The revitalized Motel Strip along Lakeshore Boulevard in Toronto's South Etobicoke neighbourhood.
Motel Strip Precinct Plan marks a number of firsts
In February, the City of Toronto Council approved the implementation of the Motel Strip plan, the historic name for the Precinct Plan covering the South Etobicoke area along Lakeshore Boulevard West between Park Lawn and Palace Pier. For those in the real estate industry and planning profession, the Precinct Plan was groundbreaking on a number of fronts.
The finalized plan and its implementation was a culmination of over 20 years of intensive creative problem-solving and collaboration among a team of experts charged with laying the detailed foundation for the redevelopment of South Etobicoke’s motel strip.
Gabe Di Martino of Graywood Development and Ryan Guetter, Weston Consulting Vice President, played a pivotal role in leading the team hired by a group of landowners to transform the rundown area and secure its successful realization. The team of professionals included those from Weston Consulting, Schaeffers Engineering, Strybos Barron King, Cole Engineering, and William Friedman and Associates LLP.
From a planner’s perspective, the South Etobicoke Motel Strip project was a unique, long-term endeavor culminating in a number of firsts. Chief among those firsts was the fact that a group of landowners hadn’t worked together on this scale before in such a concentrated area in the City of Toronto, where ownership challenges resulted in significant hurdles to development.
Unlike the 905 region where historically groups of landowners have often worked together with a common interest in the planning and development of raw, un-serviced land, it was the first time a group of landowners with a common goal had banded together to implement a major project in the City of Toronto involving complex engineering, planning and legal issues.
One of the reasons for this lies in the geography of the land itself, long narrow slivers of land along South Etobicoke’s motel strip. The nature of the individual lots forced landowners to work together to hire experts to help create the infrastructure necessary to move development forward. The sharing of infrastructure and the coordination of construction and phasing were key challenges among owners given the existing ownership.
Although the Motel Strip Secondary Plan established a framework for development, the newly minted Motel Strip Precinct Plan has established a detailed development plan, based on an approved urban design plan, including streetscapes, four roads including an east-west and a north-south, and public amenities like parks and open spaces.
In another first, this was the first major project outside the downtown core to contemplate stratified parking below public streets. Weston Consulting worked closely with the team to implement the construction of three to four levels of stratified parking under municipal public roads. These stratified parking areas will help serve the 5300 residential units and street level commercial retail units intended for the area. In addition, the public roads contained municipal infrastructure and utilities, which had to be carefully considered in the design.
Another first was legal. Cost sharing among the landowners was enshrined in legal documents and an agreement with the City for the first time. William Friedman and Associates LLP and the team worked extensively with City Legal on developing the appropriate legal framework to ensure the implementation of this development plan.
Such a massive undertaking is rare in an already developed area, especially an intensely developed one such as a the Motel Strip. The intricacies on all fronts, legal, engineering, planning and interpersonal, were almost overwhelming at times.
Creative thinking also came into play more than once. For instance, along with the engineers, Weston’s technically adept planning team on the project spent hours brainstorming solutions to the tricky issues of sewer capacity, phasing, and maintenance, approvals, and interim development measures.
“Our role was to use sound judgment based on strong technical skills to achieve consensus and collaboration among all stakeholders so that the right decisions could be made,” stated Ryan.
It’s not everyday that a project of this magnitude comes to fruition. Weston is proud to have provided planning expertise and project management guidance in the historic transformation of the Motel Strip. Weston is also thankful to the landowners, City staff and the entire legal and technical team who contributed to the success of this project.