Development applications recently submitted to the City of Toronto reveal GM has a much larger vision for the seven-acre property than originally thought.
After purchasing land on Toronto’s underdeveloped eastern waterfront last year, GM Canada announced plans for new offices, a multi-brand dealership and a research and development mobility campus.
Officially named the Toronto GM Mobility Hub, the development documents propose a winged, five-storey multi-use structure that will house a hip new headquarters for Cadillac Canada, a home north of the border for GM’s growing Maven ride-sharing service, additional sales offices plus dealership and service space for the four GM brands.
However, the crown jewel of the 280,852 square-foot structure is an Urban Mobility Research and Development lab, which will bring in nearly 300 high-paying tech jobs.
There’s also a public café planned, likely the site of Cadillac House North.
Two other development sites are proposed for the north side of the property as employee servicing retail space and office space for rent. One structure will retain and incorporate the existing buildings built in the 1920s as a “form reference to the area’s industrial past,” but more evaluation will continue as part of a future development. Several sustainability features like bioswales, grey-water reusage and green roofs feature in the proposal.
The project also aims to improve the public space surrounding the site, adding 120 new trees, generously wide sidewalks and space for cyclists to reclaim a neglected corner of the city.
The development documents were submitted on March 31, but no hearings regarding the project were scheduled as of press time.
GM re-leased the property to Cinespace for another 12 months after purchasing it from the film studio – even so, the approval process is expected to take several years.
One small hurdle for the project is that current zoning does not permit a vehicle dealership. Documents submitted by the automaker indicate it is appealing a current bylaw that permits the proposed service and retail uses but does not permit the dealership use, institutes height controls and other general standards.
GM said the proposed dealership is “necessarily incidental” to research and development and service areas that form part of the proposed development.
The automaker notes the proportion of the dealership use within the GM Campus only represents 39 per cent of Site 1 and 5.4 per cent of the entire property.
“Moreover, while automobile dealerships are generally viewed as retail and service uses by the city and are not explicitly permitted or not permitted in designated employment areas, there are several recent precedents of dealerships being approved in employment areas,” the documents read.
GM cited nearby dealerships including the new home of Grand Touring Automobiles (currently under construction) just north off the Don Valley Parkway and the multi-storey home of BMW Toronto and the adjacent MINI Downtown.
The dealership and service centre would give GM a presence in Toronto’s downtown core, something it hasn’t had for over a decade.