Canada News

Get the latest new in Candada


They were supposed to get a new train station. Instead, Mimico residents are ‘staring at a hole in the ground’

South Etobicoke residents say they’re angry as they stare down the prospect of even longer delays to the Mimico GO station redevelopment after the project collapsed due to the developer’s financial and legal problems.

In November, Metrolinx quietly terminated its agreement with Vandyk Properties to build a “transit-oriented community” next to the train station. The province confirmed the cancellation to CBC News late last month.

The cancellation came after the agency learned a court-appointed receiver took control of the developer’s lands, the Ministry of Infrastructure said in an email statement.

The agreement would have seen the developer rebuild the aging station alongside a new mixed-use community featuring thousands of homes, commercial space, green space and more.

“It’s been a long simmering frustration for residents in this area and this has really taken us to a boiling point, I would say, because of the lack of answers and the lack of direction forward,” said Rozhen Asrani, president of the Mimico Residents Association. 

“We’re really looking for some answers.”

The project’s collapse — the second in the past 10 years — puts in limbo the future development of a key hub in a growing community and represents a setback for the province’s “transit-oriented development” strategy, which Premier Doug Ford’s government is relying on heavily to increase density near major transit stations. 

A woman stands on the grass in front of a sign for a failed housing development.
Rozhen Asrani, president of the Mimico Residents Association, says local residents are frustrated by the years of delays and lack of direction for the Mimico GO redevelopment. (Ryan Patrick Jones/CBC)

‘Brand new kind of partnership’ flops

In 2018, Metrolinx enlisted Vandyk for a “brand new kind of partnership” that would have seen the developer rebuild the station in exchange for development rights.

Mimico station, built the year GO Transit launched in 1967, requires improvements to its accessibility and parking as ridership increases and the surrounding community grows.

The station currently serves about 1,751 riders daily and that’s expected to triple by 2031, according to Metrolinx. 

A binding agreement signed in 2022 committed Vandyk to building a new, fully accessible station building, with 300 underground parking spots, bicycle parking and a transit plaza.

On top of the station improvements, Vandyk had plans to build six apartment buildings with more than 2,000 housing units on properties next to the station on Royal York Road and Newcastle Street. Vandyk planned another development nearby on Buckingham Street with three buildings and 749 units. Together, the project was called Grand Central Mimico.

The development was the first of the province’s major “transit-oriented communities,” where the government partners with developers that foot much of the cost of the infrastructure in exchange for fast-tracking developments near transit hubs. The province issued a ministerial zoning order in April 2022 to override city of Toronto zoning laws for the project.

A digital rendering shows a community of residential towers and a new train station.
This rendering shows an elevated view of Vandyk Properties’ plan for the Grand Central Mimico project. (Vandyk Properties)

Vandyk agreed to provide several community benefits, including affordable housing, a pedestrian and cyclist bridge, extending a greenway and public art, according to city of Toronto planning documents. 

But more than five years after the partnership was first announced, none of that has materialized. The train station remains inaccessible, demand for parking at the station outstrips available spaces and the three main development sites are currently blocked off with fencing. Excavation has started on two while the third remains vacant.

“It’s been 10 years that we’ve been staring at a hole in the ground,” said Kelly Farrell, a local business owner who chairs the Mimico Village Business Improvement Area (BIA).

Farrell said the lack of parking is a major issue as commuters who can’t find a space at the station end up parking on local streets, taking up vital spaces that could be used by potential customers at local businesses.

“We were really hoping for this development to get going, to provide more parking for the people who are visiting our BIA and our shops or using the GO to get downtown,” she said. 

Metrolinx said there are 219 free parking spots at the station and just 14 per cent of customers drive and park at the station.

Now, with the Vandyk group of companies in major financial trouble, the future of the site is in doubt.

Neither Vandyk Properties nor its lawyers responded to requests for comment.

A woman stands across the street from a vacant lot next to a train station
Kelly Farrell, chair of the Mimico Village BIA, says local business owners are frustrated with the lack of progress on the redevelopment project. (Ryan Patrick Jones/CBC)

Court appoints receiver for several Vandyk projects 

Between November and January, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice appointed KSV Restructuring Inc. as receiver and manager for more than half a dozen of Vandyk’s properties in the Greater Toronto Area, according to documents posted on the KSV website, including those in the Mimico station area.

A receivership is a legal proceeding that secured creditors can use to have a third party appointed to take control of a company’s business or property to recover loans from borrowers who have defaulted.

KSV Advisory didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Lenders who helped bankroll Vandyk’s land purchases and pre-construction condo and townhome projects in Brampton, Mississauga and Toronto claim the developer owes them more than $300 million and began defaulting on its loans last year, according to the documents.

Metrolinx said in a statement it is “continuing to explore options to deliver new and improved transit infrastructure benefits at Mimico GO Station through the [transit-oriented communities] program.”

“While improvements are very much still part of our plan, Metrolinx has exercised our right to terminate the binding agreement with Vandyk Properties to protect public lands, including the planned transit-oriented community at Mimico GO Station,” the transit agency said.

Relying on private developers can bring ‘risk’: expert

This isn’t the first time plans for the site have fallen through.

In 2012, Metrolinx pulled out of a deal with a different developer, Terrasan, which planned a 27-storey luxury condo called On The Go Mimico that would have had direct access to the train station. That developer had planned to build additional underground parking for GO commuters and refurbish the old train station, which had been moved across the street to Coronation Park. 

But the next year, construction crews walked off the job claiming unpaid wages, and the development was placed into court-ordered receivership in 2017 after the developer defaulted on construction loan payments. The old train station refurbishment was never completed and it’s currently boarded up.

WATCH | 2015 CBC report on the collapse of Terrasan’s On The Go Mimico condo project: 

Condo trouble

9 years ago

Duration 3:49

Special condo deal has been mired in financial troubles

Matti Siemiatycki, director of the Infrastructure Institute at the University of Toronto, said the collapse of the deal shows the risks of relying on private developers to build public infrastructure.

“By engaging the private sector, you bring in market risk and you bring in the risk of the individual company,” he said. “It’s those two risks that in each of these cases have … just stalled out these projects.”

Siemiatycki said now that the project is in receivership, the receiver will look for the best financial arrangement for the creditors, which could involve selling the sites to a new developer or developers.

The infrastructure ministry said while the arrangement with Vandyk is no more, Metrolinx has “full flexibility” to re-negotiate an agreement with the future owners of the properties next to the station. 

“Metrolinx and the Province of Ontario will continue working towards delivering on our joint vision of a complete, transit-oriented community around Mimico GO,” the ministry said.

Asrani and Farrell said they’d like to see the city, province and Metrolinx work quickly to increase the number of parking spots at the station and deal with the vacant lots.

“This community really can’t afford several, many more years, maybe a decade or more of this site remaining the way that it is,” Asrani said.

View original article here Source