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100-acre SmartCentres Place transforming Vaughan

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by Tracy Hanes

The City of Vaughan’s bold vision for its new downtown is unfolding with the 100-acre SmartCentres Place forming a critical piece of the evolving live-work-play community.
The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre in Ontario is the largest urban mixed-use development in Canada and the 100-acre SmartCentres Place is a key component to the project. When complete, SmartCentres Place will include 17 million square feet of residential, retail and office space.
The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre in Ontario is the largest urban mixed-use development in Canada and the 100-acre SmartCentres Place is a key component to the project. When complete, SmartCentres Place will include 17 million square feet of residential, retail and office space. - Photo: DIAMOND SCHMITT ARCHITECTS

The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC) is Canada's largest urban mixed-use development. When built, SmartCentres Place will include 17 million square feet of residential, retail and office space.

The first office building in SmartCentres Place, the 14-storey KPMG Tower, is complete and work is progressing on an inter-regional transit terminal to serve York Region Rapid Transit, with pedestrian connections to VIVA Bus and a new TTC subway stop.

SmartCentres Place is a joint venture between SmartREIT and Mitchell Goldhar, who is the founder of SmartCentres, chairman of the board of SmartREIT and its largest unitholder.

Transit City, a 55-storey residential condominium will be launched soon by partners SmartREIT, Goldhar and CentreCourt Developments and ground will be broken later this spring for a state-of-the-art YMCA community centre and library and 220,000-square-foot tower for PwC, adjacent to the KPMG building.

"In SmartCentres Place, policy, politics and business has come together," said Goldhar. "It's rare, but when it comes together, it's a powerful thing."

In April, the KPMG Tower, designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, won a REX (Real Estate Excellence) Award as Office Development of the Year for the Greater Toronto Area, awarded by the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, Greater Toronto Chapter.

The 365,000-square-foot, LEED Gold-registered building has a large retail pavilion and will have a direct underground connection to the new TTC station when it opens in December. A cafe has opened on the ground floor with larger commercial spaces to be completed. The building provides KPMG with a regional operations hub.

The $32.1-million Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Bus Terminal, slated for completion in December and designed by Diamond Schmitt, will serve as a catalyst for the growth of the VMC and will connect directly to adjacent developments.

The station will provide an indoor pedestrian link under Highway 7 to unite the two halves of the future downtown. The wood-lined bus terminal, constructed by Bondfield, is set within a pedestrian plaza and has a large horseshoe-shaped roof over two open platforms and a glazed pavilion.

In June, a groundbreaking will be held for the new building that will house a 100,000-square-foot flagship YMCA facility, also designed by Diamond Schmitt and to be built by PCL, that will include a child care facility and gym, plus a 20,000-square-foot library and studio space.

The VMC, designed to be a European-style, pedestrian-friendly and sustainable city centre, will bring an urban presence to Vaughan, which has been predominantly a suburban community, explains a release.

The unifying feature of the SmartCentres Place master plan is a one-kilometre linear park, designed by Claude Cormier and anchored by the KPMG Tower that will be lined by more Class A office buildings and residential condos.

"This is a significant and important development," says Donald Schmitt of Diamond Schmitt. "It's a model for smart growth in the 905. It began with a master plan and a vision...this place is innovating ahead of other developments and will set the standard."

The City of Vaughan anticipates that the VMC will provide homes for 25,000 people and create 11,000 jobs.

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