February 6, 2015 12:50 pm
Updated: February 6, 2015 6:43 pm

New ‘innovation centre’ announced for Toronto’s waterfront

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WATCH ABOVE: Dave Trafford reports on how the innovation centre might change Toronto’s waterfront. 

TORONTO –An ultra-high-speed fibre-optic network will be a driving factor in bringing nearly 2,000 high-tech jobs to the new “innovation centre” that will be built on Toronto’s waterfront, officials said at a press conference Friday morning.

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But no tenants have signed up for the building, the city-owned land has not been purchased, the developer hasn’t released a final cost for the 350,000 square foot building and the city has not come up with transit plan to serve the area.

Menkes Development will begin construction in 2016 with new tenants not moving in for roughly 2.5 years, Menkes CEO Peter Menkes said Friday.  He said Waterfront Toronto and his company will be signing up tenants over the next 18 months.

The centre’s goal is to house “advanced visualization, and interactive digital media, film and TV production,” according to a press release from Waterfront Toronto.

“I’m delighted to see a project move forward that not only contributes to the revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront but focuses on generating high value employment,” federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver said at the morning announcement.

“This is critical as Toronto has the largest technology sector in Canada and the third largest in North America, behind only New York and San Francisco.”

WATCH: How will the new innovation centre affect the neighbourhood around it? Mark McAllister reports. 

But the estimated 2,000 jobs won’t necessarily be new. Menkes admitted some of the jobs will be imported by employers already in the city who would be moving to the centre.

Retail shops will occupy the ground floor of the building on Queens Quay, with restaurant and conference space to occupy the western part of the building. The office space will take up the eastern section of the building.

The building will house a private internet network which officials suggested is exponentially faster than the average internet speed in North America, allowing high-tech companies to quickly transfer large files across networks.

“We have the first open-access high-speed broadband network in Canada, the second in North America, this is a huge asset,” Waterfront Toronto CEO John Campbell said.

WATCH: Mayor John Tory predicts the new waterfront centre will be a “spectacular success”

The network, operated by Toronto-based Beanfield Metroconnect, provides internet connections starting at 500 megabits per second for residential consumers and up to 10 gigabits per second for businesses.

Mayor John Tory said the new centre will help attract employers to the city by strengthening the city’s high-tech sector.

“We have here something that is quite unique,” Tory said. “You are going to be in both the financial and the innovation capital of the country.”

Tory also admitted better public transit in the area is necessary and meetings are underway. But no concrete plans as to what would be built or how it would be funded have been made, he said.

“Obviously it’s a priority for us to have a transit service to this eastern part of the waterfront and we are in the midst of sorting out where that is going to fit on the city’s priority list and how it’s going to be funded,” he said.

“But it’s a must to have transit down here to support the investment that is being made by people in the private sector and the overall development of the waterfront.”

The revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront has not been without controversy. Former Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong criticized the price of rocks and umbrellas installed on Sugar Beach, and the cost of redeveloping a 15 kilometre stretch of Queens Quay jumped from $35.6 million to $93.2 million last year.

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