Woodbine Racetrack looking to be a "city within a city" in latest development plan

Apr 26 2017, 2:36 pm

The Woodbine Racetrack is looking to become a “city within a city.”

The 684-acre site, privately owned by Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG), will be transformed as the owners complete a master plan for the future “urban heart” of northwest Toronto.

Owners unveiled their vision for the plan on Tuesday, and while they hope it continues to be the ultimate destination for horse racing and gaming, they are looking to expand and integrate entertainment along with “cultural offerings, food and dining, hotel, shopping, office space, post-secondary education, recreation, health, wellness, and urban residential living.”

They are looking to strategically design the “city within a city” concept to make use of undeveloped land, generating long-term revenues that will sustainably support the horse racing operations, and thousands of farming jobs in rural communities across Ontario, according to a press release.

“At the core of the project is the beauty of the horse,” said Jim Lawson, CEO, WEG in a statement. “With over 2,000 thoroughbred horses stabled on site, approximately 200 acres will continue be devoted to horse racing operations at the centre of this unique development. The master plan sets out a detailed roadmap that will create thousands of new local jobs in the community, introduce new fans to the sport of horse racing and be a transformative project for the City of Toronto in the years to come.”

The owners expect that the first phase of redevelopment will attract approximately 12 to 15 million people per year, which is more than double the current number of visitors. Additionally, they say, this will create significant jobs and economic development in the northwest corner of Toronto.

Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) is now looking for a private sector service provider to operate the Slots at Woodbine Racetrack site and to propose an expanded entertainment development, consistent with the City of Toronto’s conditions.

“The Woodbine Racetrack site represents a unique legacy opportunity to develop a place that can offer enduring social and economic value to the city and region, while ensuring the sustainability of the horse racing industry,” said Richard Martz, Partner & Principal of LWLP. “WEG’s ambitious planning and development strategy has been designed to effectively respond to that context and opportunity.”

The plan has taken two years to develop, according to Garth Essery, Vice President, Property Development, WEG. It was presented on Tuesday to a panel about Transformative Placemaking at the Urban Land Institute’s Toronto Symposium.

“After almost two years of strategizing, researching, planning and designing, we are excited to share our exciting master plan for Woodbine’s unique 684-acre property – a site larger than Toronto’s downtown business district and with enormous potential given its history and location,” Essery said.

Founded in 1881, Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG), formerly the Ontario Jockey Club, is the largest operator of horse racing in Canada, and according to their website, WEG drives Ontario’s horse racing industry and generates 60,000 jobs within the Province’s agricultural sectors.

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