Image courtesy of the City of Toronto

TOcore: A New Vision for Downtown Toronto

What does the new Downtown Plan mean for development in the core?

The recommended Downtown Plan is a 25-year vision that sets the direction for the city centre as the cultural, civic, retail and economic heart of Toronto and as a great place to live. A series of goals — grouped around the themes of complete communities, connectivity, prosperity, resiliency and responsibility — establish outcomes the Downtown Plan intends to achieve as growth continues.

— The City of Toronto

There is no doubt that Toronto’s downtown has undergone tremendous amounts of change over the last several decades. BlogTO did a piece back in 2017, illustrating The Transformation of Toronto’s Skyline from 1880 to Today.

1990, Rogers Centre in full view, image courtesy of BlogTO
2016, Rogers Centre is nowhere to be seen, image courtesy of BlogTO

Just by looking at the difference 25 years makes, you can quickly understand why there should be a plan in place for the downtown.

However, while the Downtown Plan hopes to achieve its goals of developing complete communities and improving the city’s resilience and sustainability, it will no-doubt have large implications for the development community.

Thankfully, MapYourProperty has got you covered!

The Policies

TOcore establishes a whole set of new land use policies for the downtown core. For instance, there are several policies meant to help increase the supply of office space in the Financial District and the Bloor-Bay corridor. Yet, while the implications of these policies are straight-forward (e.g. increase office space), there are also several policies that do not have predictable outcomes.

Take TOcore’s new mixed use policies, for example. Unlike the Official Plan’s blanket Mixed Use designations, these new mixed use areas are categorized into four distinct sections defined by the amount of intended growth.

Figure 1: TOcore Mixed Use Area designations, taken from MapYourProperty’s Pro Planner

As seen above, there are four distinct mixed use areas established in the Downtown Plan.

  • Mixed Use Area 1: Growth is meant to accommodate for the highest amount of density and specifically allow for tall buildings
  • Mixed Use Area 2: Intermediate is meant to act as a transitional area between the high-rise buildings in Mixed Use Area 1 and the mid- to low-rise developments found in Mixed Use Areas 3: Main Streets
  • Mixed Use Areas 3: Main Streets is meant to represent mid to low-rise buildings and “main street” building typologies
  • Mixed Use Area 4: Local is meant to exclusively accommodate for low-rise buildings

Evidently, this is where TOcore is likely to have the greatest impact on development.

MapYourProperty’s Analysis

Our analysis demonstrates that these new policies have both restricted and created opportunities for development.

TOcore re-designated approximately 6,400 properties that were previously listed as Mixed Use, Regeneration, Neighbourhoods, Apartment Neighbourhoods, Parks, or Employment under the Official Plan’s land use designations.

Lost Potential

For the development community, the losses occur in areas that have been changed from any land use to Mixed Use Area 4: Local, with the exception of Neighbourhoods and Parks.

Figure 2: Changes in land use designations in the Yorkville neighbourhood, image taken from MapYourProperty’s Pro Planner

Roughly 12% of all properties affected by TOcore have been re-designated to Mixed Use Area 4: Local; thus, potentially reducing the allowable density on these sites. Key areas affected by this change include Yorkville and Corktown, as seen in figures 2 and 3.

Figure 3: Changes in land use destinations in the Corktown neighbourhood, image taken from MapYourProperty’s Pro Planner

Worth noting is the lack of Neighbourhoods and Employment land uses being re-designated to Mixed Use Area 1: Growth. So while the city did add additional restrictions to sites which formerly had the potential for high-density developments, they did not make an effort to provide opportunities for high-density development to occur on formerly designated low-density sites.

Gained Potential

Nevertheless, there are also several upsides to the changes implemented by TOcore. For instance, if you are a mid-rise developer looking to get into the downtown, you’re in luck!

Approximately 35% of properties affected by TOcore were re-designated as Mixed Use Area 3: Main Streets. This amounts to just over 2,300 new properties that the city has specifically designated for mid-rise development.

Figure 4: Areas designated under Mixed Use Area 3: Main Streets, image courtesy of MapYourProperty

On another note, over 1,300 properties were re-designated from general Mixed Use under the Toronto OP to Mixed Use Area 1: Growth under TOcore. This helps provide validation to sites that have additional height and density restrictions associated with them. Of course, context is key.

Open for Interpretation

With so many regulations associated with any given site, it’s impossible to know what differentiates a good site from a great site. In this respect, TOcore makes things worse. Opportunities in Mixed Use Area 2: Intermediate, for instance, may vary dramatically on a case-by-case basis, depending on the surrounding context and associated policies.

Thankfully, we created MapYourProperty to help streamline your due diligence needs. Find out whether your prospective site has been affected by TOcore by heading over to mapyourproperty.com and signing up for a free trial.

We would love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on TOcore? How do you think this new secondary plan for the downtown will impact development?

Comment or get in touch at bram@mapyourproperty.com.

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