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In Conversation With Vince Santino, Senior Vice-President, Development Aoyuan Canada

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In Conversation With Vince Santino, Senior Vice-President, Development Aoyuan Canada

Condos are king in Toronto and, increasingly, elsewhere in the GTA, and one shining example is M2M, an 8.6-acre master-planned community from Aoyuan at Yonge and Finch in North York. When complete, M2M will be a fully-integrated, live-workplay neighbourhood with 1,650 residences, a community centre, daycare, 180,000 sq. ft. of retail and office space and a new public park.

Developer Aoyuan International set out with a master plan and smartly designed suite layouts to provide a variety of living options for families at different stages of life.

Vince Santino

We spoke with Vince Santino, senior vice-president of development for Aoyuan Canada, for an update on this signature project, and what might lie ahead for the company.

Condo Life: How are things coming along at M2M?

Vince Santino: Sales of our first phase began in June 2018 with a very successful launch, selling out the north tower. We released the south tower in February 2019, and the response was the same. We’re very pleased with the results to date. People want to be in North York.

We’re on track to begin construction in late Q2 of this year, or early Q3, and we’re looking forward to receiving our first homeowners for our first phase, which includes both towers and our lower suites, in late Q2 of 2022.

CL: What is it about North York that is so appealing?

VS: For one, it’s still within the 416, and when buyers are looking for a condo, they’re looking for convenience and being close to amenities. North York offers it all. Where we are situated, it’s very close to transit, the TTC and GO Transit, but also very accessible to all the major highways.

CL: Who are the typical buyers for this project?

VS: We’ve seen a lot of end users. They’ve been the majority of our buyers, whether they’re young couples, young families or downsizers… many of them have grown up and raised families in the area. They love it and don’t want to leave.

CL: What have you learned about development – delivering on your customers’ needs and wants – since launching this project?

VS: People want convenience. Even though they’ve made the decision to move into a condominium space, they want amenities that they don’t need to necessarily get into a car to get to. And they want choice, in the type of suites, with efficient design where space isn’t wasted, and to maximize utility at a price they’re willing to pay. They’re happy to pay for a bigger suite… our larger suites, our two-bedrooms plus den or three-bedrooms… we’ve designed them very efficiently. So, for a younger family, or someone who’s downsizing, they don’t feel like they’re sacrificing by getting into a condo.

CL: At M2M, you’re not just building a condo, you’re building an entire community, all with easy access to transit, which is increasingly key these days. How import ant are all of these inclusions in appealing to family living in condos?

VS: We’ve got more than 100,000 sq. ft. of office space planned, 8 0,000 sq. ft. of retail… that gives any family all the necessities, literally at their doorstep. Our site is complemented by really good restaurants, shopping, proximity to schools, universities, and we’ve got a future daycare conveniently located within the development that gives the younger families a key service that helps reduce the stress of the day-to-day commute and a busy family life.

The community centre, along with the public park that we’re going to construct as part of the development, provides families with options for better quality of life year-round, just footsteps from you. And because you’re in the 416, you’re close to transit, reducing your commute time, all of that time can be spent enjoying these amenities, spending that time with your family. It isn’t always so conveniently accessible in other developments, so this is really a one-of-a-kind opportunity, because of the sheer size and the amenities we’re providing.

CL: How do you foresee the condo market in that area performing in the next three to five years?

VS: We’re feeling very, very bullish. If you look at what’s been happening in the midtown area, Yonge and Eglinton, and up to Yonge and Sheppard, this is just a natural progression. We’ve seen a lot more launches in North York in the last year, and more coming into the market this year, and the area is starting to undergo a renascence, and over time people are going to continue to choose to be in North York. It tells us that buyers still want to be within the 416, but they have no problem not necessarily being in the downtown core, as long as they can get to it and the rest of the GTA conveniently.

CL: Affordability is a key concern for homebuyers in Toronto. How is Aoyuan addressing that issue, in how it plans and delivers its communities?

VS: The reality is, in the last little while, traditional lowrise homes have become more unaffordable and more out of reach for families. For us, providing well sized, even of the smaller units, are designed with the utility and growing families in mind. It provides people with an alternative. As for M2M itself, delivering those things, all in a masterplanned community, and not just a couple of towers in the middle of nowhere, it’s a great example… we’re trying to give people everything they need, moving into a space that isn’t perhaps traditional for younger families.

