Billionaire Westons Fund Said Among Bidders on Toronto LCBO Plotby
Wittington is seeking 11 acres of waterfront property
Province selling LCBO-owned land to fund infrastructure
An investing vehicle run by the Westons, one of Canada’s richest families, is among companies bidding on what may be Toronto’s biggest land deal, according to people with knowledge of the plans.
Wittington Properties Ltd. is in the running with at least two other companies to acquire an 11-acre (4.5-hectare) plot near the city’s waterfront owned by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, the provincially owned alcohol retailer, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the bidding is private.
The company is the real estate arm of Wittington Investments Ltd., which is 85 percent held by the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Weston family. The family’s patriarch, W.G. Galen Weston, is Canada’s richest person, with businesses spanning retail in Canada and the U.K. and a net worth of about $8.7 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
A Wittington spokesman declined to comment.
Wittington and other bidders are after a swath of land that’s being rapidly developed as businesses and condominium dwellers migrate south of the traditional downtown core. In the past decade, more than 6,000 condo units have been proposed, with almost half under construction or being marketed in the area, according to data compiled by RealNet Canada Inc., helping meet the added housing demand as businesses including Sun Life Financial Inc. and Royal Bank of Canada expand there.
Wittington has submitted a proposal for the site -- which currently houses a liquor store, the LCBO headquarters and a warehouse -- to the province of Ontario, which is running the process. There is no guarantee that Wittington will be granted the contract or any deal will be made, said the people familiar with the bid.
“There is currently no agreement signed for the sale of the LCBO head office and negotiations are ongoing,” Andrew Forgione, spokesman for the ministry of economic development, employment and infrastructure, said in an e-mailed statement. He declined to comment on the participants. The province has said it expects the transaction to be completed by March 31.
The transaction may break price records in Toronto for land sales geared toward residential use, owing to the size and central location, according to Richard Vilner, research director at RealNet. The site will likely be dominated by residential, but government-owned land often comes with usage policies that require a developer to include public space, retail, or office, he said.
The most expensive land sale for residential use was Pinnacle International’s C$250 million ($184 million) purchase of a 6.7-acre site nearby, according to the real estate data provider. That’s about half the size of the LCBO lands. About C$470 million has been spent on land transactions for residential purposes in the neighborhood in the past 10 years, according to RealNet.
The site went on the market last year, and negotiations with the finalists started in the third quarter, the province said in a September statement. Proceeds from the sale will support the province’s C$5.7 billion target for funding transportation, transit and other infrastructure.
Wittington is involved in other large-scale projects in Toronto. Earlier this year, it announced a partnership with Choice Properties Real Estate Investment Trust and Concord Adex, Canada’s largest residential developer, to turn a historic warehouse on 3.5 acres in the west end into a mixed-use complex of office, residential and retail space.