The tenants who’ll move into a proposed building in the King-Spadina neighbourhood may very well be waking up when young clubgoers in the area head to bed.
That’s because a recently submitted development proposal is calling for a 12-storey seniors’ building on Wellington St. W. — smack dab in the middle of the wall of condo towers that are typically home to a younger demographic.
A heritage office building and parking lot at 462 Wellington St. W., just west of Spadina Ave., currently sits on the 0.6 acre site where DCMS Realty Developments, the development arm of Canadian company Verve Senior Living, is proposing to build a 131-unit retirement building.
The proposal, which the company submitted in April to be reviewed by Toronto’s planning department, would offer rental apartments for seniors living independently, along with those requiring assisted living and memory care — care provided to those with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory-related ailments.
The building will cater to individuals ages 75 years and up.
If approved, the estimated $150-million project would certainly stand out as a rare seniors’ building in a condo-dense neighbourhood that includes The Well, a massive mixed-use project underway that will feature 1,700 units of condos and rental apartments, and the massive King Toronto project, which calls for nearly 500 condos and is set to be completed sometime around 2023.
Longtime friends and retired teachers David Chong, 79, a Kensington Market resident, and Donna Nicoloff, 75, who grew up near Wellington St. but now lives in North Toronto, were passing by the area recently.
The Star showed them the proposal for the seniors’ building and both expressed favourable views about the project.
“I think it would be good. I would live here,” Nicoloff said in an interview.
“I like the downtown area, and I know it can be overwhelming for some, the traffic and noise, etc. But I think it (downtown) has a lot to offer — stimulation,” she went on to say.
“I think it would be stimulating to see other people. Often you have seniors’ homes and there’s nothing around,” Nicoloff said.
“I live downtown. If I had to move from my current home I would definitely seek out a similar environment, with lots of life going on,” Chong said.
“I like lots of activity. I like young people around, old people. Living downtown you feel the energy of city life. I like that.”
He added that noise doesn’t bother him, quipping that by the time he’d move into the seniors building he’ll be losing his hearing, so noise won’t be much of a concern.
Domenic Gesualdi, owner of the 462 Wellington property and president of DCMS Realty Developments, said the company decided the market in downtown Toronto is “deep enough” to support a seniors’ project the size of what his company is proposing, even twice that size.
“You walk around (that area) on a Friday and you’ll say ‘jeeze it’s a bunch of millennials.’ But go there on a Sunday, or in the evening, there are a lot of people who are post-World War II people like me, walking around with grandkids. So there’s an opportunity here,” Gesualdi, 64, said in an interview.
His son Joseph, director of development planning for DCMS Realty Developments, pointed to statistics he said show the need for an “underprovided” housing type in the downtown core.
Joseph said their market includes seniors living within the boundaries of College St. to the north, just beyond Dufferin St. to the west, the Don Valley Pkwy. to the east and the waterfront at the southern boundary.
A market feasibility analysis shows the population of individuals between 65 and 79 is projected to grow by more than 50 per cent within the next 10 years, according to a planning document prepared by Urban Strategies Inc., the lead urban design and planning firm on the project.
“There are a lot of seniors in downtown already — they have nowhere to go if they want to stay in the community,” Domenic said.
The Wellington St. project, which will preserve the five-storey heritage property on site, calls for a new 12-storey building that will include 101 independent living units, 15 assisted living suites, and 15 for memory care. The entire project would allow tenants to “age in place,” the developers say.
The independent suites will range from one bedroom, to three bedrooms and a den, and 23 of these suites will have full kitchens, although there will be a common dining room providing meals for tenants. The independent suites will also include housekeeping and on-call nursing.
On the floor containing the memory-care rooms, there are plans for a loop design with nursing and support facilities in the centre.
Rental prices aren’t available at this time.
The project will also feature office space and amenities such as restaurants, a fireplace lounge, a spa, theatre/chapel, libraries and an exercise room, the proponents say.
Verve has 38 locations across the country including 13 seniors’ homes in the Greater Toronto Area and another nine locations under development.
Joseph Gesualdi said it’s expected the Wellington St. project will take 18 to 24 months to pass through the approvals process at the city and then require a 30-month construction period.
There aren’t many seniors buildings in the downtown core at the moment.
The Sumach, by Chartwell, is a new seniors’ building in Regent Park for residents who live completely independently. Chartwell, a private company, has a building downtown on Queen St. E. called Avondale. Built in 2006, it offers 79 units of retirement living with care.
With regards to 462 Wellington E., Lynda H. Macdonald, director of community planning for the Toronto and East York district, said her department is “quite pleased to get an application targeting seniors.”
“As you know with the (city’s) Official Plan policies we are trying to create a diverse demographic and a range of housing so you can have cradle to grave housing — you can stay (or move) within your neighbourhood and have all the amenities you would want,” Macdonald said.
For seniors, King-Spadina already has or will soon offer a host of services within walking distance, including two small parks, programming for seniors at a local school/community centre, a public library, dining and entertainment venues, Macdonald said.
Donovan Vincent is a housing reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @donovanvincent