The $25-million deal for the 3.2-acre site on the northerly section of the Yonge subway line was finalized between Build Toronto, the city agency responsible for selling off underutilized real estate, and the Gupta Group/Easton’s Group on Dec. 22.
The Gupta Group/Easton’s Group plans to move some of the 266-spot TTC parking lot underground and relocate its own offices to the site, which will connect to the York Mills subway station and is within easy reach of Hwy. 401.
Most of the building — about 320,000 square feet — will be so-called office condos starting at 2,000 square feet which will be sold, rather than leased, largely to professionals looking to have control of their own space, says founder of the development company, Steve Gupta.
The building is close to three hospitals, Sunnybrook, North York General and the new mega-hospital, Humber River Regional Hospital at Keele and Hwy. 401, which Gupta hopes will make it a big draw for doctors, health clinics and other medical staff looking for control of their own space.
Zoning on the site does not allow residential condo development and the city was intent on creating more employment in the Hoggs Hollow area, which is one of the more affluent residential neighbourhoods in the city.
“It’s a valuable employment node that the city was looking to protect, so we were looking for someone with a proven track record in that kind of (mixed-use) development,” said Bill Bryck, president and CEO of Build, which had multiple bidders for the site.
“This was seen as a great site to generate employment opportunities.”
The $300-million project is expected to create about 300 jobs and bring a new hotel, most likely a four-star Marriott or a Hilton, to the Yonge St. corridor of North York which now has just one hotel, said Gupta in a telephone interview.
Just over one acre of the site, which sits on flood plain abutting the Don River, will be turned over to the city for conservation purposes, he added.
Gupta had been looking in North York for some time for a hotel site, as well as a new flagship office for his own business, which started out 30 years ago in 1,000 square feet of office space and now needs to expand beyond its current 12,000 square feet on Steele Ave. at Hwy. 404.
For some time the site had been considered as the new headquarters for the TTC, but politicians nixed that idea.
But by the time it went up for sale through commercial brokerage CBRE late last year, Build had negotiated increased density on the site, addressed concerns around the flood plain lands with the regional conservation authority and talked to local residents and businesses about plans for the site, said Bryck.
“We don’t just sell land, we approach it in terms of a value-creation process,” he added. “Basically, we created a lot of value on the site by taking a lot of uncertainty out of the deal for the purchaser.”
Gupta, who moved to Canada in 1973, started out his business by buying a major gas station on Hwy. 401, between Port Hope and Cobourg. He owned it until just three years ago.
It wasn’t until 2011 that he first entered the condo market, with the King Blue project at the corner of King St. W. and Blue Jays Way, just as the market was facing a downturn.
While sales got off to a slow start, some 85 per cent of the units had been pre-sold by last year when Chinese developer Greenland Holding Co. — which was on an aggressive international acquisitions binge — came “shopping for a site,” in Gupta’s words.
Greenland paid $113 million for the one-acre, prime downtown site.
The Easton’s Group builds and manages hotels. It now has 15 hotels in Ontario and Quebec, under the brand names Hilton, Marriott and Holiday Inn.
*Article taken from The Toronto Star