By Mario Toneguzzi
A massive ‘mini Las Vegas’ development is planned for Pickering, Ontario that will include a casino, two hotels, a concert venue, a convention centre, movie studios and hundreds of thousands of square feet of new retail space.
The vision is for Durham Live to become the premier entertainment and tourism district east of Yonge Street in Toronto, and one of Ontario's top destinations for fun and excitement.
“Durham Live is a 240-acre entertainment destination. A tourist destination in Pickering,” said Steve Apostolopoulos, managing partner with Pickering Developments which is part of the Triple Group of Companies. “There’s going to be a tremendous amount of restaurants. There’s also going to be entertainment offerings which could span from kids entertainment all the way through to entertainment for adults.
“The name came to because it’s in Durham Region and it’s going to be lively. So we said Durham Live . . . We’re creating a mini Las Vegas. That’s the goal. This is what we’re trying to create on Durham Live as a whole.”
The first phase of development is underway with construction of the casino which is expected to open in 2020. It will have about 330,000 square feet of gaming space and a grand fountain. Part of the first phase also includes a hotel and a concert venue. All are expected to open in 2020. The hotel will have 225 rooms and the concert venue 2,500 seats. All three are in one structure.
The second phase, with site plans being submitted in the near future, will include 150,000 square feet of restaurants or food offerings, a luxury retail wing of about 30,000 square feet, another hotel with 350 rooms and with a convention centre anticipated to be more than 100,000 square feet, and 250,000 square feet of film studios.
“We are going in for site plans now. We should probably four months or so get site plan approval and another four months to get to building permits. So I would say we would start construction on that phase in 2020,” said Apostolopoulos.
He said phase three of the development will be a market district with another retail component of about 350,000 square feet. And phase four will be the other entertainment uses with things like ice rinks for hockey tournaments and an indoor water park. The development’s website says there will also be VIP cinemas and a golf course.
For the entire project when it’s completed, there could be up to 20 to 30 different restaurants and food offerings.
“It really depends on the size. We’re provisioning about 150,000 square feet of restaurant space,” added Apostolopoulos.
Pickering Airport is a proposed second international airport intended to serve the city of Toronto, its metropolitan area, and the surrounding region known as the Golden Horseshoe in Ontario. He said if the airport goes through the proposed convention centre could actually be expanded to 300,000 square feet.
Pickering is located just east of Toronto.
“When we first bought the land (about 2011 and 2012) it was the only large swath of land the closest to the city of Toronto. So we saw a great opportunity being on the highway. The location was just really good,” said Apostolopoulos. “And the area demographics in the Durham Region is tremendous. The average household income is about $120,000. The density of homes is really good. So the market analysis shows that it was a really good area for development.
“We’re right on the train line which is a 36-minute train right to Union Station. So it was a really good location. This is why we thought it was a good idea for a development of some sort of destination and there’s nothing out this way. There’s no luxury retail outside of Bloor or Yorkdale and we thought it would be a good complement to the east side of the city.”
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.