Oxford Properties Group Inc. is proposing to turn an area of midtown Toronto that’s mostly parking lots into a mix of apartments, offices and retail space, a major bet that demand for dense urban living will rebound after the pandemic.
The proposal, submitted to the municipal authorities on Friday, is worth about $2.5 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter. It includes 3 million square feet of commercial and residential space spread among five new skyscrapers at the southwest corner of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue.
The plan for the area, which Oxford calls “Canada Square,” would also turn about half the site’s 9.2 acres into open space and parkland, according to a statement from the company.
A surge of demand for dense downtown living reshaped North American cities for almost a decade before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Now, many companies are rethinking their need for office space after employees successfully worked from home for months. Many residents, meanwhile, are taking advantage of their new work flexibility to flee cramped apartments for homes outside the city.
The neighborhood where Oxford’s proposing the development has long been a center of densification in Toronto. As new apartment buildings and office towers appeared, an influx of young people transformed it into one of the city’s liveliest sections and earned it the nickname “Young and Eligible.” The site consists of four office blocks with street-level retail, a pair of parking garages, a bus depot and the site of a future light rail transit line.
Oxford, the real estate arm of the pension plan for Ontario’s municipal workers, has been a prominent driver of urban density in recent years. Oxford has a partnership with Related Cos. of New York to contribute to the $25 billion redevelopment of the Hudson Yards neighborhood of Manhattan, the biggest real estate project in U.S. history.
Oxford is also separately pursuing the redevelopment of Union Park in downtown Toronto, a $3.5 billion project that would replace a convention center with offices, apartments and retail stores. The project includes a park to be built over railway tracks that run next to the stadium where the Toronto Blue Jays play.