An Oshawa development has had a significant positive impact on the environment before construction even begins on the project itself.
The two companies liaised with the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority to make sure the clean-up of remnants from past uses of the property was done properly, and to convey 3.5 acres of ravine land to the City of Oshawa. The costs for this work were borne by the developers.
Ironwood went through a 14-month zoning process for the site at 1569 Simcoe St. N., near Taunton Road. It’s located close to public transit, highways, shopping, dining, entertainment, Ontario Tech University and Durham College.
The due diligence for the site involved temporarily diverting Oshawa Creek and removing concrete fragments, asphalt, large segments of interlocking steel sheet piles, and aluminum culverts from the creek and the surrounding land this past summer.
“We had to do it in a very careful and limited window because of salmon spawning and some other sensitivities around the diversion of the creek,” Podium vice-president Christian Huggett told Sustainable Biz.
Preparing the Ironwood site
Podium enlisted several special consultants, including hydro‑geomorphologists, ecologists, hydrologists and a river restoration expert. It had environmental impact studies done to determine the effect on flora, fauna and spawning salmon.
Rock weirs were installed in the creek to create a habitat for spawning salmon. As salmon are affected by channelization and road runoff, the developers redefined the outflow by developing cattail draining, a technique used to achieve natural filtration.
“We’re very proud of it, and it’s now totally naturalized,” said Huggett.
Features of the Ironwood site
The 3.5 acres of donated land surrounding the creek creates a significant habitat corridor connection. The Ironwood property connects Cedar Valley Conservation Area to the west with Camp Samac to the north, making it a major part of Oshawa’s natural corridor system.
Trees and shrubs will be planted to repopulate the open field at the back of the Ironwood site. Huggett said the developers have also agreed to monitor the site and remove invasive species in the dedicated natural open space for a few years after Ironwood is completed.
The Ironwood development will include trails, a toboggan hill, an off-leash dog park, community gardens, a storm water pond, a natural adventure playground and a playing field that can become an ice rink in the winter.
A fee of approximately $150 per month will be paid to the condo corporation to ensure everyday upkeep such as landscaping, snow removal and maintenance of the grounds, a road and a visitor parking area will be handled.
Podium had already built three other projects about 500 metres away on Simcoe Street, so it knew the area well and wanted to increase its presence there.
Ironwood’s 125 three- and four-bedroom freehold townhomes, which were priced from the high $400,000s to the mid-$600,000s, are all sold.
Each features a private garage and driveway with two-car parking, plus a backyard or rooftop terrace. Unit sizes range from 1,500 to 1,800 square feet.
Ironwood will be built over 13 blocks that will be delivered a block at a time. Huggett is hopeful the site servicing will be completed by the end of the month. First occupancy will be in late 2021 and the last units should be occupied by mid-2022.
No specific third-party certifications are being targeted for Ironwood, but Huggett said construction will be green-oriented and exceed building code standards.
All of these factors contributed to Ironwood being named 2020 Community of the Year by the Durham Region Home Builders’ Association.
“People want great places to live and are looking at alternatives to city living,” said Huggett of the honour.
Podium and Building Capital
Podium is a vertically integrated company founded in 2004. Since then it has rezoned and developed urban infill locations across the Greater Toronto Area, southern Ontario and the southern United States.
Building Capital was founded in 2008. Its operations have largely been focused on developing student housing in North Oshawa.
Ironwood will be the sixth project involving the two partners, and the first that isn’t student-focused. While they have no other projects planned at this point, Huggett said they would be happy to work together again if the right opportunity arises.
History of the Ironwood site
The 11-acre Ironwood site was acquired from a bank in late 2016 after financial problems plagued a planned student housing development and it went into receivership.
“There were existing foundations and approvals for two eight-storey buildings on the site, and one of the buildings was already back up to grade with a full foundation,” said Huggett.
The site has a more colourful history if you go back farther, however.
George James opened Pleasure Valley Ranch there in the late 1930s. It featured a man-made lake, a dance hall, outdoor skating, horseback riding and pools.
Pleasure Valley Speedway, a stock car racing track, was added in the early 1950s. It only lasted two years before that part of the property was sold to the operators of Camp Samac.
The site was transformed again in he 1960s when James opened a fast food restaurant called Oshawa Julip in a round, bright orange building. The amusement park and restaurant eventually closed and gave way to Oshawa Creek Family Golf Centre, which included miniature golf, go-karts, a driving range, paddleboats and a restaurant.
The golf centre closed and the site changed hands a few times before what was left caught fire in September 2012. Many reminders of the site’s past life remained, however, and those deteriorated materials had to be removed before Ironwood could start the next chapter for the property.