Unprecedented Growth Reshaping Vaughan Metropolitan Centre’s Guiding Principles

Source: UrbanToronto

Residents of the former Village of Edgeley—established in the early 1800s at the intersection of Jane Street and Highway 7 in present-day Vaughan—would be awestruck at what their quaint village has become. Vaughan officially transitioned from Town to City status almost 30 years ago, and a tidal wave of change has followed.

Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, VMC, EdgeleyArchival photo of Edgeley, image courtesy of City of Vaughan

Vaughan has lived up to its upgrade in status with booming population growth and the nascent urbanization of its core. The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC) area has become the centrepiece of Vaughan’s metamorphosis, with the 2017-opened VMC subway station and a glittering new skyline being the jewels in this crown. The planning groundwork for VMC was laid in 2006 when the provincial government committed to extending the Spadina subway line to Vaughan, and the area around the new terminus was designated as an Urban Growth Centre. The VMC Sub-Committee would be formed by Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua four years later, its goal to create the framework for a new urban centre for the traditionally suburban municipality. A decade later, the emphasis on urban feel has begun to bear fruit.

Created from an almost blank slate, VMC is now home to active projects from multiple landowners and developers, with the first major investment coming back in 2012, when the Cortel Group broke ground on their Expo City community. Expo City has since grown to four towers, with a fifth—CG Tower—now under construction, at 189 metres to be the new tallest building on Vaughan’s skyline. Its title may be short-lived though as an even taller tower has been proposed as of early November, 2020, Vaughan’s first to break the 200-metre mark. There are several developers active in bringing the VMC master plan to realization, with the biggest current players being SmartCentres REIT and QuadReal, each working off their own sub-community master plans for sites of 100 and 80 acres respectively.

A number of other active projects within and beyond these community master plans are bringing much more urban density to VMC, including under-construction buildings such as phases 1 through 5 of Transit City, Mobilio, and a much longer list of upcoming projects either working their way through planning and approvals, or currently in pre-construction sales. Complementing all of this residential growth, the VMC Centre of Community including a YMCA, daycare, library branch, and community recreation space is set to open its doors next year, and three new public art installations are underway.

Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, VMC, Transit City Condos, SmartCentresTransit City Condos, image by Forum contributor DarkSideDenizen

Another jewel in the crown is the planned Edgeley Pond and Park, a signature community amenity that will double as a stormwater management facility

Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, VMC, Edgeley Pond + ParkEdgeley Pond + Park, image via vaughan.ca

All of this investment and demand has far outpaced Vaughan’s initial expectations for height, density, and speed of city building, exceeding projections even during the most turbulent months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The VMC Secondary Plan established a population target of approximately 25,000 residents and 6,500 jobs by 2031, though due to the unexpectedly high volume in development activity, this projection has swelled considerably. Current development potential measured through approved and proposed developments represent more than 63,352 residents across 31,996 residential units moving into the VMC, a staggering 267% of the units and 253% of the population target identified for the 2031 planning horizon.

Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, VMC, Transit City Condos, SmartCentresConstruction in the VMC area, image by Jack Landau

Vaughan is responding to this unprecedented growth in VMC with a plan to update and expand documents guiding the area’s development, outlined in a VMC Sub-Committee report recommending sweeping changes to reassess and refocus efforts for the new downtown’s build-out moving forward based on development trends. This November 10th report identified and explained a range of issues and goals stemming from this outpacing of targets, noting that:

  • Proposed densities are rising exponentially each year
  • Greater diversity of building types and tenures is desired for a complete community
  • The downtown’s Neighbourhood Precincts need to be protected
  • Development must be balanced with delivery of supporting social infrastructure to achieve a complete community
  • The VMC needs a critical review of parkland provisions based on development trends
  • The right moment to reassess and refocus efforts
  • Proposed new office uses have increased significantly over the last year
  • Proposed retail uses have been lagging behind other uses, though there has been a significant increase since 2019

Factoring in all of the growth, an update to the VMC Secondary Plan has been initiated with an aim to address new provincial and regional policies, while staying true to the initial framework that has guided existing, approved, and proposed development in the VMC zone. This Secondary Plan revision is set to be adopted under the Vaughan Official Plan Update, which would functionally guarantee that planning goals are realized as envisioned.