It’s not every day that a huge metropolis like Toronto gets handed a vast open area, yet that’s exactly what happened when Canadian Forces Base Downsview was closed in 1995. We want to tell you the story of Downsview Park, the Downsview Lands (there’s a difference) and the Bombardier Lands from a community perspective. We’ll try to be brief, but considering this has been a 25 year odyssey (so far), it is long and complicated. But as they say…Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Official Plans are legal documents that every major City must/should have. They lay out the policies for transportation, land use, recreation and housing.
Secondary Plans are the same as above but for a specific area and more detailed. We have the Downsview Area Secondary Plan (DASP) which creates the potential to add up 42,000 new residents and workers to Downsview
Downsview Park – owned by the Gov’t of Canada through Canada Lands Company. They assure us the Park is here to stay and will never be developed. 200 acres west of the Metrolinx line is “the Park” and 91 acres east of the Metrolinx line is the “Park Commons” containing the athletic centres and businesses. This area provides the Park with revenue to finance the construction, development and management of the Park.
Bombardier Lands owned by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board through their real estate arm Northcrest Developments. They are 370 acres including the runway. These lands are now going to be developed for employment and residential use.
*We warned you it would get complicated!
1995 Ottawa closes Canadian Forces Base Downsview and promises the land for recreational use
1998 Toronto City Council adopts the original Downsview Area Secondary Plan which calls for about 8,327 residential units. The entire area extends from Wilson Ave to just north of Sheppard, and Keele Street to the east side of Allen Road.
1999 Parc Downsview Park Inc is established to build and operate Downsview Park but it has to be “self-financing”.
2003 Canada Lands announces “Tree City” as the winner of a design competition
2004 Auditor General’s Report finds issues with Downsview Park’s accountability and shortcomings in its corporate structure
2006 The work on the park you see today begins and the park starts to take shape
2011 After the Spadina subway extension is approved, City Planning starts working on a revised Downsview Area Secondary Plan. The new plan calls for 9,841 residential units
Canada Lands Company files an Official Plan amendment (#231). Much of the land surrounding the park is zoned “core employment” and they want this changed. This is not unusual and lots of landowners do this. But the City has a policy of protecting “employment lands” to provide jobs.
Urbancorp is chosen to develop Stanley Greene neighbourhood.
2012 MP Rona Ambrose hands over control of Downsview Park to Canada Lands Company and NOT PARKS CANADA (this is an important distinction). Canada Lands Company is the real-estate arm of the Canadian Government whose mandate is to redevelop or sell surplus land owned by the Canadian Gov’t. Fear that the Park will be sold mounts. Back to square one.
2013 UrbanCorp runs into financial trouble and Mattamy Homes announces partnership with UrbanCorp in building the Stanley Greene neighbourhood
May 2018 Bombardier sells their 370 acres smack dab in the middle of Downsview (including runway) to the Public Sector Pension Investment Board and announce they are leaving in 2023. The PSPIB immediately establishes a real estate arm called Northcrest Developments. Their mandate “is to generate returns for their shareholders, while also supporting public policy priorities.” Once again this changes the game plan for Downsview.
2019 Canada Lands Company and Northcrest Developments form a partnership and enter into confidential negotiations with the City to try to resolve Official Plan Amendment 231 regarding the designation of “employment lands” in the Downsview and Bombardier Lands.
2020 Canada Lands Co. and Northcrest Developments start holding consultations with residents and stakeholders and develop a website id8downsview.ca
2021 City of Toronto and Canada Lands/Northcrest Developments reach a settlement in their confidential negotiations and on February 2 Council votes unanimously (24-0) to accept the terms of the settlement. Large sections of the Downsview and Bombardier Lands are now zoned “re-generation lands” setting the stage for residential, but only after they meet thresholds for job creation.