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Former scrapyard to be transformed into townhomes

GTA developer has plans for 52, three-story townhomes and urban square; 'We are excited to be part of the city's waterfront revitalization plan'

A Toronto developer is sinking several million dollars into a former scrapyard to be part of a “renaissance” of the city’s waterfront.

Sterling Group has purchased about three acres at 144 Elgin Street, the former Schacter & Sons Scrapyard bordered by Scott Street and Elgin Street.

They have already submitted a site-plan agreement to the city to build 52 three-story townhomes on the land.

“We’re very excited with the prospects of developing (this) property,” said Paul Federico, president of Sterling Group. “We are excited to be part of the city’s waterfront revitalization plan which will transform the waterfront and will have a positive impact to the community.”

Federico said his company, which has developed projects not only in the GTA but Wasaga Beach and Blue Mountain, was drawn to this project for several reasons. He said its “proximity to the waterfront, magnificent views and idyllic location near the downtown core” were key to the purchase.

“Orillia presents a very unique opportunity to be part of a renaissance of sorts, bridging the waterfront with the downtown and thus opening up the streetscape (and) paving the way for more waterfront development,” he told OrilliaMatters.

Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke is ecstatic with the proposal.

“We have this beautiful waterfront and wonderful heritage downtown, but the area in between is all post-industrial and much of it has sat very unproductive and has been an urban eyesore for many years,” said Clarke.

He believes this project “fits well” with the Downtown Tomorrow plan, commissioned by the former council. That plan lays out a blueprint for redevelopment of the waterfront, better connecting it to the downtown and creating a more vibrant neighbourhood.

“They’re not building a 20-floor condo tower that would act as a barrier between Front Street and the water,” said Clarke. “I fully believe Matchedash Lofts and the development at 144 Elgin Street with some nice community space will really help connect things.”

The “community space” the mayor is referring to is a 468-square metre urban square at the front of the development, close to the waterfront.

It’s a key component of the project, said Laura Thompson, the city’s manager of real estate.

“When we have conversations with developers, they're able to adjust their proposals to better connect with municipal projects,” said Thompson. “For example, the developer has incorporated an urban square in their proposal, like a community space. They're proposing to locate it along the Centennial Drive lot line, so that it can connect with the city park across the street.”

Thompson, who said she and other city staff “worked closely with realtors … and promoted it to investors,” believes the project will be positive in multiple ways.

“The development is expected to stimulate development on nearby parcels of land,” said Thompson.

Perhaps equally important, she said, “adding year-round residential units to the downtown core will increase vibrancy on a year-round basis. (It will mean) more people living, working and shopping in downtown Orillia.”

Federico said he embraces the city’s approach to the waterfront.

“Council and city officials understand the benefits of waterfront investment as a means to further enhance the city’s character which will attract more quality development,” he said.

He also knows the quality of the development, along the waterfront, is vital.

“We make it our company objective to build innovative living environments that pay homage to the character of the surrounding community,” he said.

The company hopes to start work on its ambitious project early in 2019.

- With files from Mehreen Shahid