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Windmill’s Courcelette turns former Toronto garage into green condo

56-unit development in The Beaches prioritizes green tech, low greenhouse gas emissions

A rendering of Courcelette. (Courtesy Windmill Development Group)

Sustainable developer Windmill Development Group has broken ground on its Courcelette condo mid-rise in Toronto’s The Beaches neighbourhood, promising a climate-friendly property of eight storeys and 56 units.

Windmill, which has offices and developments in Toronto and Ottawa, was founded in 2003 and emphasizes green technology in its projects. It develops primarily mixed-use multiresidential buildings that are LEED Platinum-certified, and adheres to the international One Planet Living sustainability principles.

Courcelette will be built around environmentally-friendly features including geothermal energy and an efficient building envelope, which are projected to cut greenhouse gas emissions by almost two-thirds compared to a conventional building.

Stephen Savell, partner of development for Windmill, said in an interview with RENX Homes that while the company’s decisions may not always be the most economical, it is crucial to develop green housing for the sake of future generations.

“It’s not always the easiest or least expensive to do what we do, but you have to be driven. For everyone that works at Windmill, it’s a mission and value as far as sustainability goes.”

From a garage to housing

Courcelette is being built on the corner of Kingston Rd. and Courcelette Rd. as a mixed-use building with ground-level retail stores. The development is Windmill’s first in The Beaches.

It is sited on land where the Spiros & Sons auto shop once stood. Described as a fixture of the community for decades as a car mechanic and gas station operator, Savell said the owner reached out to Windmill seeking a development partner. He was drawn to Windmill because of its record for sustainability.

“He was a big proponent in helping us getting this through and interacting with the community . . . With turning a gas station into a sustainable real estate development, it’s a nice change of use as well and a good story and legacy he can leave behind.”

Savell said Windmill chose The Beaches to develop in because it is situated in an up-and-coming area with more mid-rise developments along Kingston Rd. It is also close to downtown Toronto with good transit links.

Courcelette’s housing units are to range from studios to three bedrooms, with square footage from the upper 400s to over 1,000 for the top-level, two-storey units.

Approximately 70 per cent of units have been sold. The remaining units range in size from 525 square feet to 1,243 square feet, with pricing from $685,000 to $1.75 million.

 A bike storage space, dog wash station, storage lockers and a community terrace will be offered as amenities.

Savell said the ground floor of Courcelette will likely open for occupancy in the late summer of 2025, with occupancy to continue for several months.

Who is buying units at Courcelette?

Many of Courcelette’s future residents are people who live in The Beaches and are now downsizing, according to Savell.

There is a mix of ages among people interested in the mid-rise, as more people are cognizant of sustainability.

“It’s nice to see people finally realize that and lean toward us and other developers who are doing the same thing in pushing the envelope with their real estate purchasing decisions.”

Putting sustainability first

Holding steady to its values, Windmill is developing Courcelette around geothermal energy, an efficient building envelope and promoting cleaner transportation.

Geosource Energy, a geoexchange project designer and builder, drilled over 20 wells to tap Courcelette into geothermal energy for low-carbon heating and cooling, rather than natural gas or electricity.

Courcelette will use 42 per cent less energy and emit 65 per cent less annual greenhouse gas emissions than a conventional building because of geothermal heating and cooling systems, according to Windmill.

Targeting LEED Platinum certification and influenced by Toronto Green Standards, Windmill is aiming for a high-quality envelope for insulation, windows and walls to lower heating and cooling loads.

Windmill is using concrete with less embodied carbon than conventional concrete for Courcelette.

To encourage residents to drive less, Courcelette will provide ample bike parking and a car share program.

Windmill’s portfolio

Windmill and its partner Epic Investment Services maintain the One Planet Living Real Estate Fund, a development impact fund centred around environmental, social and market financial returns.

One Planet Living Real Estate Fund is looking to invest in over one million square feet of real estate and has eight active projects, including Courcelette and the residential development Stone Abbey in Ottawa.

Windmill’s Hälsa, expected to consist of three mid-rises in the Mimico and Etobicoke area, is in pre-development. Windmill acquired the property and submitted a site plan application, with launch anticipated for fall 2023.

Savell also mentioned Windmill’s plans to work on mass timber projects in Mimico and Ottawa, and a “handful” of Ottawa projects are in the rezoning and approvals stage.

The district energy approach is being explored for future developments by Windmill, which would use sewer heat recovery combined with photovoltaic walls and roofs.

Windmill is also looking to develop rental projects due to the federal tax break on rental housing construction.

Skyrocketing construction costs since the COVID pandemic have impacted Windmill, especially as a sustainable developer. But it is adapting with partnerships.

Savell said it is up to municipalities and governments to address housing affordability with streamlined approvals process and further initiatives along the lines of the rental housing tax break.

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