Yonge-Dundas building

Toronto university buys two buildings from the City at Yonge-Dundas Square

Toronto Metropolitan University has just purchased two key properties from the city of Toronto that will link the downtown campus to Yonge-Dundas Square.

Toronto-owned properties at 277 Victoria St. and 38 Dundas St. E. have been sold by city agency CreateTO to Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), according to an agreement announced this morning.

This sale is a result of Toronto City Council’s directive in April 2022 to unlock the potential of City-owned office assets suitable for repurposing or redevelopment as part of the ModernTO Workplace Modernization program. The proceeds from this sale will contribute to the City’s city-building priorities, such as the development of new affordable housing, while also benefiting TMU and its long-term growth plans.

“Through the ModernTO program, we are optimizing and modernizing the City of Toronto’s office space – this is the right and responsible thing to do,” said Toronto deputy mayor Jennifer McKelvie. “This transaction with Toronto Metropolitan University will help expand and revitalize the school’s campus. At the same time, the funds are put back into ModernTO to help support the delivery of affordable housing and other key city-building initiatives that are desperately needed.”

There was some discussion of turning the building at 38 Dundas St. E., at a key intersection at Yonge-Dundas Square into a music incubator in 2015. The site was expropriated in the ’90s to make way for redevelopment of the square. 

Coincidentally, the building at 38 Dundas St. E. has been identified as being more than 100 years old and the one-time residence of Rev. Dr. Egerton Ryerson and the Ryerson family, for whom the university was once named. The university adopted its current moniker in April 2022. 

A Toronto Metropolitan University press released stated that the purchase offers a strategic opportunity to support campus expansion and revitalization efforts, while enhancing the university’s presence at one of the busiest intersections in the country — Yonge-Dundas Square.

“We are delighted to have acquired these two properties. The addition of over 115,000 square feet of space creates countless possibilities for academic, research, creative and entrepreneurial initiatives,” said Mohamed Lachemi, President and Vice-Chancellor, Toronto Metropolitan University. “The location will provide another vital connection point between our campus and the city; I’m looking forward to working with our community over the coming months to develop plans for the future of these sites.”

The building at 277 Victoria St., situated northeast of Yonge-Dundas Square, currently serves as the office for Toronto Public Health (TPH). Over the next 24 months, TPH administrative offices will be relocated to one of the City’s core civic centre hubs.

In addition to administrative offices, TPH provides several clinical services at the 277 Victoria St. location, including a dental clinic and The Works, which offers supervised consumption and harm reduction services as well as injectable opioid antagonist therapy (iOAT). CreateTO, in collaboration with TPH leadership and their partners, will continue to support the relocation of these critical services over the next two years to ensure uninterrupted care and minimize the impact on residents and TPH clients.

The ModernTO program, established in October 2019, aims to modernize the City’s administrative spaces, reduce government spending, and strategically utilize unlocked office assets. By terminating leases and creating office hubs within key civic buildings like City Hall, Metro Hall, and the Civic Centres in Scarborough, North York, and Etobicoke, among other initiatives, ModernTO will significantly reduce the City’s office footprint from 55 locations to approximately 15.

Moreover, the program unlocks eight high-value City-owned properties with the potential for repurposing or redevelopment, generating revenue that can be allocated to priority city-building opportunities, including affordable housing.

Downtown city councillor Chris Moise (Toronto Centre), who is also the chair of the Board of Health, assured residents that the vital services accessed at the site will continue.

“As the Chair of Board of Health, it is reassuring to know that the current City services on-site at 277 Victoria will continue to be available to the community until a suitable new home is identified,” he explained. “I look forward to working with City Staff to find a space with wrap-around services to support our residents better. I’m also excited to see how Toronto Metropolitan University will utilize the sites in its future expansion plans, helping to expand TMU’s presence in the city’s core.”

CreateTO was established in 2018 as the City of Toronto’s real estate agency. The organization brings together stakeholders, partners, and community members to ensure optimal utilization of the City’s real estate assets both now and in the future. CreateTO manages the City’s $27 billion real estate portfolio, develops City buildings and lands for municipal purposes, and provides client-focused real estate solutions to achieve a balance between community and economic benefits.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO