Working on the City of the Future, and the Future of the City
At offices in Toronto, Ontario, and Sarasota, Florida, the driving force behind Vandyk Properties is a commitment to creating sustainable neighbourhoods and transit-oriented communities, with each project a reinvestment in the future.
It’s always a happy occasion for us at Construction in Focus to reconnect with old friends and revisit a company which we’ve previously profiled – a privately owned real estate development and investment management company with over 40 years in the North American property sector.
In our July 2017 issue we featured the then-named Vandyk Group of Companies, an integrated construction and development company whose ‘Think, Design, Build’ strategy and outstanding projects – such as the Backyard Neighbourhood Condos (Etobicoke), Craftsman Condominium Residences, (Mississauga) and UPTowns (Brampton), all in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and ONE88 and the Orange Club in Sarasota – had garnered multiple awards.
Rebranding for the better
To learn what has been happening in the intervening years, we say hello again to Domenic Zita, Executive Vice President, Managing Director Operations. The company, he says, rebranded this past November as Vandyk Properties and in February had announced major developments in both the GTA and on Florida’s southwest coast.
“This rebranding,” he says, “signified the growth and evolution of our company, and our trajectory and focus for the future on city building and transit-oriented developments, designed to provide ease to those commuting to and from metropolitan areas.”
In the midst of rebranding, planning, and launching futuristic developments, the Vandyk team also had to meet the challenges presented by COVID.
Since their services were deemed essential by the Canadian government, some pivoting was required in the way business was conducted in the short-term. Of course, this involved working remotely, especially as it related to sales launches and design studio appointments, which moved from in-person meetings to virtual ones. “We managed by leveraging the technology and tools we have access to, and we are optimistic about the future as our team of professionals pivoted quickly to the fluid and changing environment,” Zita says.
Vandyk has recognized that the pandemic also has implications for how people will live in the future and has taken these into consideration.
For example, Vandyk Smart Connect, an innovative technology promoting a touchless environment and thereby limiting opportunities for disease transmission will be implemented in new developments. These communities will also have multiple access points, allowing people to enjoy the outdoors while socially distancing.
“In our latest development, Grand Central Mimico, we took into consideration that many will be working from home on a permanent basis, or using a flexible hybrid model, which is why we made sure to have an indoor and outdoor co-working space as part of our amenities offering,” Zita says.
“Our suites are also designed to accommodate flex spaces for different lifestyles because we know how important it is to have a living space that is multi-use and purposeful.”
Mimico Triangle transformed
On March 30, 2021, Vandyk officially launched Grand Central Mimico, which, when completed over three phases, will be a fully integrated Transit-Oriented Community (TOC). As a result of the first signed, binding TOC partnership with Metrolinx in Ontario, it will totally transform the Mimico Triangle.
Located in South Etobicoke, near Lake Ontario, the strategically situated 55-acre triangle has been recognized as a priority ‘Regeneration Area” by the City of Toronto, which Zita believes “signals provincial and municipal commitment to promote significant investment and intensification in the area and presents a unique opportunity for both end users and investors alike.”
Here Vandyk is committed to – and currently planning – a vibrant neighbourhood spread over two million square feet of planned mixed-use development that spans four city blocks and nine towers, anchored by over 1.85-million square feet of residential space.
This master plan has, at its heart, a modern reconstruction of the Mimico GO station, with integrated access points to several mixed-use buildings connecting residents to downtown Toronto within 11 minutes and the financial district within 15 minutes. And, with the future Ontario Line in partnership with Metrolinx, it has the benefits of making car-free living both possible and convenient, while reducing gasoline emissions, which will be of benefit to the GTA.
“We’ve kept our finger on the pulse for many years, identifying where market opportunities exist and how we can continue to meet the needs of a collective society,” Sherman Chan, Vice President, Managing Director Real Estate, is quoted as saying in the press release. “Transit-Oriented Communities are the future: regeneration neighbourhoods that positively change our cityscape are the future; and Grand Central Mimico is the golden goose that represents this on behalf of our city.”
