A major London developer has snapped up a languishing downtown development site, and plans a $245-million project that will include the tallest apartment tower in Ontario west of Toronto.
Old Oak Properties has bought the former Camden Terrace site from Rygar Properties, and plans to move quickly on a 652-unit residential development that had stalled under Rygar.
“This is the biggest downtown residential project ever built in London. When we see an opportunity, we like to get involved,” said Greg Bierbaum, Old Oak president.
“We are excited, we went through a long due diligence period and reviewed all the potential pitfalls and we feel confident about this project.”
Old Oak’s purchase of the site from Rygar principal John Rodgers is expected to close early next week after about a year of talks, Bierbaum said.
The new development, dubbed Centro, will go up at 100 Fullarton St., 475-501 Talbot St., and 93-95 Dufferin Ave.
“It was an opportunity for us, we like that location and we came to an agreement,” Bierbaum said. “It made the most sense for both parties.”
Old Oak has hired Rodgers as a consultant, Bierbaum said. “He has done so much of the legwork already.”
Rodgers could not be reached for comment.
City hall initially approved the development in 2016, but in 2017, John Rodgers’ son, Matthew, was shot and seriously injured in Oakville. Rygar was able to demolish the heritage properties with a pledge to rebuild the façade as part of its development, but little has progressed over three years.
The development will feature two residential towers, a rental building of 40 storeys — Rygar had planned 38 — and a 232-unit condo building of 29 storeys.
The 40-storey tower will be 129 metres tall, topping One London Place at 109 m and other towers in Hamilton, Kitchener and Windsor, Bierbaum said.
Old Oak will start excavating the site, digging down six metres to clean out soil where a gas station once stood, in July. Bierbaum hopes to have the project completed in 2021.
The 40-storey tower will stand 129 metres, higher than One London Place at 109 meres, and slightly higher than other towers in Hamilton, Kitchener and Windsor, he added.
The development will not require new city hall approvals, as the two added storeys keep it within the 129-metre height requirement and any changes are “within existing zoning” demands, said Bierbaum.
“Old Oak has a track record of building high-quality buildings, they have the capability to see that project to completion,” said Michael Tomazincic, city planner. “This is great news . . . another example of private-sector confidence in the downtown.”
Old Oak will maintain the facade of the Dufferin Avenue building as one tower is built behind it, and rebuild the Camden Terrace façade, removed brick by brick and stored during demolition, in the lobby of the Centro development. Both heritage preservation moves were demanded by city politicians when the Rygar project was approved.
“It’s a challenge and every project is unique, but it is very rewarding when you see it come together,” said Bierbaum.
Centro will include a 650-space parking garage and commercial space for lease on the main floor.
“When you take down heritage and we don’t see anything coming forward for a time, that is a concern,” said Ward 9 Coun. Anna Hopkins, who chairs council’s planning committee. “That it is proceeding now and they want to build soon . . . is good, but the height is a concern.”
She worries it may loom over nearby developments and look too large for the area. Azure, an adjacent condominium built recently by Tricar, is 29 storeys tall.
“But this is positive for the downtown,” said Hopkins.
Rygar initially proposed a 750-unit development valued at $300 million.
Last year, Rygar failed to close a deal to buy a commercial building at 150 Dundas St., which it planned to replace with a $60-million, 200-unit highrise.
Old Oak also owns the former London Psychiatric Hospital lands, where it plans a vast residential development. And it is building One Richmond Row, a 32-storey downtown luxury residential building that may be finished in the fall.
Old Oak’s downtown projects include Talbot Centre, Dufferin Corporate Centre, 500 Talbot St., 520 Talbot and Richmond Court.