Up-And-Coming Or Over-And-Out? Cadillac Fairview’s East Harbour Development In Toronto

Architecture, Design, Real Estate

Something is coming… and it’s big.

In fact, it’s the largest commercial project currently in the works in all of Canada – and potentially the biggest flop in fulfilling how Canadians want to live, work, and play!

Just east of the Don River – south of Eastern Avenue – sits a former industrial brownfield that was once where the Lever Brothers manufactured iconic Sunlight Soap Detergent. While now only a husk of its storied past, it may soon find reinvention as the site of Cadillac Fairview’s East Harbour Development. Containing a proposed 12 million square feet of real estate, the ambitious project is intended to be a vibrant, engaging, mixed-use community of offices, retail, apartments, and green space. Designed as a transit-oriented community – with planned stops on the new Ontario Line and a GO train station, when completed – the development will be easily accessible for the estimated 50,000 employees that will commute to work there.


*Courtesy of UrbanToronto & Cadillac Fairview with thanks!


Hopes are high that this will become a mecca of employment and opportunity; it’s a good thing too, as the population of the GTA is predicted to reach 9.4 million by 2041! Toronto has been feeling the space squeeze for over a decade now, and projects like this demonstrate that the City is very aware of the need to accommodate growth in employment and housing. That said, it should be noted that the East Harbour Development is heavy on office and retail space, and less so on residential space. We’re ok with this as long as it has both, for an area that is strictly one use without the other doesn’t ensure an area is sufficiently vibrant.

It’s representative of the government’s plans to build communities around transit lines, which is an essential amenity – not only for convenience and lifestyle, but to manage congestion, pollution and infrastructure in a bustling city. Did you know that quick and easy access to public transit is one of the most sought-after amenities by dwell buyers? It’s one of the cornerstones of the “Location, Location, Location!” mantra.

Here’s a bundle of info, right from the horse’s mouth:  “Ontario Moves Forward with East Harbour and Four Other Transit-Oriented Communities”



The developer is Cadillac Fairview, who bought the land in 2019. It’s the site of the former Unilever factory, where Sunlight Soap used to be made. The planned high-density community contains nine commercial office towers, eight residential towers, with a smattering of green space, a community centre and a place for childcare.

The first area of development is slated to be in the northwest corner, which will be closest to the new transit hub – along the planned southerly extension of Broadview Avenue. This building will be the tallest tower on the Don River, reaching up 218 metres or 44-storeys. Architects Adamson Associates has designed a boxy tower of blue glass framed in a brass finish.

Unfortunately, Cadillac Fairview plans to tear down the existing decaying 8-decade-old 150,000-square-foot factory. It is being met with resistance by city heritage planners and concerned members of the public like me. In my opinion, place-making is as much about honouring an area’s history by retaining existing elements of a site, as it is constructing new architectural edifices in the flavour of the times. And while Cadillac Fairview are a reputable developer for constructing quality product, there is nothing distinctly unique about what is being proposed. The short and sweet of it is that it’s a ubiquitous development of glass and steel that could be built anywhere, but instead of anywhere it’s being built here.



The Globe and Mail’s architecture critic Alex Bozikovic has voiced concerns about clear-cutting the site in his article: “Can A Master-Planned Neighbourhood Be A Place Worth Visiting? With Toronto’s East Harbour, The Signs Aren’t Good”. He expresses concern about the design of the open public spaces, pointing out that they are not functional at their core, and their design is counterintuitive to their intended use of fostering community and convincing people to linger.

The prior owner of the land, First Gulf, had developed plans that favoured hybrid design and were more inclusive of the parcel’s history – including keeping some of the site’s original built forms. Alas, those plans were shelved when Cadillac Fairview bought the land. Sigh.

The Unilever factory produced soap products on-site for over a century, before its closure in 2009. Although Unilever was the longest resident, this parcel of land actually had a number of other industrial uses dating back to 1866. Here is a great retrospective series on the evolution of this land from our friends at Spacing Magazine:  “From Sunlight Park to East Harbour (Part 1 of 2)” and “From Sunlight Park To East Harbour, (Part 2 of 2)”.



At 38 acres, it is one of the last undeveloped parcels of land in the city centre! On the upside, there will be designated affordable housing within the residential development, although the City would be wise to increase densities so there is more given the location will feature some of the best transit connectivity in the city, according to this Toronto Star article, “From Hub Of The Future To Mushy Mediocrity: How Toronto’s East Harbour Development Comes Up Short”

For background reading on the East Harbour Redevelopment, check out “East Harbour Procurement Means Full Steam Ahead For SmartTrack GO Stations” and “Engage East Harbour” and “Jenga-Like Office Tower In The Works As Part Of An Enormous Toronto Redevelopment”.

*A big ‘thank you’ to UrbanToronto, Adamson Associates Architects, and Cadillac Fairview for the title image. We hold no rights to these graphics.



Whether the East Harbour Development will be architecturally stunning or mediocre, the intensification of a former industrial site into a high-density ‘Bright Lights Big City’ neighbourhood with a major transit hub is appealing for a city on a fast track to becoming a global metropolis. Getting around the city with two different transit lines will make commuting easier- and a district for 50,000 more urban workers means more employment opportunities for locals. It also means that this area will remain desirable for dwell hunters and dwell renters for years to come.

When it comes to finding a place to call Home, is ‘Location, location, location’ paramount for you? If so, then we have a prime, well-situated opportunity for your consideration!

It’s time to Live Bold & Beautiful At The Broadview Lofts In Riverside!



If you’ve been searching for a unique urban space in a dynamic central location, this vintage brick and beam loft steps from The Broadview Hotel at Queen & Broadview is worth your consideration. Surrounded by eclectic trending neighbourhoods, quick access to downtown by car, bike, or transit, and in proximity to the trails of the Don Valley and the shores of Lake Ontario, Loft 404 is prized for its industrial aesthetic, airy & expansive dimensions, and twinkling city vistas! The raw and authentic brick-and-beam backdrop is enhanced by modern upgrades and a functional space plan with delineated zones for lounging, dining, culinary excellence, and respite. NOW SOLD!



Did you enjoy this? You may like our other recent posts on emerging locations including:

Why More Condominiums On The Danforth Is Good

How Toronto Real Estate Near Queen Street – East & West – Is Climbing In Value

A Brief History On The Old & The Emerging New Dupont


Thanks for reading!


– Steve & The Urbaneer Team



The Urbaneer Team

Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-8000

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