In July 2015, over 10,000 athletes from more than 40 countries will make their way to Toronto to participate in the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games.

These athletic types need a place to sleep during their stay in Toronto and since the city doesn’t have buildings to convert for an Athletes’ Village, one needed to be built from scratch. That’s where Dundee Realty comes in. The developer is building the Canary District, located in Toronto’s downtown east in the former industrial lands of West Don Lands.

It will be a massive urban village and the perfect home for the Pan/Parapan athletes during their stay. The kicker is, once the athletes head home, the Canary District will become a primo residential community for Torontonians. Dundee Realty teamed up with Kilmer Van Nostrand to create Dundee Kilmer Developments so they could make it happen.

We sat down with Jason Lester, Chief Operations Officer at Dundee Realty and President of Dundee Kilmer Developments, to chat about the ins-and-outs of the Canary District including some of the awesome sustainability features it will be sporting.

BuzzBuzzHome: Why are you going beyond the minimum number of credits for LEED certification?

Jason Lester: We have a mandatory requirement to do a LEED Gold community. Our strategy as part of the bid process was instead of certifying each building as a LEED Gold building, we’re looking at it as a community as a whole. There’s certain components that we wanted that score more points than others so the overall design is sustainable. The other component besides LEED Gold that we went beyond the requirements was in Toronto’s Green Building Standards. Everyone in Toronto has to maintain Tier One Green Building Standards, but we’re going to be pursuing Tier Two. There’s very few developments out there that have achieved it to date. We’re trying to achieve a precedent as leaders in sustainability in these areas.

BBH: How will the LEED certification help with saving costs?

canary district rendering townhomes

JL: We’re going to try and have approximately 40 per cent less water usage through various water saving measures. And then on the energy front, it’s around 30 to 35 per cent less than the average. Part of that is using HRV [heat recovery ventilation] units and higher efficiency furnaces as well as a number of other components.

BBH: What are some other sustainability features you’ll be implementing?

JL: Well over 50 per cent of the roofs will be green. We’ll have a Zip Car program there. We have a 50 per cent ratio of parking to the units that we sell so 50 per cent of our residents will not have a car but they’ll be able to borrow one.

BBH: Not providing a large amount of parking relative to total number of units seems to be an emerging trend in new condos these days. Why did you decide to pursue this route?

JL: A combination of two things. One is our history in selling condo developments in this area — the downtown east. When they’re coming from outside this area, people don’t realize that the distance from Yonge to Cherry is about the same distance as Yonge to Spadina. Most people think it’s much farther. With the streetcar coming down from King Street down to Cherry, which will be operating after the games, there’s a much higher percentage of residents who will not require a car. The demand is not there like it used to be when the city required 70 or 80 per cent ratios.

BBH: Tell us more about the remediation process. How does the process work at the site?

JL: Most of the contamination is the fill that’s on the site that goes down about one and a half or two metres. It’s been studied intensely. It’s contaminated but it’s not hazardous. A lot of it is going to a typical ground fill site just like any other building site. When we dug our holes at the Distillery District and Corktown District it was the same strategy exactly. The other strategy is we have some retention ponds on site. We’re trying to minimize the trucking and exportation of soils.

BBH: Speaking more generally about the project, how did you pull together such an amazing team so quickly for this massive task?

JL: One of the first decisions we made was to call up two of our favourite architects — Bruce Kuwabara of KPMB and Peter Clewes of architectsAlliance. We said that our strategy would be to design first and then everything would follow. We asked them who they would want on their design team and they quickly said our two firms are not enough. When you go to every successful neighbourhood you have diversity in architecture and the language. When you look at all the successful architects, they all have their own language and design. Everyone can recognize a Peter Clewes building or a KPMB building. A neighbourhood is not built up with one architect, so they said let’s add two or three more architect firms and we’ll add even more when we get into the second phase.

We had Renee Daoust from Daoust Lestage out of Montreal, who’s one of the top public realm architects. They really understand the relationships between buildings and historical importance. We also have MJM, one of the largest architect firms for recreational facilities. With that, we came together, we met and talked about the ingredients for creating a great neighbourhood from scratch. They said “okay, this is called the Design Lab and now you can go back to your shops and do your own thing.” That was the process with the strategy and execution of how you design, procure and finance a project in six months time.

For more info visit the website, email info@canarydistrict.com or call 416 603 7576.

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