We’re taking the opportunity to intensify in an area of the 416 in North York where people want to live because of all of the existing amenities, and all those other elements. It gives our customers a lifestyle that offers it all, really – easy access to schools, transit, universities… people don’t feel like they’re giving up a lot, but the value they get by living in this area makes the affordability challenge a little easier to bear, especially for a young couple or young family moving into their first home.

CL: For some, affordability is a key reason for choosing a condo, but what are some of the other reasons families might consider a condo in the city, versus a lowrise home in the suburbs?

VS: A condo in the city helps with the cost of transportation, as it’s a significant expense for any household, so with the option of public transit, it means families may not need to purchase a vehicle, or a second vehicle. You’re reducing the commute time, and for families working in the city, it allows them more time to spend with their children, parents or grandparents. The city provides families with a lot of choice – where they shop, work and play – and there’s everything around, especially where we are in our setting.

CL: What have you learned – be it about development in Toronto or family-centric condos – from M2M, that you will use in future projects?

VS: Listen to the needs of your buyers. It’s refreshing to try things that maybe haven’t been at the forefront of condo development in the past. There’s a significant segment that wants living in the sky to provide the options, flexibility, amenities and opportunities that in the past attracted families to traditional lowrise homes, and the more we’re able to build those amenities in the sky, it becomes more and more attractive.

CL: What’s next for Aoyuan in the GTA?

VS: The future is bright for us here. We’re not limiting ourselves to condos only, and it speaks to our mantra of building a healthy lifestyle in trying to build complete communities. We’re looking at all kinds of other opportunities across the GTA.

Certainly, we’ve got Phase 2 at M2M coming, and we’re going to continue to build on what we’ve seen has been very successful for Phase 1, but we’re not limiting ourselves to one building form or type. We’re looking at a lot of opportunities, in and around the 416 and the 905 as well. Stay tuned.


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Aoyuan launches T1 – the highly anticipated south tower at M2M Condos

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Aoyuan launches T1 – the highly anticipated south tower at M2M Condos

Aoyuan‘s transformation of Yonge and Finch into a complete live-work-play community is currently underway. The demolition of the former Newtonbrook shopping plaza began in December 2018. The 8.6-acre arterial site will become home to M2M, a fully integrated community that will add five residential towers, 180,000 sq. ft. of new office and retail space, a daycare centre, community centre and new public park to the neighbourhood.

“M2M will become a new destination for Yonge and Finch – a vibrant residential community, with rich retail and office and interconnected greenspaces to support a healthy urban lifestyle,” says Vince Santino, senior vice-president, development (Eastern Canada), Aoyuan Property Holdings (Canada) Ltd.

Following the sold-out success of M2M’s north tower, Aoyuan is bringing the south tower to the market this spring. Located on the southern edge of the new community, steps from Yonge and Finch subway and GO Stations, T1 at M2M will have 36 floors, two penthouse levels.

Last year Aoyuan celebrated the launch of The M2M Community with a neighbourhood Block Party, inviting local residents to partake in a day full of health and wellness activities.
Last year Aoyuan celebrated the launch of The M2M Community with a neighbourhood Block Party, inviting local residents to partake in a day full of health and wellness activities.

The M2M Community is designed with Aoyuan’s healthy lifestyle intelligence baked into the master plan. Purchasers will benefit from a variety of fitness and wellness amenities as well as thoughtfully-designed greenspaces. Third floor condo amenities include a theatre, children’s play area and a double height yoga and fitness studio facing an internal courtyard. The ninth floor features a barbecue, party room, and waterfall infinity pool with prime western exposure. The ninth floor features a barbecue, party room, waterfall infinity pool with prime western exposure and a co-working lounge with large format printer and scanner.

“Aoyuan’s approach to creating healthy communities was central to the design, strongly influencing our use of natural materials and form and ensuring maximum access to natural light throughout the building,” says Kelly Cray, principal of U31 Design.

Inside the suites, kitchens are designed for high utility and include fully integrated appliances with upgraded Kohler plumbing fixtures as the standard offering. Carefully thought-out layouts maximize efficiency, with storage needs provided by walk-in closets in select units. Multiple finish options suit diverse personalities and tastes.

