Developer merging character of the past with modern style to energize downtown Oshawa

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Published April 24, 2024 at 9:54 am

Rendering of Atria Development's proposed Centra project in downtown Oshawa

Hans Jain’s connection to Oshawa and especially its oft-maligned downtown runs deep.

The president of Atria Developments, a Toronto-based company “on a mission to illuminate urban neighbourhoods” for the past quarter-century, Jain has been coming to the Motor City to work since the shovels hit the ground at Parkwood Residences more than 20 years ago.

Parkwood, a former office building that was being offered in a tax sale, became the company’s first project in Oshawa and the first condo development in the downtown in decades when it welcomed its first of 120 residents in 2007.

“People said it wouldn’t work but we made it work,” Jain said of the 1970s-era building (that was once the temporary home of Durham Regional Police headquarters), which was slated to become a surface parking lot when Atria purchased the property. “The retrofit was a lot of work but I think we did an amazing thing.”

Parkwood Residences

Parkwood was the first of many projects Atria has been involved with in Oshawa in the ensuing years. The developers of record for both 12-storey 100 Bond (2017) and 19-storey 80 Bond (2022) which now tower over the city’s rapidly rising skyline, Atria has five projects on the go in Oshawa right now, with four in the city centre.

“I’ve been coming here since I was a young man – it’s really a second home for me,” Jain explained. “I’m very attached to it.”

80 Bond

While the towers on Bond Street were new builds, one of the traits that sets the company apart from the dozens of other developers who come to the city to build dreams and make a buck is the ability to see potential in projects others do not.

Atria is not the only company energizing historic landmark buildings and merging the character and elegance of the past with the sleek urban design of the present, but it is one that has literally turned the practice of retrofitting to an art form.

Atria started with Toronto’s Leslieville neighborhood, converting a former Coca-Cola bottling plant built in 1910 into condo lofts and did the same a few years later to a former garment factory on Carlaw Street that now houses 153 chic condominium units in the heart of Toronto’s east end.

One of their latest projects is the Y Lofts in Peterborough, an historic structure built in 1896 that was the home of the city’s Family YMCA. Converting a structure like that was no easy task but Atria was able to incorporate modern suite design and amenities around the original heritage building, along with a host of green building initiatives.

Those skills will be put to the test at one of the company’s upcoming projects in Oshawa, dubbed Centra, which stretches more than a city block and contains another heritage property – the Oshawa Clinic.

Hans Jain

Atria purchased the clinic on King Street East from a consortium of doctors – most of the medical team is moving to a new facility in Whitby – and will try to preserve as much of the ivy-walled, 76-year-old main building as possible while incorporating it into the rest of the project, which will eventually include three 22-storey towers, a fourth 16-storey building and a retail podium with shops and a “large professional medical centre.”

Jain said he will work with the City to keep a medical “presence” at the site. “It’s very important to us that the Clinic still has a place in downtown Oshawa.”

With a thousand units planned, Centra is zoned and waiting approval from the City.

Post Lofts

Also percolating away (and a little further ahead in planning) is the Post Lofts development just to the west. Atria has hired renowned architectural firm Moriyama Teshima – company co-founder, the late Raymond Moriyama, created iconic buildings like the Ontario Science Centre, the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, the Toronto Reference Library and Ottawa’s Canadian War Museum – to fuse the striking former Oshawa Federal Building and Post Office (built between 1953-54 in the Art Moderne style) with contemporary loft interiors and a range of amenities “perfect for generation next.”

The project will also be one of a select few large buildings in Canada to use mass timber, along with tiered steel and glass, in the construction.

An eight-storey apartment building containing 143 rental units will be built on top of the existing two-storey former post office, with the building linked to a not-yet-approved parking structure across the street.

Jain said the good relationship his firm has with staff and council has him optimistic of a deal being made with the City.

“We hope it can be resolved,” Jain told indurham, adding that in addition to retaining the façade, his company has also promised to preserve the large ‘Canada’ crest at the building’s entrance off Simcoe Street. “It’s a very special place.”

Beyond

Also on the Atria agenda for Oshawa is NEO, a purpose-built rental apartment offering 213 adult suites on Bond Street East, Beyond, a 649-unit luxury rental apartment project in two buildings on Richmond Street East featuring amenities and high-tech features designed to appeal to professionals; and an industrial/warehouse project at 1645 Stevenson in the city’s northwest corner that will boast more than 209,000 sq.ft. that is now in the planning and design stages.

Completed pre-pandemic was Central on Emma, located a stone’s throw south of downtown, that Atria inherited part-way through the build and created 20 oversized rental units for families.

“We’re bringing people into the downtown and all the great cities need that,” Jain said. “You can build projects like stadiums and arenas but you need to build places for people to live in the downtown.”

“That’s what we’re doing here.”

Jain, who grew up in a working-class neighbourhood in Toronto’s west end – “you had to figure out who your friends were” – said you need all kinds of people to make a city work, from young professionals and corporate people to new immigrants and families.

That influx of people is already happening in Oshawa and he is “excited” about the company’s future in the city and especially downtown.

“There’s a huge vibrancy. People are working and living down here; they are eating at restaurants, watching hockey games and spending money.”

“And we’re part of the community.”

 

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