Everything we know about Union Park, the $3.5-billion downtown development proposal by Oxford Properties
Last week, Oxford Properties Group announced plans for Union Park, a massive 4.3-million-square-foot development expected to be the largest in Toronto’s history. With an estimated $3.5-billion price tag, it would also be one of the most expensive. Here’s what we know.
The $3.5-billion proposal consists of four towers just north of the Rogers Centre and the CN Tower. Two of the towers, at 58 and 48 storeys tall, would have office space inside. The two others, at 54 and 44 storeys, would have about 800 rental units, an integrated daycare and 200,000 square feet of retail space.
Also included in the plan: a giant glass “winter garden” between the towers (basically a covered courtyard), and a link to the PATH.
But the most exciting aspect of the whole proposal—at least for the average Torontonian—is Oxford’s plan to permanently alter part of the railway corridor north of the CN Tower, which is currently an impassible canyon of train tracks. Oxford wants to build a deck over the tracks and then, on top of the decking, install a new two-acre park.
Is this Rail Deck Park?
Well… no. It’s a similar idea, but it would be located just to the east of where the city is planning a massive 8.5-hectare park over the same railway corridor. Rail Deck Park has the support of Mayor John Tory and local councillor Joe Cressy, but there hasn’t been much progress on that project for the past year or so, owing at least partly to some legal entanglements with a group of developers who believe the development rights for that section of the rail corridor belong to them. At this rate, Oxford’s smaller-scale park concept might be the first to break ground.
Oxford is the real estate and property management branch of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), a pension fund representing roughly 500,000 public employees. The company is behind massive development plans all over the world, like the 11-hectare Hudson Yards in New York City, where amenities include an on-site luxury mall with its own Cartier and Dior outlets.
Among Oxford’s other projects: it owns and operates Scarborough Town Centre, and at least until spring of 2017, it was funding ConnectScarborough, an advocacy group that supports the controversial Scarborough subway extension. Oxford also owns the Metro Toronto Convention Centre lands, where it proposed a $3-billion casino that was voted down by city council in 2013. (Oxford says the new Union Park plan does not include redevelopment of the convention centre.)
The architectural team behind Union Park includes Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, an international firm with a lot of high-profile commissions in its past, including the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Also involved: Toronto-based Adamson Associates (executive architect of the Stack in Vancouver, another Oxford project). The park portion will be overseen by landscape architects OJB. Oxford is saying the buildings will incorporate eco-friendly features like solar panels and water recycling.
The next steps
Oxford has begun a public engagement process, but it hasn’t yet applied to the city for all the zoning amendments and Official Plan approvals necessary for a development proposal of this size. As for the park space, that’s a whole other matter: the air above the railway corridor is owned by a mix of different corporate entities, including Metrolinx and Toronto Terminals Railway. For the decking to happen, presumably all those parties would have to come to the table.