Transit-oriented “ArtWalk” to revitalize this Canadian city’s downtown, turning an ugly parking lot into a mixed-use neighborhood

On September 24, 2021, an ugly surface parking lot began its transformation into a transit-friendly mixed-use neighborhood when plans for the next block of SmartCentres’ emerging 100-acre, 20-million sq. ft. SmartVMC city center were revealed.

The transit-oriented ArtWalk redevelopment is located across the street from TTC subway access, the SmartVMC Bus Terminal, and provides quick access to Highways 400 and 7.

The ArtWalk district, which was unveiled earlier this summer with a collection of accessible, experiential art and culture activations, will grow to include an entire block of new, mixed-use redevelopments, developed by SmartLiving (SmartCentres’ wholly-owned, in-house residential development brand).

Bordered by Portage Parkway to the north and Apple Mill Road to the south, ArtWalk will be developed in four separate phases. The initial phase kicks off with 38-story and 18-story towers on top of a shared podium, alongside a separate six-story mixed-use residence with retail at grade.

With five sold out world-class residential towers, and two leased out award-winning office towers, SmartVMC is one of the fastest growing communities in Canada,” says Mitchell Goldhar, Executive Chairman and CEO of SmartCentres REIT.

This emerging city centre has unparalleled transit connectivity, including a TTC Subway Station and York Regional Bus Terminal on site. ArtWalk Condos represent our next phase of new residential buildings within SmartVMC; a pedestrian and public art-oriented neighbourhood within a vibrant new city centre. ArtWalk Condos is located at the nexus of a brand-new YMCA and public library, a series of striking public art installations, and a spectacular 9-acre central park that will serve as the heartbeat of the whole community,” he added.

Goldhar says that the same SmartVMC master plan holistic approach and principles were applied to ArtWalk’s design. This includes the active integration of art and culture, the pedestrian focus and the thoughtful consideration of connectivity with the surrounding amenities.

Architectural firm Hariri Pontarini Architects was retained to lead both the architecture and interiors for this phase, bringing world-class design to Vaughan’s city centre. Their plan calls for a variety of heights, floorplates, and suite sizes to accommodate the range of future residents anticipated in this diverse community.

Here’s what Smartcentres says about their project:

The architecture is rich and inviting, utilizing a range of natural materials and color palettes, purposefully creating variation between all the buildings while crafting a striking skyline.

ArtWalk’s programming offers residents multiple outdoor terraces with gardens, an outdoor movie area, intimate lounge seating with firepits, as well as an outdoor dining space with BBQs. In addition, an indoor/outdoor childrens’ play area will be offered, as well as an expansive 2,500 sq. ft. co-working space facing the courtyard.

The spacious, double-height co-working space features calming, focus-supporting neutral tones and a community café. A dramatic spiral staircase leads you to a relaxed reading lounge with a range of spaces that can be used in multiple ways, whether for quiet solo time or chatting with friends.

ArtWalk’s shared courtyard is thoughtfully framed by common areas and amenities to encourage activity along the ground floor and build a sense of community. All residents will have access to the full roster of amenities in the development, offered across the three residential buildings, continuing to foster interactions between residents, creating an urban neighborhood feeling.

Designed as a future-ready building, WiFi will be offered in all common areas, amenities can be booked via mobile app, and suites will include smart thermostats and keyless entry.

The unveiling of ArtWalk’s mixed-used development plans build on the district’s experiential art and culture-focused activations, including 30,000 square feet of Instagrammable art murals, painted by a roster of acclaimed local and international artists including Ricardo Cavolo, birdO, Ben Johnston and Jeremy Shantz. The murals currently serve as the backdrop for ArtWalk’s daily food truck market and a series of free drive-in movies, running every Thursday and Saturday into the fall.

Images show ArtWalk’s first phase, consisting of two residential towers and one mixed-use mid-rise, with architecture and interiors both by architecture firm Hariri Pontarini Architects, located in Vaughan’s emerging city center at the SmartVMC. Images courtesy of SmartCentres.

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