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If you look up at the sky on any given day in Markham, Ontario, you’re likely to see a plane or two cruising in or out of the Buttonville Municipal Airport airspace — but not for much longer.

The 170-acre Cadillac Fairview-owned site, located south of 16th Avenue and east of Highway 404, has been on the cusp of redevelopment for over 10 years, and as such, the airport itself will cease operations when its lease is up at the end of November.

As for what will replace the mid-sized airport — which has been a fixture of the GTA suburb for no less than 70 years — plans have shifted from a massive mixed-use development with a residential component (proposed in 2011) to an industrial complex with 11 buildings proposed.

This is according to a number of new planning documents, including Official Plan Amendment, Plan of Subdivision, and Zoning By-law Amendment applications, filed with the City of Markham in June.

A Brief History Of Buttonville

Buttonville Airport dates back to 1953, at which time it was a grass airstrip for around nine years, according to the City of Markham’s website. In 1962, Buttonville became an official airport, and since that time, it has serviced various corporate and small passenger flights and has offered an array of general aviation services, including flight training and aircraft maintenance.

Air traffic control at Buttonville Airport, 1970, (via markham.ca)

Until a few years ago, Buttonville was owned jointly by Armadale Properties and Cadillac Fairview, with CF coming on board in 2010.

In 2011, CF and Armadale submitted an application for land-use changes with respect to the site. At that time, they had publicized plans to create a mixed-use destination on the site, comprised of residential, office, retail, entertainment, and hospitality components.

Obviously, those plans never quite came to fruition, with both entities citing delays in securing the necessary zoning as the reason for shelving the original development plans.

In 2020, CF and Armadale jointly listed the property for sale. “After a strategic review of our development program we have decided to focus our efforts on our downtown Toronto land bank, which includes the recent purchase of the East Harbour lands, as well as the densification of our existing retail portfolio,” CF told STOREYS in a statement at that time.

However, in 2021, CF opted to buy Armadale out, leaving the real estate heavy-hitter with a 100% stake in the Buttonville site.

Answering An Industrial Calling

This latest proposal for the Buttonville site seeks to “redevelop the subject lands for employment and industrial uses.” Plans extend to include the creation of 11 single-storey industrial buildings ranging from approximately 38,000 sq. ft to 816,000 sq. ft in size, for a total gross floor area of approximately 2,775,000 sq. ft at full build out.

Also proposed are two development blocks, a stormwater management block, the widening of Highway 404, and a network of public and private roads — including the proposed extension of Allstate Parkway north through the subject lands to 16th Avenue, to be built out in phases for a total of approximately 2,775,000 sq. ft at full build out.

Drawings prepared by Glenn Piotrowski Architect Ltd

“The development will be built in phases across the subject lands, with phase 1 located at the northwest corner of the subject lands consisting of buildings 1 and 2 and the construction of the Allstate Parkway extension to provide access and services to phase 1,” the planning documents also say.

Glenn Piotrowski Architect Ltd

Given its newfound industrial emphasis, the proposal in its current form is all too timely. Earlier this month, a report from commercial real estate firm CBRE put Canada’s industrial market at 2.1% vacancy as of the second quarter of the year. While that figure has risen over 2% for the first time in two years, the report notes that “market conditions remain tight and well below the historical 15-year average rate of 4.8%.”

Zakiya is a staff writer with STOREYS. She has reported on real estate for Apartment Therapy, Curbed, and Post City Magazines, and writes a quarterly series for a Canadian design publication.

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