How the second phase of the MaRS complex will soon take Toronto’s world-leading innovation hub to a whole new level.
With so much attention being given to the scores of condos going up in Toronto these days, non-residential development often proceeds without the same degree of media scrutiny. At the moment, College and University boasts one such project: The glass tower under construction there is MaRS Phase 2, an addition to the MaRS Discovery District innovation centre.
Housed in the old Toronto General Hospital heritage building, MaRS is a public-private partnership (or P3 for short), enlisting experts from multiple research fields and teaming them with wealthy investors. The tenants at MaRS range from pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline, to clean-tech start-ups like Tower Labs, to major moneymakers like RBC Royal Bank. Its location places MaRS at the epicentre of government, education, and research in Canada’s financial capital.
However, MaRS has been operating at full capacity since it opened in 2005, and Phase 2 will double its total area with 20 new floors of office and lab space. Tenants of Phase 2 will also have access to an expansive conference centre and an atrium with terracotta walls and stone floors connecting to the MaRS heritage building (also referred to as Phase 1).
“We’ve always imagined, and are sure, that there’s a lot more space needed for this whole project of creating an innovation hub and conversation centre for the development of small business in the Toronto area,” says Dale Martin, head of MaRS real-estate management.
Construction of the new tower halted during the economic downturn of 2008, but progress kicked back into gear in the summer of 2011. Once complete, MaRS will be Canada’s largest science, technology, and research centre, furthering its claim as a world-leading innovation hub. Here are a few things it’s doing to earn that prodigious title.
The golden LEED seal of approval
Like the Toronto South Detention Centre recently featured here, MaRS Phase 2 will have LEED certification. A number of features will bring the building up to the Gold standard of certification.
A deep lake-water cooling system will pump cold water from Lake Ontario to fuel the building’s heating and cooling infrastructure. Labs can produce huge amounts of exhaust, but the ones at MaRS Phase 2 will minimize emissions. Heat exchangers will re-absorb the warm air that would normally be lost through windows and exhaust ports on each floor. Construction materials were locally sourced to mitigate transportation impacts, and waste materials were recycled wherever possible. Phase 2 will also use 30 per cent less energy than a building of comparable size.
Jobs. Lots and lots of jobs
Presently, over 2,300 people work at MaRS. When Phase 2 opens for business, it will hopes to produce up to 4,000 new jobs, not including the many spin-off projects it might yield in subsequent years. Many of the positions will be science-based (lab analysts, computer technicians, and the like), however, Phase 2 tenants will also include law firms, venture-capital corporations, and accounting offices. MaRS is unwilling to divulge their identities at this time, however, we do know that the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (which currently resides in the MaRS south medical tower) will take residence there upon completion.
Link to the hospital network
The Discovery District doesn’t just include MaRS—it’s also home to the many hospitals along University Avenue, as well as U of T. Through a concourse level, MaRS Phase 2 will connect to some of its neighbours, including Toronto General Hospital, Sick Kids Hospital, and Princess Margaret Hospital.
Driving an innovation-based economy
MaRS is all about the cross-pollination of ideas from multiple disciplines. It drives what Martin refers to as “the new economy,” one based upon ”the intelligence of people rather than natural resources. It’s really an idea-based economy, where value is created through ideas of the residents here.”
The labs act as “incubators,” where ideas are nurtured and grow. The offices act as “accelerators,” where the expertise of business and marketing professionals is combined to bring these conceptual breakthroughs to market. The scale of research at Phase 2 will triple that of the original building, according to Martin.
Easy transit access
Phase 2 will have a direct connection to Queen’s Park subway station, so those travelling by TTC can access the building directly without facing the elements. The two-level parking garage will have secure bike parking with shower and change facilities for those who prefer a more sustainable mode of transportation. Martin says that many MaRS employees will either walk or bike to work, an aspect that also scores points on the LEED checklist.
One of MaRS’s most popular ventures is the Entrepreneurship 101 course. It’s a free, 30-week lecture series on the many facets of business-building; anyone can walk in off the street every Wednesday at 6 p.m. and glean expert insights into entrepreneurship. Attendance at the series has grown from 30 to over 400 participants per week, and the lectures are available online as well. At Phase 2, there will be more services in this vein.
“There’s going to be a presentation around high-performance computing and predictive analytics, which is a big deal these days,” says Martin. “We’ll have a centre as part of the Phase 2 development that will help small and medium businesses adopt high-performance computing as a way of advancing their business.”
Deconstructing Discovery: MaRS Phase 2 by the numbers
September 2013: completion date
60:40: ratio of lab to office space
62: height in feet of skylight in the atrium
13: passenger elevators
6: truck loading bays
4,000: kilowatts of power from back-up diesel generators
120: bike parking spaces
60: tenant companies set to operate at MaRS Phase 2
780,000: square footage of total building area
$344 million: value of the building