Corp Comm Connects

As Vaughan grows, multiplying highrises are creating a ‘missing middle’

City needs more mid-rise buildings to provide balance and diversity,
April 25, 2019
Jari Qudrat

If you live in the Vaughan area, your mailbox was likely flooded with flyers inviting you to learn about “Transit City 4” and other condo projects launching in the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC).

The city of Vaughan is changing. What used to be known as barren lands in the late '90s is now being revitalized to become one of the most robust and interconnected communities in the Greater Toronto Area.

With the Mackenzie hospital under development at Jane Street and Major Mackenzie Drive, along with the plethora of investors who have narrowed down on Highway 7 and Jane as a hotbed for development, Vaughan is literally transforming.

Some are saying Vaughan is finally becoming "the city above Toronto," as the slogan implies. It is now developing into a truly interconnected and vibrant community with a fine balance of condo living, green space and commercial businesses. However, there is one evident thing that’s lacking. Vaughan, which used to be primarily comprised of spacious dwellings and single-family homes, is also developing a “missing middle.”

This is a problem that downtown Toronto ran into a few years back. Essentially, the missing middle refers to a lack of mid-rise dwellings to provide balance and diversity within a master-planned community. In downtown Toronto, highrise condominiums dominate the city, and in smaller pockets, there are town homes and detached dwellings offered at much higher price points.

When is the last time you came across a 20-21 storey condominium building in downtown? These mid-rise buildings, which aren't highly dense and provide a sense of community, barely exist.

Vaughan is starting to fall into the same trap. Highway 7 and Jane is a prime location where developers have acquired as much land as they can get their hands on. To make lucrative profits we are seeing highrise buildings being built one after another.

First, we had Nord West, Expo, and CG Tower, all backed by “Vaughan’s tallest tower” marketing methods through Cortel Group. Now we have Transit City Condos, which is releasing its final phases in a five-tower development, each tower with over 50 floors each located just metres away from one another.

This is going to change the Vaughan skyline forever, and not necessarily for the better. Where do we draw the balance between the profits of creating doppelganger units and high density living, and creating balanced mixed communities?

I was a bit worried to see what’s happening to the city I live in, until I came across a few projects that tackle this issue. The most prominent one is called ‘MOBILIO’, a master-planned community launched by Menkes, one of Toronto’s most renowned developers in the VMC. MOBILIO is a 10.5-acre project, which could have also been five dense highrise condos, but instead is providing a mixed community of three mid-rise condo buildings of approximately 20 floors each (500 units in total) along with 500 town homes. This new development will tackle the emerging “missing middle” problem that I spoke about earlier. In addition, last year there was GO2 Condos by Pemberton Group with two 12-storey condos. Mural Condos in Woodbridge is the last project that is tackling this “missing middle” and offering 14-storey buildings as well.

Being closely connected with the real estate scene in Vaughan, it is evident that a major transformation is taking place. Whether we think about developers, institutional investors, or even families looking to move into affluent and developed neighbourhoods, Vaughan is often one of the first cities that comes to mind.

This is the very reason we are seeing a rise of “pre-construction” condo projects that are launching in the city. To put things in perspective, in Vaughan the average price of detached homes sold in March 2019 was approximately $1.1 million. That means it’s extremely difficult for new buyers to qualify for a mortgage or even think about becoming homeowners.

For millennials, even purchasing condos may be a stretch. That’s where pre-construction is different. Buyers have the option to pay 20 per cent down payment typically in four phases, giving them more time to save up while still benefitting from the appreciation of the property over the next few years.

It's scary and exciting to think Vaughan has changed so much in the last 10 years, I can only imagine what will happen in the next decade.