As the way we live and the way we view land use in our cities has been changing over the last few years, the owners of plazas and shopping malls have been gearing up to make better use of their land. Choice Properties, Canada's largest real estate investment trust—or REIT—has been actively developing their portfolio over the last few years. Mostly owning retail properties from coast to coast, they are typically anchored by a Loblaws, No Frills, or another affiliated brand of grocery store and typically feature surface parking. That's been the case with most recent two Choice proposals we covered—at 25 Photography Drive in York and 720 Broadview in Riverdale—but not at another Choice property, this one at 685 Warden Avenue in Scarborough, where Choice is proposing to develop a vacant brownfield site.

Site plan of 685 Warden, designed by Turner Fleischer Architects for Choice Properties REIT

On the east side of Warden Avenue, 350 metres from the Warden subway station entrance, the 2.63 ha site has been vacant for at least 17 years, and was previously home to a single-storey office/industrial building. To the north at 689 Warden is a single-storey commercial-light industrial building with multiple tenants, to the east is a subdivision of single family homes, and to the south at 681 Warden is a single-storey self storage building: this is the land wide-open suburbia… but served by a subway station. Further south at 673 Warden and beyond is more recent development from the late 2000s and early 2010s where another former industrial site became a nursing home, multi-family housing in stacked townhomes, and a bank branch: this is the direction that redevelopment in the area is taking, and closer to the subway station—and now into the 2020s—both the municipality and the landowners now treat sites close to rapid transit with more respect for the value of the land, and that means maximizing the opportunity for more homes on the subway line.

Looking north to 685 Warden, designed by Turner Fleischer Architects for Choice Properties REIT

Working with the opportunity to develop a currently vacant site, Joe Svec, Vice President of Development and Planning at Choice told us “In developing the masterplan, our first priority was to deeply engrain potential public transit connections into the plan, which would serve the current and future residents of this area. From there, the site was organized to deliver parkland on-site, create incredible open space opportunities, and provide much needed housing near Warden Subway Station.” 

Here, Choice is proposing six buildings, three on either side of a central east-west axis, with moderate heights along Warden Avenue (similar in scale to an existing adjacent apartment building across Warden to the southwest), higher buildings in the centre of the site, and lower buildings that terrace down to the existing low-rise residential area to the east at the east end of the site. Choice also proposes a quarter-hectare park along the northeastern edge of the site as a buffer between the development and the existing neighbourhood, and as a new amenity for all area residents, both current and future.

Alexis Johansen, Manager of Development and Planning at Choice Properties emphasized, "We are excited to propose an enhanced connection to transit, anchored by a public park, leading to Warden Subway Station. The green path was designed to be well programmed, well lit, and a beautiful public link for all residents to experience."

Looking north to the proposed park at 685 Warden, designed by Turner Fleischer Architects for Choice Properties REIT

Here, Choice engaged Turner Fleischer Architects, DTAH, and Bousfields to envision the plan. Russell Fleischer, Principal at  Turner Fleischer Architects told us "Our intent from the outset of our design process was to create an iconic new community with a strong visual identity. This site provides great opportunity to redefine this section of Warden Avenue by using this development to establish strong links to the existing residential neighbourhoods to the east and the great green spaces of Taylor Massey Creek: for this reason we have purposefully created a central green spine that connects Massey Taylor Creek to the new park we have placed on the east of the site.”

Bounded by a new public street along the southern, eastern, and northern edges of the site (other than the park which is outside the new road), six towers would rise to 19 and 22 storeys facing Warden, 33 and 36 storeys in the middle of the site, and 13 storeys each that are terraced down to the east. A north-south private road is proposed between the middle and easternmost towers. East-west through the site, a POPS (Privately Owned Publicly accessible Space) is proposed with a somewhat meandering central pedestrian path, slowly rising from ground level at Warden so that it bridges over the north-south private road.

Looking east to 685 Warden, designed by Turner Fleischer Architects for Choice Properties REIT

The pedestrian path then passes under a bridge of units that connect the two terraced towers at the east end of site, before gently descending to ground level again. The somewhat unique landscape arrangement gives texture to an otherwise fairly flat site while helping foster a sense of place, identifiably different from other developments.

Looking west to 685 Warden, designed by Turner Fleischer Architects for Choice Properties REIT

Sense of place is also fostered through uniquely shaped balconies that project into the central space from each building, the buildings all having particular ranges of colour painted on the undersides of the balconies. Best seen in the image below, the northwestern tower's balconies are underpainted in yellows, oranges, and reds, while the southwestern tower's balconies are underpainted in greens and yellows.

Looking east to 685 Warden, designed by Turner Fleischer Architects for Choice Properties REIT

Choice aims to bring 1,519 residential units to the site in 120,010m² of residential Gross Floor Area in a mix of 928 one-bedroom and one-plus-den units (61%), 452 two-bedroom units (30%), and 139 three-bedroom units (9%). All within walking distance—or a one-stop bus ride—of Warden subway station, pedestrians in this transit-oriented development would pass by 993m² of retail units at the base of the buildings facing Warden. Parking is proposed as 833 resident spaces, 160 visitor spaces, and 3 retail spaces. Residents would have 1,369 bicycle parking spaces provided for them, while 152 bicycle parking spaces would be provided for visitors. The FSI of the proposal is 4.6 times the lot area.

Looking north to 685 Warden, designed by Turner Fleischer Architects for Choice Properties REIT

You can learn more from our Database file for the project, linked below. If you'd like, you can join in on the conversation in the associated Project Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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Related Companies:  Choice Properties REIT, COUNTERPOINT ENGINEERING, Turner Fleischer Architects