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Vaughan Rising Podcast – Emerging Downtown Part 2: The Revel Park Story with QuadReal

This blog is a summary of the Vaughan Rising Podcast Season 1 Episode 8 by the host, Michelle Samson. For more detail, listen to the full episode (links below).

About the episode

The British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI) has a 34-hectare (84-acre) parcel of land in the VMC, managed by its real estate arm, QuadReal. BCI recently revealed this parcel will become Revel Park, a master-planned community of diverse neighbourhoods designed to inspire creativity. QuadReal Vice President of Development Mike Reel makes the case for thinking beyond bricks and mortar.

Thoughts from the host

As we’ve heard throughout this podcast series, the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC) is Vaughan’s emerging downtown.

It’s a high-density hub connected by subway to downtown Toronto and is on track to reach targets of 12,000 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space and 750,000 square feet of new retail by 2031.

One of the largest landowners in the VMC is British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI). BCI and its real estate management arm, QuadReal, have big plans for their 34-hectare (84-acre) parcel of land on the south side of Highway 7.

First out of the gate is Mobilio, a pre-construction development in partnership with Menkes with more than 1,000 townhomes and condo units. Next is Block 3, which is proposed to include four high-rise towers with retail on Highway 7 and a pedestrian retail spine down the middle.

If you’re familiar with this area in Vaughan, you might know it as The Interchange – a location populated by restaurants, entertainment and night clubs. This summer, QuadReal revealed a new name, Revel Park, and a 15-year master plan.

The new name and master plan reflect a fundamental shift in QuadReal’s vision for the land. It’s going to be more creative. I invited QuadReal’s VP of Development, Mike Reel, to the podcast to tell us more.

He’s been working on the VMC lands since 2002, but BCI bought it well before that in 1995. Even then, it was a great location on Highway 7 with frontage on Highway 400 and the yet-to-open Highway 407. Mike says it became a traditional mixed-use park with mostly low-rise office and retail, plus some industrial space. The only land use not covered was residential.

Then the Line 1 subway extension was announced, and the VMC was designated as an Urban Growth Centre. This allowed for higher density and opened a broader range of possible uses.

This called for a new mixed-use strategy, one including residential space. QuadReal wanted to get the community building part right and invested in a lot of research, including focus groups.

What came up again and again was that people want to live in and visit places with character. As a result, they’re looking beyond the brick and mortar and want Revel Park to be founded on creativity. The plan is to embed creativity into every part of Revel Park, from fostering distinct but inter-connected neighbourhoods to amplifying the inherent creativity of greenspace with social and cultural programming.

Much of this will happen in the future, but QuadReal is already laying the groundwork to become a creative hub. This summer, six major festivals, including 90s Nostalgia and Vaughan Pizza Fest, were held on their lands. In September, a more artsy pop-up music event was held in a re-purposed retail space.

Retail will be a key piece of Revel Park’s creative identity. QuadReal is taking a highly curated approach to find tenants that will make Revel Park a magnet for residents, businesses, employees and visitors. They’re looking for tenants that can’t be found anywhere else in the GTA.

This new curated approach would ideally come from creative Vaughan-based retailers interested in doing something special in the VMC. Some of the retail spaces could also be filled with community uses. QuadReal has approached some relevant organizations to see if they’re interested in coming to Vaughan.

In terms of office space, QuadReal hasn’t submitted any proposals yet, but it’s definitely in the plan. Mike says he expects they’ll have 700,000 to one million square feet within 10 years. He’s not making any guarantees, but there have been a lot of inquiries so far.

Mike hopes in 10 years Revel Park will be a socially engaging, unique, diverse and active neighbourhood with young families, millennials and seniors all enjoying the unique sense of community together.

Today, food is a big part of Vaughan’s sense of community. Mike’s pick is 9 Baci at the corner of Keele Street and McNaughton Road.

If you’re interested in connecting with Mike about retail or office opportunities, send me a note at michelle.samson@vaughan.ca.

This episode was recorded in the green-screen room at the Civic Centre Resource Library. For more information on Vaughan Public Libraries’ creation spaces, visit vaughanpl.info/shareit.