Start of something big
Zita told us that the first phase of the master-planned community is The Buckingham, a 749-unit, three-tower condominium, which has now been completely sold. It features a variety of residential styles which will appeal to various demographics, approximately 20,000 square feet of retail space, anchored by a grocery store, restaurants, and approximately 45,000 square feet of office space, which will be in the podium below the residences.
Amenities at The Buckingham will include a social club with two fireplace lounges, a sports lounge, a virtual golf simulator, movie theatre rooms, a wrap-around outdoor terrace and party/dining rooms. In addition, there will be a well-equipped, 7,500 square foot wellness centre, indoor and outdoor co-working spaces, and an outdoor landscaped amenity terrace.
The second and third phases of Grand Central Mimico will also be mixed-use, primarily residential, with approximately 2,700 additional units, and the new Mimico GO Transit station. Included in that phase will be a Greenway, a multi-use path along the rail corridor with a new pedestrian bridge overpass and expanded commuter parking facilities, landscaped open spaces and public art.
Master planner and executive architects, SvN Architects + Planners, and design architects, Kohn Partnership Architects, were inspired by Mimico’s industrial and rail heritage, and to capture its ambience have incorporated distinctive historic details such as brickwork, steel awnings, black mullions and cross bracing. The interiors, designed by Figure3, are bright spaces with modern features and finishes including contemporary cabinets, quartz kitchen countertops and the choice of three designer-selected colour palettes.
Luxury in Florida
In addition, Vandyk has continued its expansion on the southwest Florida coast, where it’s transforming Sarasota with boutique luxury condominiums. Previously, in 2017, we learned from Sherman Chan how founder, president, and CEO John Vandyk had shopped around for three years looking for a permanent Florida winter residence for himself, and finding nothing to his liking, thought “if there are other people like me looking for what I want, there could be a market.” And thus began the Florida developments.
When we asked Zita for an update, he told us that the first Sarasota properties, ONE88 and the Orange Club, which we had featured, were so incredibly successful, putting ONE88 on the map as the highest resale value project in Sarasota, that Vandyk was able to move ahead with another exclusive offering, SIX88. This boutique residence will be a nine-story, ten-unit luxury condominium building located at the corner of Gulf Stream and Golden Gate Point. With full floor plates, five of the ten units offer 360-degree panoramic views of Sarasota Bay and downtown Sarasota.
He says the residences are meticulously designed, complete with state-of-the-art home technology and feature such amenities as an outdoor pool and lounge, fitness centre, social-club room, dog-grooming area, roof-deck lounge, and a private roof terrace for the penthouse unit.
Meanwhile, in 2014, Vandyk had purchased the Seafood Shack Marina Bar & Grill in the historic fishing village of Cortez, 24 km north of Sarasota, as part of a long-term redevelopment strategy. The two-story, 650-seat restaurant, a spot favoured by locals and tourists alike, is fully operational, while Vandyk works to redevelop the marina and the six acres of land surrounding it.
Zita credits Vandyk’s success over the last 40 years to the company going way above and beyond what many real estate developers do. “We are committed to investing into the cities and communities we choose to build in. Our attention to architectural details guides our vision to shape unique exterior facades, amenities, and suite designs, creating highly sought out property investments for both end users and investors.
“We continue to develop sustainable neighbourhoods and properties that serve a real purpose to those living in them, including our most recent transit-oriented developments.”
In conclusion Zita says, “We are excited and humbled at the fact that Vandyk currently represents a portfolio of $1 billion in completed value creation and $1 billion in owned assets.
“Our founder, John Vandyk, is a self-made business leader with a keen eye on the ever-changing real estate landscape. His progressive approach to real estate investment has fuelled our company’s growth from boutique builder to a leading and adaptive city builder in North America, and we’re not done yet.”