Late in July, a proposal was submitted to the City that would permanently change the fabric of the Malvern neighbourhood in Northeast Toronto, setting the low-rise suburban borough on the path towards urbanization. The proposal would see the creation of a master-planned, multi-tower community developed incrementally over the following decades on the site of the Malvern Town Centre shopping mall, eventually resulting in the demolition and redevelopment of the mall into a complex of 13 mixed-use towers. Davpart are the developers behind the large-scale project, working with IBI Group to proceed on the first phase of development. 

Northwest facing view shows two towers making up first phase of proposed development, image courtesy of Davpart

With applications for Zoning By-law Amendment (ZBA) and Official Plan Amendment (OPA) already submitted, UrbanToronto sat down with the project’s planner, Andrew Ferancik, Principal at WND Associates, to discuss the details of bringing a master-planned community to life. 

“I see it as a big opportunity on a large mixed-use site to realize what could be a really interesting mixed-use community,” Ferancik said. “Being the town centre, it has the opportunity to be a catalyst for the urbanization of this area.”

How a master-planned community begins is similar to any development. It starts with a plan that is thorough, and researched, and over time that plan is put into effect. However, with a development of this scale, Ferancik explained that a level of foresight is imperative. With 10 phases of development outlined in the proposal over a span of 20 to 30 years, the OPA establishes the guidelines that future construction will adhere to. 

Northeast facing aerial view shows all 13 proposed towers on site, image from submission to City of Toronto

“None of us have a crystal ball,” Ferancik said, when asked about how he approaches planning decades in advance. “We do our best to look forward and anticipate what the needs of tomorrow will be, and that’s why we set the framework for the master plan based on what we know today.” These known facts are the building blocks for long term planning, and for this development, Ferancik has several to work with. 

To begin with, the development has been conceived within the guidelines of policies like the City’s Growth Plan, that sets targets for increasing density. But what Ferancik finds more promising for the project is the impending expansion of high-speed transit, connecting Malvern Town Centre with the rest of the City’s rapid transit network via the Eglinton East LRT extension. 

With this significant infrastructure project on the horizon, Ferancik explained that orienting the development towards transit was the foundation of the proposal. “Where you actually have that major investment of rapid transit which we see here with the LRT, it’s incredibly important to get it right and to set the tone.”

Northwest facing view shows two towers making up first phase of proposed development, image courtesy of Davpart

What makes it so important however isn’t simply the convenience of getting around, it’s the evolution of an area from suburb to city. “Transit-oriented development almost always strives to add a higher density,” Ferancik said. “It strives to create an urban environment, a place that looks and feels like a city.” In his mind, this means being a place that is walkable, bikeable, and accessible without encouraging auto-dependency. 

One of the major challenges the project will face on its path to construction is earning the support of a community that doesn’t want to lose their mall. “I can guarantee there will be a sense of reluctance,” Ferancik said. “This is not a community that has seen a lot of development happen in recent decades, so we’re very much on the ground floor.” Understanding this reluctance, and being open to discourse with the community is how he hopes to move forward. “There will be a lot of consultation to inform the public,” he said.  “And I think there’s a huge opportunity through informed discussions for community members to have meaningful input.”

In the pursuit of city building, processes like this are not unfamiliar on Toronto’s periphery. Ferancik explained that as a resident of North York Centre, he experienced the impacts of the urban transformation firsthand. Looking at what worked in his community, he concluded that “you have to embrace densities. It’s a hard pill to swallow for those that have lived in the community for decades, but it is a critical part of how the region has to accommodate growth.”

With that in mind however, Ferancik restated that the project has no intention of tearing the mall down all at once. Phase one, which will see the construction of two towers reaching 39 and 32 storeys, requires no demolition at all, as it is to be built above a portion of the surface parking lot; it also won’t require the removal of a significant number of available spaces. “In that respect, it’s a great clean slate to do the first phase of development,” Ferancik said. 

Ground level view of walkway between phase 1 towers leading to LRT station, image courtesy of Davpart

With a compelling design from IBI Group, the first buildings will also be located closest to the future LRT station, and kickstart the relationship between two infrastructure projects that will continue to evolve. In closing, Ferancik expressed an overall sense of excitement. Speaking in simple terms, he said “it’s an opportunity to bring urbanity to an area that currently lacks it.”

UrbanToronto will continue to follow progress on this development, but in the meantime, you can learn more about it from our Database file, 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:  Counterpoint Engineering, IBI Group, RWDI Consulting Engineers and Scientists, STUDIO tla, WND Associates Ltd