NBLC Insights


Commentary on the development industry, insight into market trends and news at NBLC.


City Building at the Foundry

FEBRUARY 25, 2021

The Foundry Buildings can be retained and the site intensively developed. That’s good city building.


The Foundry site on Toronto’s West Don Lands is a key parcel of land in a rapidly developing area of the city. This precinct is already demonstrating how bold, progressive, sustainable and inclusive city building can transform our urban environment.


We at NBLC, along with our colleagues at Urban Strategies, believe that the Foundry site provides an opportunity to achieve multiple objectives. We put forward several potential design solutions as a contribution to the passionate dialogue already taking place.


Melanie Hare, FCIP, RPP, Partner with Urban Strategies and former Vice-Chair, Ontario Heritage Trust states, “We strongly feel that the conservation and adaptive re-use of the Foundry’s key heritage components are possible, while achieving amenity-rich, complete community objectives and ambitious intensification. We also believe that the affordable housing targets set by the Province can be met, and even exceeded given the scale of development permitted by the Ministerial Zoning Order.”


In fact, conserving the important heritage components of the Foundry site is not only compatible with future development, it will also enhance the tangible place-making and market value for the site. “Condominium buildings that can express a unique sense of identity through the integration of heritage features not only create more interesting neighbourhoods, but have shown to generate above-average sale values,” states Mark Conway, President & Senior Partner, NBLC.


It is our hope that these site concepts — developed independently by our team of Urban Designers, Planners, and Land Economists — will contribute to a meaningful dialogue among community stakeholders, elected officials, investors and government decision-makers about the future of this important asset. Cities are complicated places, and they benefit from complex solutions.


Download the concept booklet.

Navigating current events, together.


Dear Clients, Colleagues & Friends,


In light of ongoing events, NBLC has moved to a remote work model, taking precautionary measures to flatten the curve and maintain the health of our staff, families and clients.

Please note that:

  • All NBLC staff are equipped at home with the most up-to-date technology including web conferencing capabilities;
  • We are, as usual, all available by phone and email during regular business hours;
  • We will be having daily team calls to continue our collaborations and update each other on project activity;
  • We are in constant communication with each other through Microsoft Teams; and,
  • For the foreseeable future we will conduct meetings by telephone or web conferencing.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us.




Mark Conway
President, NBLC
e:  mark@nblc.com
c:  416-918-3621






Toronto’s Emerging Inclusionary Zoning Approach

This week the City of Toronto released draft Official Plan directions framing a potential policy response for the implementation of Inclusionary Zoning. NBLC was retained to evaluate the potential impacts of policy options in support of the City’s assessment.


Link to City of Toronto IZ website

Link to City of Toronto IZ website


Our work points to the need to be cognizant of the dynamics of the housing market for a successful policy.  A “one size fits all” approach for a City as diverse as Toronto is not possible.

NBLC’s analysis found that areas where the greatest land value appreciation has occurred offer the best potential to sustain the impact of an Inclusionary Zoning policy without disrupting the residential condominium market.  However, irrespective of market conditions, the impacts on new purpose-built rental housing were more onerous and could temper the current positive inertia in the sector.  In weaker market areas such as Jane and Finch, where we are just beginning to see some reinvestment interest thanks in part to the Finch LRT, the application of an inclusionary zoning policy is also not recommended.

The important thing is to begin. To move forward on policy development so that we can begin to accumulate an enduring supply of affordable housing at a range of rents and price points. We will all wait to see how the Provincial regulations to Bill 108 will shape the City’s policy options, financial impacts, and how continued stakeholder engagement works to inform a sustainable and impactful affordable housing response for Toronto.

– Matthew Bennett, Partner

– Mark Conway, Senior Partner 

Deciphering Affordable Housing Programming

Confused about the array of municipal, provincial and federal programming for affordable housing development in Toronto?

Bo Peng and the team at NBLC just made it simpler with this graphic…

Unlocking Incentives - NBLC


Province of Ontario moving forward with plans for Ontario Place

The Province of Ontario has announced that it is moving forward with its vision to revitalize Ontario Place.  The Province’s plans include the development of a waterfront canal district with shops and restaurants, a landscaped pedestrian bridge spanning Lake Shore Boulevard, expanded music facilities, new parks and festival space as well as a hub for culture, discovery and innovation. The iconic Cinesphere and Pods will be retained.

This announcement represents the culmination of more than 12 months of work and partnership between Infrastructure Ontario, Urban Strategies, NBLC and other consultants. Our firm is proud to have provided detailed market research and financial analysis throughout the study of potential redevelopment concepts for this key public asset.

Also, make sure to have a look at the Ministry of Tourism Culture and Sport’s revitalization plans.


– Mark Conway, Senior Partner 


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6-Storey Wood-Frame Construction:

Should we be aiming higher with new Ontario legislation?!

For many years now, NBLC has been one of the development industry’s leading proponents for amendments to the Ontario Building Code to allow for the increased use of structural wood products in mid-rise housing.   As the charge to make such legislative changes has stalled in recent years, we believe it is the perfect time to reset our goals to address housing affordability in a more meaningful way.  It’s time to aim higher.

First, let’s take a step back.  In our seminal study prepared for the Ontario Growth Secretariat and the Ministry of Infrastructure in 2010, entitled the Wood Use Impact Study, we explored the answers to key market and financial feasibility questions that many in the development industry had suspected for some time.  The Study was authored alongside Consulting Matrix with valued contributions from Pelican Woodcliff, Turner Fleischer Architects and Stephenson Engineering. The Study concludes that by allowing 6-storey wood-frame residential and mixed-use construction, noteworthy hard-cost savings will be realized. Often, this would lop off 6 months from the construction schedule, making developments in marginal condominium apartment markets feasible and allowing for consumer savings in others.  As one might expect, the implications for achieving housing affordability and realizing improved urban environments are enormous, particularly for the 905, the outer suburbs of Toronto and along Toronto’s Avenues, where mid-rise forms are encouraged – not to mention other growing regions in the Province like Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa.

Our interviews with 18 mid-rise developers demonstrated a growing enthusiasm for building 6-storey wood-frame condominium apartment buildings.  However, concerns remained, including the need for additional education and information relating to fire suppression, mold resistance, noise transmission between floors, and further confirmation of construction cost savings.  Newly completed wood frame projects in excess of 5-storeys in Vancouver and cities across Europe have certainly gone a long way to alleviate these concerns.

With the ever-rising cost of condominium apartment housing in and around the Toronto downtown in particular, we were heartened to see C.F. Møller Architects’ 34-storey wood tower design come forward this past year.  The Swedish practice has designed a Stockholm skyscraper utilizing a blend of wooden construction around a concrete core.  The design builds upon the earlier structural design successes, including the 9-storey wood-frame Stadthaus by Telford Homes, completed in London in 2009 in just 49 weeks!

Despite what the Canadian Concrete Masonry Producers Association might have you believe in their negative ad campaigns, performance-based approaches for wood construction allow for creative, hybrid design solutions to achieve a multitude of value-engineering, design and land use planning objectives.  Accordingly, new Building Code legislation proposed in Ontario and nationally, should aim higher this time around, to better align with the province’s intensification policies, and to take advantage of the political downtime.

To learn more about our Wood Use Impact Study findings and for other insight into the development industry, we encourage you to get in touch with us.

– Barry Lyon, President & Senior Partner 
– Scott Walker, Partner, MCIP, RPP, PLE