Development Potential

Significant transit investments have already been made in TYW - notably the construction of Highway 7 bus rapid transit, and the extension of the Spadina subway line to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, due to open in late 2017. More investments are planned, so it is critical to ensure that the area generates as many transit riders as possible. Reducing auto dependence, increasing transit ridership, providing improved access to the thousands of jobs in the area, and integrating land use with transportation means identifying opportunities to increase density.

Highway 7 is identified as a regional corridor in the York Region Official Plan, which includes policies aimed at creating higher-density mixed uses along this thoroughfare. For example, many surface parking lots flanking Highway 7 west of Highway 400 could be redeveloped. We estimate approximately 25 hectares of potentially redevelopable surface parking in these locations. If these parcels were to be developed at a modest office floor space index1 of 1.0 times the lot area (equivalent to, for example, a two-storey building covering 50% of the lot), almost 250,000 square metres of new employment space could be created. At typical office occupancy rates2 this new development could accommodate 11,000 to 15,000 additional workers. These sites are all within one kilometre of Highway 7 bus rapid transit, providing a key opportunity to support transit investments and locate office uses in places that are not auto-dependent.

The City of Vaughan is anticipating denser, mixed-use development in this area. Most of these parcels are within the area covered by the Weston Road and Highway 7 Primary Centre Community Improvement Plan, which provides incentives for office development.

In addition to the development potential associated with surface parking, there are at present 96 hectares of vacant sites elsewhere in the megazone.3 This includes some as-yet undeveloped sites at the still-urbanizing northern edge, near Highway 400.

Two key areas are planned for redevelopment - the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC) and the Downsview lands. The VMC is planned as a denser, mixed-use centre. It has an employment target of 11,500 jobs (of which 5,000 would be new office jobs) and a minimum office space target of 1.5 million square feet. It currently has financial incentives in place to attract office development.4 In addition, the centre is planned to accommodate 12,000 residential units and 25,000 residents. The plan for the Downsview lands also anticipates denser, mixed land uses around a large park, accommodating up to 42,000 residents and workers.5 Both areas will be served by subway stops on the extended University-Spadina line.

Otherwise, development opportunities in the industrial areas that make up most of the zone's remaining territory may be limited in the short term. Industrial areas tend to have large-footprint, single-storey buildings covering a relatively high portion of the lot. This form does not lend itself easily to the insertion of new buildings, though additions to existing buildings may be feasible.

The interactions and synergies between continued economic restructuring, development opportunities, and major infrastructure investments need to be better understood for the successful planning of the megazone.

[1] A floor space index is the measure of the floor area of a building divided by the area of its lot.

[2] A very conservative 23 sq. m per worker is assumed to arrive at the lower number. Many facilities have lower floor space per worker. A figure of 17 sq. m per worker was used to arrive at the higher number.

[3] Vacant sites were identified using the York Region Vacant Employment Land Inventory and measured using the Parcels dataset from York Region Open Data.

[4] See City of Vaughan By-law Number 176-2015 for the provisions for both the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre and the Weston Road and Highway 7 Community Improvement Project Areas.

[5] City of Toronto, Downsview Area Secondary Plan. See