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How tall can Markham go?

Panda Markham: Up against height restrictions … but just for now
April 23, 2019
Paul Barker

Lifetime Developments has massive development plans for Markham, but for now at least they are in limbo as a result of height restrictions relating to air traffic landing and taking off at nearby Buttonville Airport.

Fortunately for the company it is a long-term project and according to Brian Brown, its principle, there are two options available -- resolve a current flight path issue, which restricts buildings to a height of 20 storeys or wait until the eventual closure of the airport, which is scheduled to take place in 2023.

Lifetime is proposing five luxury towers ranging from 28 to 48 storeys in height near the intersection of Warden Ave. and Highway 7. Collectively they make up the Panda Markham initiative with a suite mix ranging from one-bedroom to three-bedroom designs.

Partners on the project include Hariri Pontarini Architects and Bousfields Inc., a community planning firm.

“We intend to make the most of the city’s existing infrastructure,” said Kate Cooper, a Bousfields partner. “The property is transit connected and pedestrian friendly and will bridge downtown Markham with local businesses.

“With retail at grade, the five towers will liven up the streetscape and provide tremendous convenience for residents.”

Brown said that Lifetime began exploring districts within the GTA where the “next great opportunities” will be two years ago and Markham stood out.

“When we looked at downtown Markham and all the other developments that were around it and also considered the fact Buttonville was going to be closing at some point in the foreseeable future -- we don’t know the exact date yet -- that would create an opportunity to have height.”

In the meantime, there is much to do, key among them, the monitoring of events at Buttonville.

Last April, Cadillac Fairview and Armadale Co. Ltd., owners of the airport land and operator Torontoair Ltd., announced that it will remain in operation for at least the next five years “due to significant delays in reaching an appropriate rezoning.”

The outlook for extensions beyond the spring of 2023, the three firms said, will be dictated by progress on approvals.

As for Panda Markham, Brown said that while it is a long-term initiative, it could end up happening sooner rather than later if there is a way to work out an exemption from the flight path, modify it or eliminate it all together.

Adding that the proposal will “bring new attention to one of the most desirable locations in the GTA,” one option not being considered is the construction of smaller towers to accommodate the current height restriction.

“We always have the option of just building them 18-to-20 storeys, but that’s not our vision,” Brown said.

“In order to do a signature building in Markham you need to open up the opportunity to have tall structures. That is the reason we brought in Hariri Pontarini because the firm is known for doing these iconic type buildings, something which Markham really needs.

David Pontarini, its founding partner, said the “shared vision is to offer something outstanding in a location that deserves special treatment. The residential towners will set a new standard for contemporary design in the area.”