London has been a city beloved by its locals for years. However, a recent push for the development of richer culture and economy has made the city even greater to its people. The city is expanding, and the numbers are there to prove it. According to statistics acquired from the last two national censuses, the city of London grew by 4.8% between 2011 and 2016.
London is the eleventh largest in Canada and now home to over 380,000 people. Central London is home to over 11,000 people and over 4,000 of those are residents in the more specific Downtown pocket. This was a 17% increase from 2006 up to 2011. These numbers will have no doubt risen between 2011 and now and with the implementation of multiple high-rises to the downtown core, London will be more attractive to buyers than ever before.
There has a been a concerted effort by Londoners to improve the local culture. With the rise of the Old East Village and an inrush of companies that source locally, London has cultivated a remarkable reputation for itself amongst locals and those from afar. In fact, London has seen an influx of out-of-town buyers, specifically from the GTA in recent years. The diverse economy of London is undeniable, and it has become a city that thrives off its people.
With a growing interest from out-of-town buyers and locals alike to move to central London, it only makes sense to begin building up instead of out. London has dramatically expanded the edges of the city in the past 15 to 20 years. Masonville Commercial District and Hyde Park specifically have been wildly built up with residential and commercial developments growing at a rapid rate. What were once vacant fields and ghost towns are thriving economic epicentres for the city. While this is beneficial for existing Londoners with cars, more and more people want to live in the downtown core.
In addition to expanding the edges of the city, significant efforts to enrich the local culture and bring the city as a whole together are in motion. Plans for a reconstructed Dundas Street streetscape are underway; which is certainly the largest transformative project of its nature the city has seen. (Stay tuned for a more comprehensive article about this exciting flex street that will unquestionably enhance the downtown experience!) In addition to this, an improved waterfront and more bike lanes will encourage Londoners to engage with the outdoors. One of the most significant and expensive changes will be the Bus Rapid Transit system which will (in the next decade) connect Londoners to the city at large in a more accessible manner. Together, these plans will increase diversity, cohesiveness and quality of the Downtown London experience.
While these are both necessary and awesome strides in improving the Forest City culture, but the residential aspect of the centre also needs improvements. The London skyline is dismal at the moment, but in a decade or two, it’ll look dramatically different. The City is categorically in favour of pushing for residential high-rises in the city centre and plans are in motion to draw more attention to the core of the city rather than the edges. In fact, the city used 2017 as a push for developers. They implemented a program to eradicate specific development charges necessary to build high-rises in the downtown core.
The program meant developers would not be charged for growth fees for downtown residential projects. This is all part of an effort to make living downtown even more attractive to buyers and eventually boost London’s economy. By eliminating these costs, developers can use the extra cash to fund programs that will assist construction. These costs include loans for facade and building code improvements. Rather than spreading the city out as we’ve seen in the past, the next decade or so will see progress in filling in some of those wide open parking lots throughout the city centre.
It’s not a secret that there’s no shortage of plans to build high-rises in and around the centre of London. These plans are in different stages of development; some are still waiting approval and others are almost complete. There was a pretty big wave of development for the area in recent years, with the completion of the Renaissance Towers. The Renaissance Towers were no doubt the high-rises that started the wave of expansion. These luxury towers, which are the fourth tallest buildings in London, were so successful that their creation sparked a special interest in implementing more luxurious high-rise condo living to the downtown core.
Azure is an upscale apartment building 29 storeys high with 200 units built by Tricar at 505 Talbot Street. It is just about complete, with finishing touches currently underway. This tower exemplifies progress in residential development for London as it’s made its mark as the city’s second highest building behind One London Place; which is the tallest office building in Ontario outside of Ottawa and Toronto. Move-in dates for Azure luxury tower aren’t set in stone, but estimates are saying June or July. Waves of development come and go, with a concentrated time period of construction followed by a lull. While there’s plenty of buzz about high-rise implementation to the city, there are some setbacks involved
The London Free Press has been updating its readers with the development plans for the downtown high-rises. In these articles, city planner John Flemming has said, “The nature of my business as a planner is to keep an eye on the long game. We are improving, the market is interested in downtown. We will not see all these towers at once, but in staggered development.”
While optimism is high for the city, the incentives for builders to apply for building permits have come to an unfortunate halt. The previously mentioned lift on specific building permits was revoked as of January 2018. Those builders who did not apply for a permit before the end of 2017 will now have to pay the charges up front. These can reach up to $4M and builders who don’t have the funds have to put building plans on hold. While this seems like an inconvenience to many, the change in permit charges from the city doesn’t come without compromises. The city promises to pay the full amount back to builders in smaller increments during the next decade but demand the cash up front to cover costs. All this will do for builders with deep pockets is make them think longer and harder about their investment, but this will no doubt eliminate the builders with less experience and capitol.
The London Free Press released an update on the potential high rises in the downtown core and their current statuses as of late January of this year. You can check out the full article here but here are the simple stats provided:
Azure (Tricar Group) – 505 Talbot Street, 29-storey, 200-unit luxury condo tower.
Building Permits Applied For:
40 York Street (Tricar Group) – 24-storey, 245-units
515 Richmond Street (Old Oak) – 171-units
100 Fullarton Street, 475-501 Talbot Street and 93-95 Dufferin Avenue (Rygar Properties) – multi-tower development
150 Dundas Street (Atlantis Realty) – 27-storey, 200 unit apartment building
455 Clarence Street (George Anastasiadis) – 32-storey, 182-unit residential tower has already been approved by the city
195 Dundas Street (Ayerswood) – three-tower development with 700-units
661-667 Talbot Street (Drewlo Holdings) – 16-storey, 236-unit residential tower
131 King Street (York Developments) – 31-storey, 220-unit high-rise
183 King Street (Southside Group) – 25-storey, 200-unit residential high-rise
50 King Street (Middlesex County) – 30-storey, 200-unit residential high-rise and commercial space
560-562 Wellington Street (Auburn Developments) – 22-storey residential tower
As you can see from the amount of high-rises completed verses the ones planned, progress has come to a halt. Only the builders who applied for permits by December of 2017 have been approved and even those who have been approved have some doubts. Builders are eager to get their properties off the ground, but know it will be a struggle to complete it. The lift of permit charges was a massive help and a huge incentive. Those who pay the upfront prices must be assured they can carry through the project to the end, and that’s not always a guarantee.
Builders such as Atlantis Realty are seeing this as a loss. They say plans to build their 27-storey condominiums likely won’t become a reality. The fee to pay the permit up front just isn’t feasible for the Toronto based developers. London native George Ansistasiadis was quoted in the London Free Press saying that, “it definitely does not help. It is extra money you have to put out and they will give it back in bits and pieces”.
While there will be some hiccups along the way, there is an undeniable movement to change the London skyline. London was once a city that kept expanding outwards. The skyline has certainly been built up, but not in the dramatic sense other cities have seen and the future of London will see it growing upwards. The demand for luxury living in downtown is homage to the type of city it’s turning into – a city that thrives off its people. The Forest City will welcome residents from afar, especially those from the GTA, making the move to these new housing developments.
The implementation of thousands more residents to the downtown core will no doubt garner economic and cultural success for the city but while obtaining the approval to build is one thing, actually seeing the project through is a whole other story.
We would love to hear your opinion. What do you think about the plans for high-rises in the Downtown Core? Should London keep expanding outwards or start growing upwards? Let us know on any of our social media accounts linked below and stay tuned for more comprehensive articles about your Forest City!