Windmill Developments and Leader Lane Developments have announced a joint venture to develop three infill multi-residential projects in west Toronto. In the process, they’ll become the first developers to bring prefabricated, cross-laminated timber (CLT) condo projects to the city.
Totalling 83 units, each building is located close to the other, and the Mimico GO train station anchors all three. They are being developed to Passive House standards and will target LEED Platinum certification. The project is being inspired by One Planet Living principles.
The companies have recruited Toronto-based R-Hauz as the design-build contractor for the development. R-Hauz has just completed a pre-fab pilot project, the first all-mass-timber six-storey residential building in Ontario on Toronto’s Queen Street East.
Windmill, founded in 2003, had previously looked at developing CLT projects, but it had not been feasible for various reasons until now. The plan is to start construction early in 2023 and complete it eight to 12 months later.
“It’s a combination of things that come together; one is this maturity of supply in this part of the world,” said Jonathan Westeinde, Windmill’s CEO. “You’ve now got a couple of CLT plants that are actually able to supply reliably here . . . I’d say the things we were looking at were still too big to scale.”
But the growth of the CLT industry, and a proven project already in the ground, made the timing right for this project.
Westeinde says the company was looking for a “repeatable” project that provided a real opportunity to help with the city’s “missing middle” housing shortage: a significant lack of housing options that fall between high-rise condominiums and semi-detached homes. He believes that it can be addressed with a sustainable solution is all the better.
Since the CLT is prefabricated, the project steps around some of the skills shortages in the construction industry.
At the same time, creating a model that can be replicated means these types of developments won’t be limited to the confines of Toronto. He sees these three buildings as the first of many the company could develop across the country.
“The scale of projects we are pursuing means we should avoid a lengthy rezoning process, focusing instead on site plan approval and minor variances,” said Don Manlapaz, a partner at Leader Lane, in a statement. “The net result is both speed to market and speed to occupancy, both of which are critical in a city experiencing a housing crisis.
“We’re excited to be getting started.”
R-Hauz’s work with prefabricated CLT means the firm has been on Windmill’s radar for some time. Westeinde calls R-Hauz the “dominant players” in the GTA market.
“They’ve been able to evolve their thinking (on CLT) to this mid-rise concept or context, which we think makes a lot of sense,” said Westeinde.
R-Hauz on Queen Street
R-Hauz’s 26,000-square-foot Queen Street project, which competed last year after eight months of construction, is V6 Leslieville on Coxwell Avenue. It includes two five-plexes on two combined lots, with an elevator between. Each five-plex has four residential units and one 20-foot-wide retail unit below. The wood was sourced from Austria, but all subsequent projects will use Ontario wood.
In a Toronto Star article published last June, the biggest issue around the Leslieville construction was the wooden elevator shaft and staircase due to restrictions in the Ontario Building Code. R-Hauz’s solution was a non-combustible covering.
All three properties will receive funding from the One Planet Living Fund, developed by Windmill in partnership with North American real estate platform Epic Investment Services. The fund is open to private and institutional investors and is the first private Canadian mixed-use opportunistic real estate development impact fund.
The initial pipeline of projects is focused on Ontario, specifically Ottawa and the GTA, but the fund expects to invest in developments across Canada. The OPL fund’s second closing will come sometime this spring.