Showcasing distinctive architecture by Toronto’s Wallman Architects, a series of geometric glass forms frame the site with playful textures to differentiate different faces of the building. “We are very excited about the way the building is addressing the new park to the east,” said Rudy Wallman. “Functionality and views from the suites were another key focus of the design. Balconies face the park while light-filled living spaces take advantage of views of an internal courtyard.”

Suites in T1 at M2M range from 427 to 1,400 sq. ft. Visit the newly completed presentation centre including model suite, located at 5851 Yonge St. The presentation centre is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and from noon to 6 p.m. weekends; closed Fridays. To register call or visit the website.




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Aoyuan Property Group to develop its largest project in Canada

Aoyuan Property Group to develop its largest project in Canada

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Aoyuan Property Group to develop its largest project in Canada

Plans to redevelop Newtonbrook Plaza site backed by a robust portfolio of residential developments in China, Australia and Vancouver.

Aoyuan Property Group, a pioneer of mixed-use community developments in China, is now bringing their broad lifestyle intelligence to Toronto with the redevelopment of the 8.6-acre Newtonbrook Plaza site at Yonge Street and Finch Avenue.

Aoyuan’s acquisition of Newtonbrook Plaza was one of the largest real estate deals in Toronto in 2017.

Founded in 1996, Aoyuan was the first developer in China to integrate residential real estate with sport and recreation amenities. Their first sports-themed development, named Olympic Garden, was based on the idea that exercise and a healthy lifestyle started at home. The concept was celebrated by the International Olympics Committee, ushering in a new standard for residential communities in China.

Two decades later, the Hong Kong-based company has demonstrated their ongoing commitment to building healthy lifestyle communities with a current land bank of over 200 million square feet and 100 major residential and commercial properties in over 30 cities across China, Australia and Canada.

Aoyuan’s philosophy of healthy living has also expanded to the creation of six different business arms ranging from e-commerce to hospitality. Innovative projects include a mobile app that integrates e-commerce with property management, and a large-scale — and every kid’s dream — chocolate theme park.

“Aoyuan’s entry into Toronto is very exciting news for the development community, says Vince Santino, senior vice president, development (Eastern Canada), Aoyuan Property Holdings (Canada) Ltd. “Aoyuan brings a unique approach to the way we think about the built environment and real estate. Building healthy lifestyle communities was part of their DNA from the beginning,”

“Aoyuan knows real estate is not only about giving people a two- or three-bedroom unit. They have a corporate intelligence about the way people live, which gets baked into their master plans,” says Santino, who has 25 years of experience in Toronto’s real estate development industry.

The 8.6-acre Newtonbrook Plaza site at Yonge and Finch will be Aoyuan’s largest master-planned community in Canada. Plans include five residential towers, 180,000 square feet of office and retail space, as well as a daycare and community centre. The new community will be 100 metres from the Yonge and Finch TTC subway station and the Finch GO Transit station. A portion of the lands that is currently a parking lot will be transformed into a new park and playground. Aoyuan has also embraced the city’s desire to encourage larger suites for families of all shapes and sizes.

“The magnitude of what Aoyuan has accomplished is incredibly diverse and this gives them a very broad perspective,” says Josie Arcella, senior sales and marketing manager (Eastern Canada. “Aoyuan takes into consideration exactly how purchasers will be affected by every decision they make. Aoyuan’s designs are not based solely on global trends, but on the functionality of the entire community and what buyers really need.”

Fundamental to Aoyuan’s international success is their hyper-local on-the-ground approach. In every city, Aoyuan handpicks local talent who understand the development landscape and nuances of the local market. As a result, Aoyuan’s international portfolio is diverse and their projects are very successful with local purchasers.

“Aoyuan’s diverse business arms allowed them to develop a deep understanding of people’s lifestyles and behaviours and build a strong service-oriented approach to real estate development,” says Fan Yang, deputy general manager (Eastern Canada). “I am excited to be part of the local team that is bringing Aoyuan’s expertise to Toronto. The Newtonbrook Plaza site has all the right ingredients, and Aoyuan has what it takes to help make Toronto more liveable for families.”



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