The redevelopment of Newtonbrook Plaza, on Yonge Street at Cummer Avenue in North York, has been on UrbanToronto's radar for several years now. The 8.6-acre property currently represents a gap in the wall of intensified development that has been marching north from the 401 over the last couple of decades, changing the nature of Yonge Street from a low-rise 1950s and 60s Toronto suburban dream strip into the high-rise corridor we know today as North York City Centre.
UrbanToronto's thread for the site starts on October 6, 2011, a day after the then owners of the site submitted an application to rezone the property for the type of development being seen elsewhere strip. Without a decision made by Council—long past the 180-day limit imposed for Official Plan Amendment applications—the proposal went before the OMB in September, 2015, and was approved the following year. Subsequently, on November 1, 2017 it was noted that Aoyuan Property Holdings had purchased the property, and now the company—its parent based in Guangzhou, China, and listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange—is ready to announce its arrival in Toronto.
Aoyuan has been around since 1996, and were the first developer in China to integrate sports and recreation facilities into primarily residential projects. Embodying the idea that healthy living starts at home, Aoyuan's Olympic Garden development was sports-themed, and as endorsed by the International Olympic Committee, set a new standard for master-planned communities in China. Growing from their home base of Guangzhou, Aoyuan over the last 20 years has built over 200 million square feet of space in 100 properties, both primarily residential and commercial, in over 30 cities. Aoyuan operates six arms which range from e-commerce to hospitality, including a chocolate theme park within a vast Aoyuan resort destination nestled in the mountains to the north of China's bustling Pearl River Delta megalopolis. They first went international in Sydney, Australia in 2015, and are now building in Vancouver and Burnaby, British Columbia.
In Toronto, Aoyuan is arriving with an ambitious project, as the 8.6-acre Newtonbrook site at over $200 million was one of the largest real estate deals of 2017 in the city. Vince Santino, Senior Vice President of Development (Eastern Canada) at Aoyuan Property Holdings (Canada) Ltd., said in a prepared statement, "Aoyuan’s entry into Toronto is very exciting news for the development community. Aoyuan brings a unique approach to the way we think about the built environment and real estate. Building healthy lifestyle communities was part of their DNA from the beginning. Aoyuan knows real estate is not only about giving people a two or three-bedroom unit. They have a corporate intelligence about the way people live which gets baked into their master-plans.” Santino brings 25 years of experience in Toronto’s real estate development industry to Aoyuan.
A few blocks north of the Finch subway, GO Bus, and YRT terminal, the project is the company's largest master-planned community in the country. Zoning is in place for residential towers as high as 44 storeys rising from podiums which will include a community centre, daycare, retail at ground level, and 180,000 sq ft of office space. Answering the City's call to provide more homes for families, Aoyuan is planning larger suites of various shapes and sizes. Accordingly, land along the eastern edge of the site facing a stable low-rise neighbourhood—currently surface parking—will be turned into a park and playground.
Last year Aoyuan surpassed $9 billion in sales, so they're doing something right: their promotional material puts it like this:
Fundamental to Aoyuan’s international success is their hyperlocal on-the-ground approach. In every city, Aoyuan hand-picks local talent who understand the development landscape and nuances of the local market. As a result, Aoyuan’s international portfolio is diverse and their projects are wildly successful with local purchasers.
Josie Arcella, Sr. Sales & Marketing Manager (Eastern Canada), Aoyuan Property Holdings (Canada) Ltd. said in a prepared statement, “The magnitude of what Aoyuan has accomplished is incredibly diverse and this gives them a very broad perspective. Aoyuan takes into consideration exactly how purchasers will be affected by every decision they make. Can they move around freely in their bedroom, can they fit a Queen bed? Is a walk-in closet most functional? Aoyuan’s designs are not based solely on global trends, but on the functionality of the entire community and what buyers really need.”
The statement by Fan Yang, Deputy General Manager (Eastern Canada), Aoyuan Property Holdings (Canada) Ltd., reads, “Aoyuan’s diverse business arms allowed them to develop a deep understanding of people’s lifestyles and behaviours and build a strong service-oriented approach to real estate development. I am excited to be part of the local team that is bringing Aoyuan’s expertise to Toronto. The Newtonbrook Plaza site at Yonge and Finch has all the right ingredients, and Aoyuan has what it takes to help make Toronto more liveable for families.”
We do not yet know if the Wallman Architects-designed master-plan for the site (above) which took it through the rezoning process will be carried through, or to what degree it may be modified, but we will be back to elaborate further on the development as more details become available. In the meantime, to see more renderings of the Wallman design, please visit our database file for the Newtonbrook Redevelopment, linked below. Want to talk about it? You can get in on the conversation in the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.
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