Q&A: Grand Harwood Place

The Ajax Plaza has been in existence since the early 50’s. Why redevelop it now?

The Ajax Plaza was originally built to serve a community of up to 25,000 people. At the time, the plaza was the commercial heart of the community.  However, with increasing competition from other retail centres, the closure of the Harwood/401 interchange, and a growing population of 110,000, the plaza no longer functions as the Town’s primary commercial focus. As a result, the condition of the site has deteriorated considerably and redevelopment is necessary. The Town’s Vision for its Downtown, including Ajax Plaza, is to provide a mixed use, pedestrian–oriented, transit supportive district. Along with Medallion’s Vision at Pat Bayly Square, the proposed Grand Harwood Place development is another important step in achieving the Town’s vision of a true downtown for Ajax.

Why did the Town select Windcorp Developments Limited to lead the redevelopment of Ajax Plaza with Grand Harwood Place?

From the outset, Windcorp has demonstrated a solid understanding and support for the Town’s Downtown vision. Windcorp has assembled a team of seasoned and experienced design, marketing and engineering professionals to prepare and implement its plan for a vibrant urban mixed-use development. The team has an extensive track record of working on large urban development projects in the Greater Toronto Area and internationally. The team has developed a design that addresses the Town’s vision for urban redevelopment, introduces change in a way that responds positively to its surroundings, while setting the stage for future long term improvement.

Where will Grand Harwood Place be situated at Ajax Plaza?

The proposal would occupy the centre of the Ajax Plaza public parking area. The site would have access from a public road that would surround the site that would lead out to Harwood Avenue.

What are the highlights of the Grand Harwood Place proposal?

The first phase of the development (Phase 1A) would include two, 10-storey condominium apartment buildings, with about 30,000 square feet of retail uses on the ground floor and 25,000 square feet of office space on the two floors above that would face Harwood Avenue. A total of 268 condominium apartment units are proposed and includes private underground and decked parking. The buildings will introduce a new and distinct urban presence that will establish a welcoming and vibrant pedestrian shopping environment along Harwood Avenue. The development will also include a number of green initiatives, including environmentally conscious roofing systems, improvements to pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, and measures to reduce stormwater runoff.

What is the difference between Phase 1A and Phase 1B?

Phase 1B will complement Phase 1A and includes the development of the stacked townhouses. A total of 112 stacked townhouses are proposed, which would be provided between the Phase 1A site and Commercial Avenue to the west. Phase 1B is not expected to proceed until the completion of Phase 1A.  

Will there be a loss of public parking due to Phase 1A?

There will be a gradual loss of parking as the Phase 1A development proceeds.  At the beginning, there will be a small reduction in parking due to the placement of the sales pavilion on the property. Once development proceeds, the proposed south building will be constructed first. Public parking will remain on the north side of the parking lot. Temporary parking arrangements will be made on existing and future roads, and through other improvements, to accommodate existing plaza tenants before development proceeds. When the second building proceeds, the remaining parking on the north side of the parking lot will be removed.

What are the major conditions in the Agreement that must be met in order for the development to occur?

The primary condition for development is tied to unit sales. The Agreement includes a provision indicating that the developer must be satisfied with the economic feasibility of the development, including achieving a sales target of 85%. In addition, the acquisition of 3 buildings is needed to enable project servicing. Development on the site will be subject to planning approvals, including site plan approval by the Town.

What can the public expect to see in the next 24 months at the Plaza?

The public can expect to see a sales pavilion and project signage on the site. Depending upon the progress of unit sales, development could be underway including the installation of on-site services and the removal of buildings for utility purposes.

When is construction expected to commence and be completed?

Timing of construction is directly tied to the speed of unit sales. It is assumed that construction could commence in a 1-2 year timeframe. Once commenced, construction of each condominium building would take approximately 24 months.

How is the Town supporting current businesses through the transition?

The Town recognizes that this project will cause some disruption to local businesses. The Town will provide support to businesses by providing information regarding project timing, identifying relocation opportunities, and by loosening zoning controls, opening up new opportunities for retailers wishing to relocate nearby.

The plaza continues to serve local customers. What is the short term and long term strategy to ensure that customers’ needs are being met?

It is important that existing businesses and customers at the plaza have a full understanding of the changes that are expected to take place over the short and long term.  In the short term, very little is expected to change. The first signal of change will be the introduction of new signage and a sales pavilion in the plaza parking lot. Once development proceeds, the Town and the developer have established an interim parking strategy to provide parking opportunities for existing retailers. Access to the shops will continue to be provided throughout development.

Once development starts, there could be a chance that some businesses may choose to relocate. Is there an opportunity to accommodate existing businesses in the new development?

Yes. Retail is an important part of the development. Retail will be incorporated within the ground floor of the project buildings. The types of retailing and the lease rates for retail and office space will be under the developer’s control, however it is expected that the retail offerings will be similar (grocery, financial services, health professionals).

Is the Town a partner in this development?

The Town is a partner to the extent that it intends to sell the land that will enable the development to happen, and will provide incentives under the Downtown Community Improvement Plan to support the economic viability of the development.

How much will this development cost the Town?

The development will not be a cost to the Town. Incentives would be provided to enable development in the form of foregone revenues, which would not otherwise be received without a Community Improvement Plan in place. The value of the incentives to be provided are estimate at $10.4 million for Phase 1A and 1B. The sale of the Town lands are valued at $2.8 million, which would be used to facilitate other property acquisitions.

What are the economic benefits of the proposal?

It is estimated that 206 jobs will be created by project completion. Total construction costs for the project are estimated at $118.7 million, generating approximately $60.7 million in labour income and 1,100 person years of employment during the construction period. For the first 10 years, it is
estimated that the Region, Town and school boards will collect $730,000 annually in property taxes. Following this period, $2.8 million is expected to be collected annually. In addition, construction of external infrastructure will enable other potential intensification projects in the Downtown.

Will there be a public consultation process?

Yes. The Town has developed a communication strategy will provide information to the public and local businesses. Public meetings, surveys, web-based information portals and mail-outs will all be used to keep the public informed through this process.

Are there future phases planned for the redevelopment?

It is intended that this development will serve as the basis for future redevelopments to the north and south. However, details regarding types of future development, timing or other details have not been developed.

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