Plans for the massive new Hangar District neighbourhood get a rethink

Plans to redevelop Toronto’s Downsview Airport into a huge mixed-use community dubbed the Hangar District with a city-sized population recently went back to the drawing board, though the local councillor said there’s still lots more work ahead. 

Northcrest Developments, which is spearheading the redevelopment of the sprawling 520-acre Downsview Airport lands, recently resubmitted applications for a zoning bylaw amendment and a draft plan of subdivision for the project’s first phase, dubbed the Hangar District. 

The developer said the plans were updated from last year’s submission to respond to community feedback to the Hangar District proposal. In addition to 2,800 residential units, the plan envisions a mix of offices, retail and a film campus that would be housed within the airport’s old hangars. 

“What excites us about this latest application is sharing our progress on affordable housing commitments and strategies, now totalling 15 [per cent] of the Hangar District residential area,” reads an email statement sent to Post City and attributed to Chris Eby of Northcrest, which has partnered with the Canada Lands Company to reimagine the airport site. 

“Affordability is an ongoing challenge in our city, and we recognize the need for solutions that will bring a true, diverse range of housing geared toward all income levels.”

The developer is now committing to providing affordable housing for a 99-year term, which surpasses the city’s minimum 20-year requirement for such units, the statement continues. 

Other changes to the proposal include converting certain private laneways into public streets, realigning the planned Powell Road extension for better connections and creating a larger park in the heart of the community, according to planning documents. 

The Hangar District’s overall density remains the same, with 26 proposed buildings ranging in height from three to 14 storeys. “The changes in the two plans are fairly small,” said councillor James Pasternak, who represents York Centre. 

hangar district
A rendering of the Hangar District showing park and green space along Garratt Boulevard

The resubmission comes ahead of a community consultation event scheduled for Aug. 30. 

“We’ll be inviting people in to share their views and show them the plan, and we’ll be taking those comments back to make sure that any design elements are changed based on that [feedback],” said Pasternak. “Public consultation and respect for the local community is crucial.”

The Hangar District is just a part of the broader project the developer is calling id8 Downsview, which, by 2051, could feature 50,000 residential units and employ approximately 45,000 people. 

That could translate to a daytime population of about 120,000 people, or about the size of Guelph, Eby noted earlier this year.

With large-scale development, Pasternak said it’s important to create a livable, complete community that supports different modes of transportation and boasts necessary amenities such as local schools, multi-purpose trails and more.

“Generally speaking, what we want to see is a road network and a development plan that respects the historical integrity of the existing neighbourhood, and that really is what we’ll be watching closely in the years to come,” said Pasternak. “They can ask for all the density they want, but it has to come with community assets and infrastructure in order to manage it,” he added. 

Pending approval, Northcrest says shovels could be in the ground as soon as 2025.

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