Experts call Scarborough subway funding proposal ‘far-fetched’

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The province’s new pitch to have developers pay for a large part of the Scarborough subway by offering them land is being described by four industry experts as unworkable and “far-fetched.”

The math suggests that in order for developers to cover the cost of building two additional stations for a three-stop subway rather than the planned one-stop extension, the province would need to allow those developers to build two of the largest private real-estate projects in Canada — eclipsing neighbourhoods largely made up of single-family homes.

The corner of Sheppard Ave. and McCowan Rd., site of a proposed station under the three-stop Scarborough subway plan.
The corner of Sheppard Ave. and McCowan Rd., site of a proposed station under the three-stop Scarborough subway plan.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

Those experts say there is simply no way that enough demand for that real estate would materialize in time to make those projects financially viable, leaving the province’s proposal dead on arrival.

What’s at stake is that Scarborough residents may be soon left without any rapid transit. The subway is meant to replace the aging Scarborough RT, widely considered to be at the end of its run.

Assessing the government’s plan, James McKellar, director of the Brookfield Centre for Real Estate and Infrastructure at Schulich School of Business, said “Someone must have bought some of that new green stuff … That won’t work.”

Details of how the province proposes that the development industry would recover the costs of building the transit infrastructure remains vague, but Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek earlier told the Globe and Mail it would involve offering developers land and air rights around and over the future subway stations. Yurek said this plan would “not be a cost to the taxpayer.”

Graham Haines, research manager at Ryerson University’s City Building Institute, looked at that plan by asking how much buildable square feet a developer would need to be offered, in order to offset the cost of building just one of the subway stops.

The city is currently moving forward with planning of a one-stop subway extension at the Scarborough Town Centre, which is estimated to cost at least $3.35 billion; a three-stop subway was last estimated to cost, as of July 2016, $4.6 billion. The additional stations would be at Lawrence Ave. and Sheppard Ave. along McCowan Rd. Building the northern Sheppard station would also involve connecting it to the line with an additional kilometre of tunnel.

It’s not clear how the additional $1 billion in costs breaks down between the two stations, so Haines started with the assumption of an even $500 million to build each station.

Market analysts Ben Myers, president of Bullpen Research & Consulting Inc., and Shaun Hildebrand, president of Urbanation, said the price of land per buildable square foot in Scarborough is between $30 to $50 per square foot.

The corner of Lawrence Ave. and McCowan Rd., site of a stations under the three-stop Scarborough subway plan.
The corner of Lawrence Ave. and McCowan Rd., site of a stations under the three-stop Scarborough subway plan.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

At that value, the scale of development required to offset the cost of building one station at $500 million would be in the magnitude of 10 million to 17 million square feet.

That amount of development is equivalent to between eight and 13 Aura towers — the 78-storey condo at Yonge and Gerrard Sts., which is for now the tallest residential building in Canada. Looking at it another way, the development required would be equal to 12 to 19 times the Honest Ed’s redevelopment site at Bloor and Bathurst Sts.

Based on typical condo development, that amount of development would be expected to produce some 11,000 to 19,000 condo units. By comparison, only 9,339 residential units were proposed in the fastest-growing part of Scarborough during the five years between 2013 and 2017, according to statistics from the city’s planning division.

Haines did calculations along the lines of Myers’ work, but assumed the land value around stations was much higher at $100 per buildable square foot. That scenario would allow the cost of building just one station to be offset by 5 million square feet of development, or the equivalent of four Aura towers.

That would produce some 5,500 units at just one site — by comparison, the entire CityPlace neighbourhood is expected to be about 7,500 units when completed downtown. Haines said even one of these projects in Scarborough would be one of the biggest development projects in Toronto.

McKellar said the province’s plan would require “the most exceptional demand for condos that ever existed in the City of Toronto” noting no transit station has ever drawn anywhere near that demand, including in the downtown core.

“Whether it’s five or 10 million (square feet), it doesn’t matter in that there isn’t the market for that kind of density,” McKellar said.

Myers noted that typically a developer is looking to make 15 to 20 per cent profit on their investment.

“It sounds really far-fetched,” Myers said of the province’s plan.

The corner of Sheppard Ave. and McCowan Rd., site of a stations under the three-stop Scarborough subway plan.
The corner of Sheppard Ave. and McCowan Rd., site of a stations under the three-stop Scarborough subway plan.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

On Thursday, Mayor John Tory — who has long backed a subway plan, originally three stops and then the one-stop version pitched during his first term in office — said he was open to the province’s plan to pay for the additional stations with development assuming it was on “acceptable terms,” which he said “means any development that produced the money for that would have to be compatible with the city’s planning guidelines and with neighbourhoods that those transit stations are in.”

