Proposed Massive Development By SmartCentres Would Establish ‘Improved Gateway’ To Cambridge

  • 09/22/20
  • |          Cambridge

SmartCentres seeking city council approval of Minister’s Zoning Order for Pinebush and Hespeler roads site

Looking to establish a “new and improved gateway” for Cambridge, SmartCentres is seeking city council’s support for a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) to develop a mixed-use community on their land at the intersection of Pinebush and Hespeler roads.

In a letter to the city dated Aug. 13, SmartCentres stated they wish to redevelop the site beginning in 2021 without having to proceed through the normal planning application and public consultation process, which could result in the zoning regulations going through appeals to the Local Planning Appeal Council.

Phase 1 could not proceed next year without the MZO as the application and consultation process would delay building permits from two to three years.

City council will hear the motion on Sept. 22.

The plan includes a wide range of residential uses, including two-storey townhouses, mid-rise apartments and highrise towers along the Hwy. 401 frontage; commercial/retail uses primarily on the west side of the property; a large, centrally oriented privately-owned public space; a central transit hub to retain the city and GO bus system and in proximity to future LRT; and intersected green space allowing for more pedestrian connections.

“In 2015, SmartCentresREIT initiated a new strategy to begin intensifying our key sites across Canada by adding mixed use asset classes,” the letter states.

“The concept plan which we previously shared with you demonstrated our interest in developing a new complete community incorporating many different assets classes and taking advantage of the higher order transit planned adjacent to our site.”

While the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is not legislated to give notice of consult with a municipality prior to enacting a MZO, SmartCentres contacted the city for its support. The minister, according to SmartCentres, did want council’s endorsement, however.

A MZO controls land use and sets specific requirements for development, including lot sizes, frontage, access and servicing. It may also restrict certain types of development.

Mayor Kathryn McGarry said the development could be an exciting and unique opportunity for the city as it seeks projects that will help expedite post COVID-19 economic recovery.

“I think this is certainly worthy of council’s consideration,” McGarry said.

“Cambridge has already attracted several new businesses during the pandemic, Amazon for example, and is moving ahead to service the provincially significant North Cambridge lands.

“The SmartCentres proposal could help support these new businesses and others, with a range of housing types, as well as a mix of retail, office and commercial opportunities that would create a complete community concept.”

While specific details about the number of proposed units, height of the buildings and amount of retail is still to be determined, a concept plan submitted to city staff noted the mid-rise apartments will be up to 15 storeys and the high-rise towers overlooking Highway 401 will be up to 35 storeys.

Over the long-term redevelopment of the property, which will extend past 20 years, it is anticipated that 5,000 to 10,000 residential units — including condominium, rental, town and senior units — will stretch across the 73-acre property. The variety of housing types will assist in achieving “affordable and attainable” housing targets, stated a city staff report.

If a MZO is enacted, the city will be able to collect $13,200 for site plan applications, down from the usual $28,860.

Further details will be necessary to determine building application fees and the amount of development charges to be collected.

“It is in line with the recently approved secondary plan for Hespeler Road, more efficient use of land within the city’s built up area and the city’s official plan,” McGarry said.

“Adding density of people and jobs at this site helps support our business case to fund more public transit such as the Phase 2 LRT and the GO train link between Cambridge and Guelph. It is in proximity to the 401 and other development projects underway along Pinebush Road.”

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