

Rendering looking south along Cherry Street, image via Architecture Unfolded

The proponents see the future of their proposed development as a community hub for the young and quickly developing West Don Lands, addressing not just the current demand for affordable housing in the area, but also the increasing demands for long-term care beds in the future. In Ontario, nearly 80,000 residents live in long-term care homes. The province has increased its funding for long term care over the past decade, with more than $4.14 billion in its coffers as of this year. 

The numbers of people requiring and set to require long-term care in Toronto are staggering. The GTA currently houses an estimated 30,000 people suffering from Dementia, and that number is forecasted to increase to 70,000 by 2030. As eight long-term care homes in Toronto are threatening to close, demand is greater than ever. (Rekai is looking into picking up more licenses for long-term care pending the threatened closures.) CBC News reported back in October that these closures would result in the loss of up to 1,300 long-term beds, a disconcerting prospect for the city.

Rendering of Rekai Centre south facing elevation, image via Architecture Unfolded

For people to  ‘age in place’ is among the key guiding principles for the Cherry Place Rekai Centre—a notion strongly advocated for by the Government of Canada, believing that Canadians should enjoy the ability to live and pass in the comfort of their own homes, and their own communities. Rekai and Options for Homes want to bring that possibility here. 

The development concept consists of a 10-storey mid-rise building dedicated to long-term care patients, and a 29-storey tower specifically designated as affordable residential units. As detailed in our previous coverage of the proposed Rekai Centre back in June, the development is set to include approximately 224 long-term beds in the mid-rise, and about 180 affordable housing units in the tower. Two bridges for residents and staff would connect the buildings, located on floors with amenity spaces. 

Elevations of Rekai Centre and Cherry Place condominium, image via Architecture Unfolded

A marked upgrade from the current Rekai facility at 345 Sherbourne Street (developed in 1988), the Rekai Centre would be a 'state of the art facility', committed to servicing the needs of its residents, while affording them the autonomy, the living conditions, and the surrounding public realm necessary to carry on living normally. Residents will be provided with a modern, comfortable environment to support a higher quality of life, with private rooms, affordable units, and intensive and specialized care services targeted towards seniors and families. Additionally, the development is situated so as to be within walking distance of a number of future public transit routes, including a new street car route with service to and from Union Station, as well as a proposed future subway relief line. 

Rendering of south west view of Cherry Place condominium, image via Architecture Unfolded

The proposed programming of the Rekai Centre seeks to ease pressure on hospitals to accommodate long-term care patients—a reality that is already overwhelming hospital space in the GTA, while providing in-need residents’ access to 24 hour staffing and affordable housing options. A number of care services, including a focus on Palliative Care in the proposed development, will allow residents to live and pass away at home, instead of hospital beds. A medical walk-in clinic outfitted with offices, labs, and an X-ray clinic has been proposed on the site, as well as dialysis beds (to ‘support residents requiring hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis’) to make the Rekai Centre at Cherry Place Ontario’s only long-term care home offering such a specialized dementia unit. Rekai and Options for Homes have committed at least 2 floors (60 beds) to residents living with dementia. 

Rendering of courtyard/corridor between Rekai Centre and Cherry Place, image via Architecture Unfolded

A range of amenities have been proposed alongside and within the development. Indoor amenity space in the residential tower has been proposed at the mouths of two of the connecting bridges on the seventh and thirteenth floors. An outdoor roof terrace on the seventh floor of the long-term care mid-rise, as well as a roof garden for long-term care patients and residents on the tenth floor roof of the mid-rise were included in the architectural renderings provided by Montgomery Sisam. At grade, a central corridor/courtyard between both structures, a bistro at the corner of Front and Cherry, as well as a daycare and a number of other medical clinics and services will outfit the Centre with the kinds of community oriented facilities needed for senior and family occupants of the Centre. These amenities, among other retail spaces to be confirmed at grade, intend to promote public realm usage, and promote residents to socialize outside the confines of their rooms. 

Green roof plan for Rekai Centre and Cherry Place, image via Architecture Unlimited

Rekai Centres underlines that these plans are very preliminary and do not reflect any changes that may result from a robust community consultation process. Over the next few months, in partnership with Waterfront Toronto, the developers will be consulting with neighbours "to ensure that this development reflects and contributes to the surrounding community in the best possible way considering their needs and desires." The plans as prepared for the Design Review Panel meeting may change before they are presented to the public for comment.

We'll return with further information on this proposal as progress is made in the planning process. For now, you can get better acquainted with the plans or check out developer profiles by visiting the database file for Cherry Place, linked below, or join in on the conversation via our associated forum thread.

EDIT: This article was republished with comment from the Rekai Centres and Options for Homes.

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