In the face of the Greater Toronto Area’s escalating housing crisis, a once-rare tool for rezoning land has jumped to the forefront of late: the Minister's Zoning Order (MZO). If granted, it offers a path for fast-tracking housing developments, but not without controversy. In Brampton, Condor Properties Ltd has submitted a request to the Government of Ontario for an MZO to redevelop 545 Steeles Avenue West, and they're looking for an endorsement of the request from  Brampton's City Council.

Looking south to 545 Steeles Avenue West, designed by Arcadis Canada for Condor Properties Ltd

MZOs, which are unappealable, work by rezoning a piece of land without the application having to go through the standard planning review that all other development applications do. The tool was set up years ago to expedite projects deemed to be of provincial interest, and while MZOs were used extremely rarely at first, they have been used more frequently of late, with the current housing crisis being held up as the need for haste in passing certain applications, to get more housing built more quickly.

Critics argue that by undermining local planning processes and public consultation, MZOs effectively sidestep the voices of local communities and municipalities, potentially compromising the environment, and that this top-down approach to zoning can lead to developments that are out of sync with the needs of the community. Concerns have been raised about the potential for MZOs to be used in ways that favour developers over the broader public interest.

Looking southwest from McLaughlin Road to the current site, image retrieved from Google Street View

Located in Brampton’s Fletcher’s Creek South neighbourhood, 545 Steeles Avenue West is about 19,300m² in area. The parcel is on the southwest corner of Steeles Avenue West and McLaughlin Road South. Currently, it is occupied by a single-storey commercial plaza featuring a commercial building and two standalone buildings with surface parking between them all. Across McLaughlin Road to the east is Sheridan College's sprawling Davis Campus.

Looking southeast from Steeles Avenue West to the current site, image retrieved from Google Street View

The proposal references a report presented to Brampton's Planning and Development Committee in June, 2022 recommending a framework to use for MZO requests. It includes criteria such as providing a direct public good and consulting the affected municipality and key stakeholders.

The design by Arcadis — the Amsterdam-based global firm that acquired Toronto-based IBI Group in Fall 2022 — is intended to overhaul the site with four blocks and a public park. Condor Properties Ltd have cited the new grocery store, public park, and public realm in the design as part of their reasoning for the request, in addition to proposed stakeholder engagements with First Nations, the surrounding neighbourhood, and the nearby Sheridan College campus.

A diagram of the blocks and POPS for 545 Steeles Avenue West, image from submission to City of Brampton

The blocks would include five buildings ranging from 8 to 35 storeys and heights from 34m to 117m. Some terracing in the designs of the podiums would transition the heights down to the neighbouring low-rise neighbourhoods. (Mid-rise apartment buildings are the neighbours to the south.) In total, the design envisions 1,227 new residential units for the area.

An aerial view of 545 Steeles Avenue West facing west, designed by Arcadis Canada for Condor Properties Ltd

Upon completion, the entire project would have a total gross floor area of 97,131m² and a density of 5.01 FSI. The indoor amenities are set to total 2,910m² in size. The 2,479m² of outdoor amenities would include a POPS (Privately Owned Publicly accessible Space).

The proposal includes 1,560 parking spaces, with 1,227 spaces for residents and 333 spaces for short-term residential use. In addition, the bicycle rooms would house 752 spots, with 616 for long-term residential use and 136 for short-term use.

An aerial view of the site and surrounding area, image retrieved from Google Maps

The MZO request for 545 Steeles West is part of a significant move in the GTA’s development industry that argues that this is the best way to address the housing crisis. With MZOs likely to play an increasingly prominent role in shaping Toronto's landscape, the question is what we will gain and lose from their far more frequent use.

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:  Arcadis, Bousfields