"We don't think of ourselves as traditional developers but as city builders," says Westbank's Ian Duke, who oversees the firm's business in Toronto.
"What we wanted to challenge was the typical large scale of development in Toronto. We wanted to deliver a fine-grained retail and pedestrian experience more suited to the rhythm of Bloor Street.
"The result is something completely atypical for Toronto and we believe it will be better able to integrate with the surrounding neighbourhoods while still delivering new residential and commercial activity."
The Vancouver-based developer unveiled initial concepts for development of the 3.5 acre site at an open house last month (March, 2015). Feedback from the community has helped shape the initial plans.
"As the concept is refined, the goal is to produce the best urban design in the country and a model for future development in Toronto," Westbank said.
Duke said one unusual aspect of the LEED strategy will be the incorporation of a district energy system.
"We want to incorporate a co-generation plant that will efficiently generate electricity on site and recapture the waste heat from the generation process to heat domestic hot water and provide space heating."
Westbank plans to submit a formal rezoning application to the city in May. Duke said plans are expected to be "largely finalized" by the end of 2015, subject to the municipal approvals process.
Honest Ed's is scheduled to close officially in December 2016.
Duke said redevelopment of such an iconic site is to "some degree daunting" in that Westbank feels it has a responsibility to honour the site and "produce something that builds on its legacy and its place in the collective memory of the city."
"However, Westbank has taken on similar sites in the past, most notably the Woodwards project in Vancouver," he said. "It's this type of challenge we feel we are uniquely suited to meet. We are also really excited to take it on."
The redevelopment of the former Woodwards department store site was completed in 2009.
The development, which covers almost an entire city block, consists of about 1 million square feet of residential, institutional and retail space.
From the perspective of the contracting industry, the proposed redevelopment at Bloor and Bathurst is "exciting" news and indicative of a changing dynamic in the city, said Toronto Construction Association President John Mollenhauer.
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