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Province finally set to sell off LCBO lands in Toronto

The province wants the highest price possible for 11 acres of prime real estate, but a lack of transit and potential land use conflicts may get in the way.

Revenue from the sale of 11 acres of LCBO-owned land along Queen's Quay is expected to help fund infrastructure spending.

Liz Beddall/Metro

Revenue from the sale of 11 acres of LCBO-owned land along Queen's Quay is expected to help fund infrastructure spending.

One of what’s expected to be the most lucrative land deals in Toronto’s history is a step closer to fruition.

But, just how lucrative it will be depends on everything from public transit plans to the future of the Redpath sugar factory.

The provincial government expects to finalize the sale of 11 acres of LCBO-owned land along Queen’s Quay by spring, according to a line in last week’s provincial budget. The waterfront site includes the agency’s headquarters, a large warehouse and a liquor store. Revenue from the sale is expected to fund infrastructure projects across the province.

“It’s a site with a ton of potential. It’s a very large site right along the waterfront – there’s not many left like it,” said University of Toronto planning professor Matti Siemiatycki. “We’re talking about a huge amount of value.”

The province is keeping mum about prospective buyers or the price tag. But back in 2012, the previous Liberal government claimed the sale would generate “well over $200 million.”

The land will almost certainly be sold for residential development, which brings the highest return on investment, Siemiatycki said. Whatever is built there will have to conform to Waterfront Toronto’s official plan for the area, said organization spokesman Andrew Hilton.

“Our goal is to create complete communities,” Hilton said, noting the plan for the area – which is still being finalized – includes stipulations on height and density along with requirements for affordable housing and community assets like parks.

That’s great from a city-building perspective, Siemiatycki said, but restricting what can be done on the land could impact its value on the market.

Another factor is its location directly across from the sugar factory. The refinery has been located on the waterfront since 1958 and Redpath has said it plans to stay.

“There are ships that dock there, there are trucks that come in and out and there are also issues with odour and noise,” said Siemiatycki. “It could definitely have an impact on what’s possible on the site.”

The government would be wise to finalize plans for a possible waterfront LRT before making the sale, he added.

“Developers are banking on that and the potential for the value of those properties is dependent on them being accessible by transit,” he said. “We can hope that government at all levels will try to maximize the value of that uplift.”

Key points about property

  • The province bought the plots with the LCBO office, retail store and warehouse between 1947 and 1950 for a combined $493,910. The adjacent park was bought in 1967 for $3 million.
  • Although the land and buildings will be redeveloped, the site buyer is expected to provide space for a new LCBO head office and retail store. 

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