Iconic UFO Theatre to Be Replaced By Masterplanned Community in Vaughan
Anyone who’s taken a road trip along Hwy 400 is familiar with the Cineplex Colossus Centre; the iconic UFO-themed entertainment complex has been a highly-recognizable roadmark in Vaughan since the ’90s, when it first opened under the Famous Players banner.
However, days are numbered for the 19-screen theatre, its surrounding 66 retail units, and 3,400 parking spots, as a proposal is underway to transform the area into a mixed-use residential and commercial hub.
Planning rationale presented by RioCan REIT reveals an ambitious and dynamic strategy for the 25-hectare site, complete with vibrant parkland, multi-use trails, pedestrian mews, and fine-grain retail, as well as high-density residential developments, all split into three distinct “precincts”.
Designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects, the project will infuse what is currently a car-dependent, big-box retail centre with some well-needed intensification. A mix of high-rise towers and mid-density housing along the development’s north end will add 13,000 residential units, while new retail units, to be clustered off of the Hwy 400 entrance, will provide employment opportunities for 1,788 jobs per hectare, as per the proposal.
The master-planned neighbourhood will feature a new connected street network, along with a Pedestrian Mews that will prioritize cycling and walking traffic along a 20m-wide east-west spine in the Northern Precinct, which will link up with Weston Road. The north end will also include the Famous Avenue Promenade, a 1,210 sq. m linear urban public park. At the heart of it all will lie Colossus Park, a 1.2-hectare green space envisioned to be a festival and market-event destination.
According to the master plan, development will move forward in collaboration with existing Costco lands to the southeast, meaning residents can bulk shop to their heart’s content just a short jaunt from home, as well as cycle through a multi-use trail, connecting both properties. An existing Petro Canada gas station has also been included in the layout.
A New Addition to Vaughan’s Growing Downtown Core
This is just the latest addition to the rapidly redeveloping Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC), which has been “undergoing significant change through the realization of higher density development.”
Overall, the Vaughan development will serve a market area with a population of over 740,000 within a 10 km radius, and a population of over 3,239,000 within a 20 km area. The area was initially identified by the City of Vaughan in 2010 as one in need of intensification, and the proposal aligns with a Secondary Plan study for the Weston and Highway 7 site that has been underway since 2018, with completion expected this year.
Certainly, a perk of living in Vaughan’s booming downtown core is its accessibility; the Colossus site is sandwiched between Hwy 7 to the north, Weston Rd. to the west, Hwy 400 to the east, and the 407 to the south. It’s also a growthing transit hub, and the new neighbourhood will be located directly south of the VIVA BRT route along Highway 7, and with access to three bus routes that connect with Martin Grove, VMC subway station (which is 1.6 km away) and Richmond Hill Centre and Finch subway station. Residents will also be within walking distance of the VMC, which will be accessible by foot via the Colossus Drive Overpass, which will span over Hwy 400.
The development contemplated in the Proposal is expected to take place over time, and be implemented by future Zoning By-law, Site Plan and Plan of Subdivision applications. It is anticipated that development will proceed first in the Northern Precinct, followed by the Southwestern Precinct.
An Official Plan Amendment (OPA) has been submitted to address the existing zoning, which currently allow for high-density mixed use, medium density mixed-use, and Community Commercial Mixed Use into a harmonized High-Density MixedUse. The OPA will also allow for a site-wide density of 5.0 FSI, and heights ranging up to 55 storeys.
Penelope Graham is the Managing Editor of STOREYS. She has over a decade of experience covering real estate, mortgage, and personal finance topics. Her commentary on the housing market is frequently featured on both national and local media outlets including BNN Bloomberg, CBC, The Toronto Star, National Post, and The Globe and Mail.