Last week, Toronto’s commercial real estate community got together for Dive in with Developers, a charity fundraiser for Sick Kids Hospital. The event featured a panel of industry leaders who provided their insights on projects they were working on, challenges to development in Toronto, and where they thought the industry was going. 

Dr Elizabeth Kerr reads an emotional letter from a student at the Epilepsy Classroom, image by Ryan Debergh

The event raised over $40,000 for the Epilepsy Classroom at SickKids, an initiative that provides an educational environment tailored to the needs of children with epilepsy. Dr. Elizabeth Kerr, Director of the Epilepsy Classroom spoke to the challenges that children with epilepsy face in a typical classroom environment, such as unique learning needs, bullying, and staggering rates of mental health issues.

Panelists included Robert Cooper of Alterra Group, Stephen Price of Graywood Developments, Jane Renwick of Diamond Kilmer Developments, James Tadeson of Carttera Private Equities, and Rafael Lazer of ELAD Canada. 

From left to right: James Tadeson, Rafael Lazer, Jane Renwick, Stephen Price, Robert Cooper and Ryan Rabinovich

The panelists spoke to a number of the core issues discussed daily on the UrbanToronto Forum, including—as the event was just days after the announcement of the Ontario Government’s new transit plan—the expanded Relief Line now rebranded as the Ontario Line. The panelists took the early-phases plan with a grain of salt, but showed concern that a change in alignment from the previously approved Relief Line would affect the viability of a number of projects that were proposed to take advantage of the new transit line. 

When asked about the most difficult thing about developing in Toronto, they discussed the city’s planning constraints. Stephen Price spoke about the hinderance of NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) attitudes that make it more difficult for development to occur in certain parts of the city. Panelists also spoke about a comprehensive re-zoning process that needs to take place to bring zoning by-laws more in line with the future development of the city, noting that many of the sites situated adjacent the Crosstown LRT are not zoned for transit-oriented development. Robert Cooper added that one of the main challenges to development is getting people to want you to develop in their neighbourhood.

When commenting on the housing affordability crisis, Jane Renwick discussed the missing middle as a highly problematic factor. The missing middle refers to a lack of middle-ground options between single family detached homes and mid-rise condominium developments. Missing middle options such as stacked townhomes and mansion apartments are housing options that fit into the urban fabric of a single-detached neighbourhood, but offer the density to support transit and businesses to make these neighbourhoods more walkable. Renwick said that Toronto has a wide separation between its high density condominium towers and single family neighbourhoods that is contributing to the lack of affordability in the city.

Finally, the panel each gave their take on which nodes—or cities—they see as having the highest potential for future development. Downtown east of Yonge, St.Clair & Old Weston Road, and Dufferin & Dupont were all mentioned as areas ripe for growth. Montreal was notably mentioned, with James Tadeson saying that their condominium market is where Toronto’s was roughly 5-10 years ago. 

The panelists present the cheque to SickKids, image by Ryan Debergh

The fundraiser was proclaimed a runaway success by organizer Ryan Rabinovich, President of Pre-Construction and Sales at PSR Brokerage, who hopes to make the event an annual affair.

Related Companies:  B+H Architects, Entuitive, Hospital for Sick Children, PCL, The Mitchell Partnership Inc., Urban Strategies Inc., Vertechs Design