A new tech-focused development under construction in Toronto aims to bring both rental housing and jobs to the city’s growing tech industry, and create a unique space to bring manufacturing back to the city.
The result of a partnership between George Brown College, MaRS Discovery District, a Toronto startup hub, and Refine Manufacturing Acceleration Process (ReMAP), this new hybrid residential and manufacturing project, going up at 440 Dufferin Street and overseen by the developer Fitzrovia, is expected to open by July 2020 in the west part of downtown Toronto.
Two of the buildings will be residential, while the third will contain a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and tech incubator, called Factory 6, outfitted with plastic and metal 3D-printers, CNC milling machines, laser cutters, and other gear. The manufacturing facility will be overseen by a nonprofit that will set up a membership system to allow access by designers, students, and startups.
“Having a manufacturing hub in Toronto is important for two reasons: leveraging product design and product development in this geography; and developing new manufacturing processes in Toronto, both will ensure global competitiveness,” said Irene Sterian, President and CEO of ReMAP.
The addition of tech jobs often brings rising home prices and then displacement to surrounding neighborhoods. The aim of this new incubator is to bring combine advanced manufacturing and residential space into one development, which leads to better planning and ideally cuts down on commutes, according to Jason MacFarlane, head of advanced manufacturing venture services at MaRS Discovery District.
Bringing manufacturing back to urban areas reflects the desire for many new tech businesses to shorten their supply chains and build products at home. In addition, the mix of retail and advanced manufacturing helps make it more affordable to have shop space downtown, which has traditionally been priced out as urban real estate prices rise, and connects designers with makers. Other examples of this kind of new manufacturing space include New Lab in New York, though none combines facilities with residential space.
“There are lots of technologies blending and merging together, so this mix of talent is super important,” says MacFarlane. “This is meant to give companies developing new products and technologies, whether it’s a medical device or sensor for an autonomous vehicle, the ability to prototype.”
MacFarlane says the application for utilizing the shared space hasn’t been finalized, but he expects huge demand. The MaRS tech hub, for example, supports over 1,200 companies, more than 300 of which build physical products and may need such a space.