Steeped in a rich history of craftsmanship and a flourishing maker culture, Toronto's Castlefield Design District stands on the brink of transformative change. With its direct adjacency to the York Beltline Trail and the upcoming Caledonia TTC and GO interchange station, an assembly at the intersection of Bowie Avenue and Caledonia Road is set to host Beltline Yards, Hullmark's inaugural master-planned community, being developed in collaboration with BGO.
UrbanToronto spoke with Jeff Hull, President of Hullmark, and Charles Arbez, Director of Development. Both provided insights into the multi-phased project.
“This represents a new phase in the evolution of Hullmark. Going forward, we will be much more focused on larger scale, residential and mixed-use projects,” Hull explained.
"This project is really about creating a true mixed-use development," shared Arbez. "It juxtaposes industrial maker space with parkland and residential areas right next to a very rare confluence of transportation and linear park options." Arbez also explained that all buildings on the site are being designed to be climate controlled through a sustainable geothermal energy system, an indication of the developers' cutting-edge environmental goals for the site. As the design progresses, other district energy opportunities, like sewer heat recovery, will be explored.
The master plan, crafted by London, England-based Allies and Morrison, takes full advantage of its unique surroundings: “bringing in” the York Beltline Trail into the site with a central park while also allowing for retail and commercial activity to directly front onto the existing trail, which Hullmark and BGO are proposing to improve with input from the City.
“The idea is to allow for surprises and buildings with no ‘backs’,” says Arbez. “Visitors, residents, tenants, and anyone using the York Beltline Trail will be able to stumble upon a coffee shop, grocery, brewpub, or workshop directly on the trail before carrying on their way.” Hullmark and BGO have taken inspiration from the already established and successful Atlanta Beltline Trail and hope to recreate that model in Toronto.
The design of the project, crafted around a “spaces first, buildings second” approach from Allies and Morrison, showcases a mix of structures totalling approximately 1.7 million ft² (157,935m²), of which 1.4 million (130,064m²) is residential, 300,000 (27,870m²) is light industrial/commercial employment and 10,000 (929m²) is community space. It envisions four primary blocks with 1,946 units featuring condominiums and rentals, with the exact mix still to be determined. These structures will vary in height, ranging from 5 to 42 storeys. The architecture of the buildings is intended to reflect Toronto's 19th- and 20th-century factories, which Allies and Morrison completed a detailed survey on.
Beltline Yards' approach to master planning has allowed for 50% of the ground plane to be publicly accessible open space and maximises access points to the York Beltline Trail. Helmed by SvN, the landscape and public realm design blends public and private spaces together and is interspersed with multiple “yards” which allow for flexible programming and multiple gathering spots throughout the site.
“We want the commercial users to have the ability to have their activities ‘spill out’ into the public realm and interact with everything else going on” explains Arbez.
The internal street is designed to be as pedestrian oriented as possible when it comes to its width, accessibility and materials and to also allow for programming to occur during off days within the right of way, rather than always being dedicated to vehicles.
Central to the plan is the over 40,000 ft² (3,716m²) public park, which directly connects to the York Beltline Trail and features a sunken amphitheatre centered around a retained chimney, allowing for activation opportunities around the structure. This is part of the sites’ “dual heart” design, which places a large community space at grade on the north side of the park with full southern exposure to the open area.
The site currently houses several commercial enterprises, with Canada Goose’s manufacturing facility being the most prominent. Hullmark and BGO are actively communicating with their existing tenants and intends for no disruption to Canada Goose’s operations.
Furthermore, Beltline Yards aims to energize the neighbourhood by providing a hub for the Canadian maker community, fostering an environment for creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs. "This area already possesses a fascinating identity," Hull observed. "We aim to build and enhance this identity through the uses we integrate into the site." The goal is to align Beltline Yards' design and uses with the Castlefield Design District, integrating the project with its surroundings, while also bolstering its potential.
The site's location a short walk from the soon-to-open Caledonia interchange station on the Eglinton Line 5 Crosstown LRT and the GO Transit Barrie line puts it within a Major Transit Station Area (MTSA), and further amplifies its unique connectivity: this transit hub will provide access to Union station in 12 minutes and Pearson Airport in half an hour. The design has accommodated for this by incorporating a “station square” at the southwest corner of the site to connect directly to the York Beltline Trail, but also Metrolinx’s planned direct connection to the GO platform.
“This area is going to be transformed into one of the best-connected neighbourhoods in the country and the project itself will help reframe the mental map of the city of Toronto,” explains Arbez. “You will be able to take a train directly downtown in 12-minutes, or to the Bloor subway in 6-minutes, or anywhere along Eglinton on the LRT, all while utilizing the York Beltline Trail for cycling, walking or running. The options for transportation here are quite unique.”
The site plan also includes 487 vehicular parking spaces, mainly underground, spanning two levels. Additionally, some surface parking around the periphery is envisioned to cater to showroom uses.
Beltline Yards is also going all in on cycling infrastructure to support the York Beltline Trail. A substantial 2,776 bicycle parking spaces are planned, mostly stored within large underground bicycle mezzanines, which take advantage of the site’s grade change rather than designing cramped bicycle storage rooms. The York Beltline Trail itself is a vital green artery in Toronto, spanning 9 km and winds its way through parks, ravines, and between residential neighbourhoods. It already provides a safe and eco-friendly transportation alternative for pedestrians and cyclists, however, Hullmark and BGO are hoping to expand that connectivity further throughout the city.
“Our hope is to have Beltline Yards be a conduit to create a much larger and more cohesive cycling network through the York Beltline Trail and other paths in the city, allowing for housing and commercial options along the trail system,” says Arbez. “With successful precedents in places like Alanta, the opportunity here for healthy transportation, but also housing options, economic development, and tourism, while preserving ravines and parkland, is immense.”
Following a land use conversion request approved by City Council in 2022, Hullmark and BGO are continuing their work with the City of Toronto on the zoning approval and have also conducted two pre-application community consultations, employing a VR headset to provide attendees with a virtual tour of the site.
“The feedback we have been able to gather from community members has been invaluable to us as we refine the design of the public realm and the programming” Arbez stated. “We have collected a lot of great ideas and have heard the excitement that this community has for what the project will bring when fully built.”
The first phase of the project is targeted to break ground in 2026. For more information, visit the official website.
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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