The province currently doesn’t own the land where the stations would go, meaning that property would have to be expropriated not only to build the station but also to accommodate the development at each site.

There is little room, for example, at Lawrence Ave. and McCowan Rd. where today there is the Scarborough Hospital campus, several apartment buildings and sprawling, leafy neighbourhoods.

A development of the scale calculated would also conflict with several planning principles in the largely lowrise area.

Hallbank Terrace, very near Sheppard Ave. and McCowan Rd., where the province's proposal might place a new subway station, is filled with the sort of single-family homes and lowrise buildings that might soon exist adjacent huge real-estate developments.
Hallbank Terrace, very near Sheppard Ave. and McCowan Rd., where the province’s proposal might place a new subway station, is filled with the sort of single-family homes and lowrise buildings that might soon exist adjacent huge real-estate developments.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

In response to an email from the Star outlining these calculations, the concerns about feasibility and question about how their proposal would work, Yurek’s spokesperson Mike Winterburn reiterated past statements.

“Well-designed land value capture mechanisms, like the sale of air rights, provide ways for private sector builders to decrease the cost of building transit for taxpayers,” he said. “Our government is confident that private sector support will help secure funding that will allow for construction to begin sooner. We will be able to build better transit, faster for Ontarians.”

He said their government is currently working on options to “maximize the value achievable from transit-oriented development.”

The previous Liberal government earlier agreed to fully fund a seven-stop light rail line, completely separated from traffic, to replace the SRT. That project was cancelled under former mayor Rob Ford in favour of the more expensive subway, which is in part being funded through a special tax collected from all Toronto homeowners for the next 30 years.

The earliest a subway extension could be completed is mid-2026. If the LRT project had gone ahead as planned, it was expected to be in operation next year.

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Saskatoon reviewing proposal to require criminal record checks for taxi, ride-hailing drivers – Saskatoon

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Taxis will soon be sharing the road with the likes of Uber and Lyft after Saskatchewan gave its approval to ride-hailing services just over a week ago.

However, municipalities get to determine how and when these ride-hailing services begin.

Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa have both taxis and ride-hailing services that bring passengers where they need to go, and each city sets its own rules for drivers.


READ MORE:
Saskatchewan rideshare rules take effect Dec. 14, pending municipal bylaws

Saskatoon city council will be reviewing bylaws on Monday that could dictate who will be allowed on the roads.

Mayor Charlie Clark posted on Facebook that council will be looking at fees, minimum fares and vehicle inspections for the ride-hailing services.

But it’s the proposal of a criminal record check for drivers that has the Canadian Civil Liberties Association raising its voice.


READ MORE:
Insurance pit stops still exist on road to Sask. ride sharing

Abby Deshman, director of the criminal justice program with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, says a vulnerable sector check shouldn’t be applied to drivers.

“The truth is predicting what someone will do in the future is almost impossible. You can’t tell based on a criminal record if someone is going to go out and commit a violent offence,” Deshman said.

“You can’t tell based on what they have done in the past what they will do in the future.”


READ MORE:
Saskatoon city committee debates ride-sharing regulations

She added that there need to be more jobs available to those with previous criminal convictions.

“When businesses do use them and exclude people from employment, we’re really undermining community safety,” Deshman said.

“We need people to have stable jobs when they’ve had prior justice involvement. We need people to have an income to be able to find a place to live.”


READ MORE:
“We just want it to be fair and safe” – taxis, municipalities prepare for ride sharing in Saskatchewan

Provincial rules for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft went into effect last Friday.

Companies will need to hold at least $1 million in liability coverage for all drivers and vehicles.

However, it will be up to municipalities to determine their own local ride-hailing bylaws.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Calgary city council has an Olympic-sized decision to make Wednesday after last-minute funding proposal

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CALGARY—City councillors are set to make a final decision Wednesday on whether the city’s bid for the 2026 Olympics survives.

The meeting follows a dramatic couple of days for Olympic news: with no agreement for cost-sharing in sight, tensions boiled over on the weekend, with Nenshi reportedly threatening to cancel the bid outright.

