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Developer chosen to build 1,700 waterfront condos

Waterfront Toronto has unveiled plans for 1,700 condo units in a new neighbourhood below the Esplanade just two weeks after the city's real estate board announced that condo sales dropped by 25 per cent in July.

John Campbell, CEO and president of Waterfront Toronto, said at a news conference on Thursday that the development company Hines is the winner of the competition to design the neighbourhood. Backed by an $800-million private-sector investment, the plan includes new condo buildings with rooftop gardens, a retail and entertainment corridor, and employment space for 2,400 jobs.

The neighbourhood is planned for a 10-acre site bordered by Lake Ontario, Queens Quay East and Parliament and Sherbourne Streets.

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Avi Tesciuba, vice-president of development at Hines, said he is confident that the market will absorb any fluctuations by the time the first of the condos are ready, tentatively set for 2014.

"If you can't sell condos on the waterfront, you can't sell them anywhere," he said.

Waterfront Toronto started discussing land uses seven years ago, and began public consultation two years later. In 2008, it began looking for developers to submit designs. Four were asked for proposals in November, 2009.

Elli Davis, a 26-year veteran of condo sales in Toronto, says the units will likely be needed as the city grows. She said July's sales slump revealed by the Toronto Real Estate Board doesn't concern her, noting that the market always slows in the summer. Still, she added, the market changes year to year.

"There's always room for more," she said, "but I guess time will tell."

Mr. Campbell said his goal is to reconnect the city to the waterfront. Torontonians have a real disconnect with the land that runs along the lake, he said, and there hasn't been much to bring people down there because the area was developed for industrial use.

"You have, essentially, underutilized, industrial derelict land," he said.

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City councillor Pam McConnell said the development plan could produce Toronto's "next great neighbourhood." She said the plans come after years of public consultation to ensure that they fit with the community's goals for waterfront revitalization, including great design, environmental sustainability and accessible public spaces.

The plan was unanimously approved by Mayor David Miller's executive committee, and will be up before full council next week. If approved, construction could start in 2013, with the entire project scheduled to be completed by 2021.

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