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"Transit City": Plans Revealed for York Region's Tallest Building
April 12, 2017
 Stefan Novakovic

North of Toronto, York Region's tallest building could reach a height of 55 storeys. Announced today, the SmartREIT and CentreCourt Developments project dubbed 'Transit City Condos' will be designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, adding 553 units of residential density to Vaughan's nascent Downtown. 

Unveiled today at an event hosted at KPMG Vaughan, the view from the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre's (VMC) first completed office tower looked out over both the neighbouring Transit City site and the soon-to-be completed TTC subway station—and adjoining bus terminal—that has catalyzed the massive, 442-acre VMC redevelopment, anchoring the city's new urban core.
Image of site plan of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre

Set to launch into sales by the early Summer, the tower's marketing will precede the December completion of the six-stop Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension, which will connect Vaughan to Downtown Toronto. As part of SmartREIT's 100-acre SmartCentres Lands at the heart of the VMC, the ambitiously scaled tower will set a conspicuous height peak for the master-planned community.

Targeting a 2020 completion date, Transit City is intended as an early centerpiece of the new Downtown. The building will join the completed KPMG hub and the upcoming 100,000 ft² YMCA/Library/PWC building—both of which are also Diamond Schmitt designs—alongside the new University Line terminus.

Located near the foot of the VMC's marquee nine-acre park (seen above) by Montreal's Claude Cormier + Associés, the tower will be home to the first BUCA-branded restaurant outside Toronto's Downtown core. The local Italian resto-bar chain will operate a 1,500 ft² 'Bar BUCA' as well as a 4,500 ft² restaurant, which will be programmed to provide a mix of offerings throughout the day, ranging from coffee and pastries to lunch, dinner, and late-night cocktails. Integrated into the glassy lobby, the bar space is designed to bring vitality to the communal area, while inviting pedestrian engagement.

While the project is designed encourage street-level vitality and—obviously—transit accessibility, much of the footprint will be occupied by above-grade parking, which will be housed in the expansive podium. As architect Donald Schmitt explained, however, the very silty, wet soil conditions would make the provision of underground parking an economic challenge. "It would be an exaggeration to call it quicksand," he explained, "but the conditions are very difficult."

To compensate for the negative street-level impacts of above-ground parking, Schmitt explained that much of the parking garage will be "wrapped in townhouse frontages," creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment. For the tower units, above, Schmitt added that "spaciousness and natural light" will be priorities, with suites exceeding the average size of Downtown's new-build condos. However, no floorplans have been released as of yet. 

For SmartREIT, plans for the urban intensification of Vaughan's new Downtown represent a drastic evolution in approach, given the company's long history in parking-dominated big box development. While the Transit City project is certainly a departure for SmartREIT, Board Chairman Mitchell Goldhar celebrated the project as a product of Ontario's successful "Greenbelt and Places to Grow legislation," touting transit-oriented density as "smart growth for the future."

For CentreCourt, meanwhile, the project presents an opportunity—and a challenge—to translate the Toronto's company's Downtown-centric approach to a very different urban context. Transit City will also feature interiors by figure3, as well as a landscaping plan by Claude Cormier that ties into the surrounding master-plan context.

Located north of Highway 7 between Jane and Highway 400, Transit City's site remains surrounded—for the moment—by a sea of surface parking and big box stores. However, the 100-acre SmartCentres Place is set to be developed with some 17 million ft² of residential, office, and retail space, organized around the marquee park.

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