Calgary city council will consider recommendations that include cancelling the city’s planned Olympic plebiscite at a strategic meeting of council on Wednesday.
Calgary city council will consider recommendations that include cancelling the city’s planned Olympic plebiscite at a strategic meeting of council on Wednesday.  (Helen Pike / StarMetro)

On Tuesday, Calgary Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games assessment committee chair Evan Woolley proposed eight recommendations, one of which was cancelling the Nov. 13 plebiscite to let Calgarians vote on whether they want to host the 2026 Games.

The Ward 8 councillor said without a final cost-sharing agreement that Calgary can afford less than two weeks before the plebiscite, he doesn’t see a way forward.

But hours later, BidCo announced a funding proposal had been reached between the federal and provincial governments. In what has been the first public look at funding numbers, the province agreed to their original commitment of $700 million and the federal government would chip in more than $1 billion, leaving Calgary committed to $370 in funds plus other upgrades.

Any final deal would still have to be signed off by city council, leaving councillors with a big task on Wednesday.

They will be weighing whether to go ahead with Woolley’s recommendations to stop work on the bid in light of the new government funding announcement, with more than $100 million shaved off BidCo’s hosting plan budget. Late Tuesday, a BidCo spokesperson said the organization found “efficiencies” in the $610 million security budget.

Because Woolley’s recommendations include a reconsideration of council’s September decision to move forward to a plebiscite, it requires at least 10 members of council to vote in favour in order to pass.

Read more:

Calgary city council to decide whether to kill Olympic bid Wednesday

Councillors will consider the recommendations and vote at a strategic meeting of council that starts at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The Calgary Olympic Bid Corp., or Calgary 2026, is also hosting a rally for Olympic supporters on the city hall steps Wednesday morning. The organization urged Calgarians to show up wearing red.

Madeline Smith is a reporter/photographer with StarMetro Calgary. Follow her on Twitter: @meksmith

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New government funding proposal for Calgary Olympics could revive troubled 2026 bid: BidCo

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CALGARY—A last-minute funding deal reached between the provincial and federal governments may have pulled Calgary’s troubled Olympic 2026 bid back from the brink.

The Calgary Olympic Bid Corporation, known as BidCo, released a funding proposal signed by federal and provincial representatives late Tuesday.

BidCo’s letter confirming the possible agreement says the proposal was discussed “late on the evening of Oct. 29” with the city, province and feds. It’s signed by federal sport minister Kirsty Duncan and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, but Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s name is absent.

Notably, the total public cost estimate in the new funding proposal is $2.875 billion — more than $100 million less than what BidCo previously said would be needed to host the Games. Previously, they reported the total cost estimate of the Games at $5.2 billion, with $3 billion coming from public funds.

BidCo spokesperson James Millar said the budget reduction came from “efficiencies” they found in security costs.

The BidCo previously allocated $610 million for security costs.

“The RCMP came back last week and said they’ve been finding efficiencies in security. … Some of those efficiencies also had to do with accommodation. If we weren’t bringing as many personnel for security we wouldn’t need to do as much of a build.”

According to the document sent to media, the proposal would see the Calgary contribute $370 million in cash plus $150 million in “preauthorized Victoria Park and Stampede access improvements.” The city would also contribute an “insurance redemption amount” of $200 million that “covers a defined contingency.”

The province would contribute $700 million — keeping with their previously stated commitment — and the federal government would match event costs incurred by the local hosts to the tune of $1.423 billion. All amounts are in 2018 dollars.

City council is still set to discuss the future of the Olympic bid on Wednesday. Ward 8 Councillor and Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games assessment committee chair Evan Woolley proposed several recommendations Tuesday that will end work on the bid if city councillors vote in favour Wednesday.

The first of Woolley’s eight recommendations requires a reconsideration of the council’s September decision to go to a plebiscite, which means at least 10 council members — rather than a simple majority of eight out of 15 — must vote to reconsider.

Ward 13 Councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart said that she plans to vote against the reconsideration. Ward 5 Councillor George Chahal, Ward 10 Councillor Ray Jones and Ward 12 Councillor Shane Keating also expressed support on Twitter for moving ahead to the plebiscite.

“If we have an agreed upon deal I believe Calgarians should be able to decide through the plebiscite,” Chahal said in a text message before BidCo announced the funding proposal.

Ward 9 Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra said late Tuesday he doesn’t think the reconsideration will get the 10 votes it needs to go ahead, and he’s “pleased” Calgarians will have a deal to consider in the vote.

“I’m hoping for a simple majority to take us to the plebiscite now.”

The lack of a confirmed funding agreement between the orders of government was the main sticking point for moving to kill the Olympic bid. Woolley said that Calgarians can’t be expected to make an informed decision in a vote less than two weeks away without more information about costs.

If the city’s bid continues, Calgarians will vote on whether they’re in favour of hosting the 2026 Games in a Nov. 13 plebiscite.

“This is a proposal that makes sense and is a good deal for Calgarians. I’m confident we and our government partners can agree to move forward and reach an agreement in principle,” BidCo Board Chair Scott Hutcheson said in a statement.

“I know City Council understands how important this is to Calgary, that they know what’s at stake here, and that they will show their strong leadership and allow Calgarians to decide the outcome of the Olympic and Paralympic bid at a plebiscite November 13. These will be Canada’s Games, Calgary’s choice.”

BidCo is also hosting a rally for Olympic supporters on the steps of city hall Wednesday morning.

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Federal, provincial governments reach agreement on funding proposal for Calgary 2026 Olympic bid

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The federal and provincial governments have reached a funding proposal agreement that would mean the public dollars are in place to fund the 2026 Winter Olympics in Calgary, if a hesitant city council agrees to sign on. 

The Calgary 2026 bid corporation sent out an announcement at 10 p.m. M.T. Tuesday that included a letter saying the required total of $2.875 billion of public funds, in 2018 dollars, would be met.

It was signed by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, federal Minister of Sport Kirsty Duncan and included a space for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s signature.

The announcement comes late on the same day the chair of the City of Calgary’s Olympic assessment committee recommended to council that it end its pursuit of the 2026 Winter Games and cancel a plebiscite scheduled for Nov. 13.

« This is a proposal that makes sense and is a good deal for Calgarians. I’m confident we and our government partners can agree to move forward and reach an agreement in principle, » said Scott Hutcheson, board chair of the Calgary 2026 bid corporation, in the emailed release.

« I know City Council understands how important this is to Calgary, that they know what’s at stake here, and that they will show their strong leadership and allow Calgarians to decide the outcome of the Olympic and Paralympic bid at a plebiscite Nov. 13. »

Bid’s future up in the air

That plebiscite’s future — and the future of the bid itself — was set to be decided by city council first thing Wednesday.

Coun. Evan Woolley said Tuesday it wouldn’t make sense to move forward without a funding agreement in place between municipal, provincial and federal levels of government — something they up until now hadn’t been able to forge amid public spats on the weekend and a marathon negotiation session Tuesday.

Woolley said he was « deeply disappointed » but that with the funding costs still not nailed down, it wasn’t fair to expect Calgary voters to make an informed decision in just two weeks.

His comments came after the Olympic assessment committee met behind closed doors for four hours, finally deciding to send Woolley’s motion with a series of recommendations on killing the bid to council for a vote.

If 10 of council’s 15 members vote in support of the motion on Wednesday, Calgary’s Olympic bid is dead.

Calgary 2026 Olympic bid corporation estimates the Winter Games would cost $5.23 billion, with about $3 billion of that needing to come from the three levels of government.

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City committee to hear proposal for new tower at former BMO building site in downtown Edmonton – Edmonton

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Now that the former BMO (Bank of Montreal) site in downtown Edmonton is sitting empty, a city committee is set to hear about a proposal to build a 50-storey mixed-use tower on the prime piece of real estate.

A city document shows the Edmonton design committee is scheduled to hear a presentation about the proposed high-rise at 10199 101 St. on Tuesday. Jimmy Amichandwala with Der Associates Architecture Ltd. will speak to the committee at a formal presentation that is open to the public.

Last year, Regency Developments applied to have the former BMO building demolished with the intention of building a high-rise tower, indicating they did not believe they would be able to find a new tenant for the structure once the bank moved out.

READ MORE: Developer seeks approval to demolish former BMO building in downtown Edmonton

Watch below: On Oct. 30, 2017, Vinesh Pratap filed this report about the future of a prominent downtown Edmonton street corner as a former bank building was sitting empty and the city was reviewing an application for its demolition.






“The sheer size of it and scale of it, it’s a pretty specific tenant that would have been able to take this over,” Regency Developments’ Raj Dhunna said in October 2017. “When we first purchased it, it wasn’t a clear vision of what we wanted to do.

“We just knew it was a prime corner, so I would say not to worry about it being an empty lot too long.”

The tower proposal says the high-rise would include a hotel as well as professional and office space, retail stores, a restaurant and a bar.

Watch below: On Oct. 10, 2018, Vinesh Pratap filed this report about growing concern among some Edmontonians that council may be approving tower after tower without understanding the impact.






© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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