3 generations of one family behind 3,800-home mega-proposal in northwest London

3 generations of one family behind 3800 home mega proposal in northwest

It has taken three generations of one London family to realize a $1 billion housing development that is one of the largest, single residential project in the city’s history.

It has taken three generations of one London family to realize a $1 billion housing development that is one of the largest, single residential projects in the city’s history.

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It’s a legacy Jacob Katz does not take lightly.

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Katz, 41, one of the directors at Esam Group, is leading the proposed Beaverbrook community development at 323 Oxford St. and 92 and 825 Proudfoot Lane that could transform part of northwest London with 3,817 homes built, all in residential highrise towers and townhouses.

It began more than 20 years ago when his grandfather, Sam Katz, pioneered the project, and his father, Howard, and uncle, Harvey, carried it forward. Now Jacob, with brothers Jonathan and Dan as well as several cousins, want to finish the job.

“We feel the family legacy. We want to do something important with this land,” Katz said. “It’s exciting – exciting that, with the market conditions now, people need affordable homes. We’ve always done townhouses and bungalows, affordable projects. I always tell people, ‘We build for the masses, not the classes.’”

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Esam Group has just submitted its application, expected to go to city council’s planning committee in June, where politicians will debate it.

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“This property has been in the family for so long,” he said of the land bought by Sam Katz from the Kingsmill family in the 1960s. Sam Katz died in 2001.

“Sam was the original influencer. My dad and Harvey pushed it along but it didn’t advance. Due to the changing climate and push for affordable residential, we began pushing about five years ago to move this forward.”

Katz has met with city officials and is aware density and traffic flow will be priorities when the political debate happens, he said. But Esam has worked with traffic engineers, sought input from city staff during the years, and believes it will work.

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Esam initially proposed 4,200 units, but scaled it back at city staff’s urging.

The key change, when it comes to traffic, is they want to extend Beaverbrook Avenue, which now ends at Proudfoot Lane just east of Wonderland Road, all the way to Oxford Street, exiting beside Cherryhill Village Mall. That would give residents of Beaverbrook another way to enter and exit the subdivision.

It also offers Westfield Drive, a short street at the northwest corner of Cherryhill village off Cherryhill Circle, connect to Beaverbrook, so Cherryhill residents can have another way in and out of their community.

The area is considered a so-called rapid transit corridor, allowing for greater height and intensification along the route, even though the previous city council killed the bus rapid transit line that would have run between downtown and Wonderland Road.

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“This will be built according to current planning guidelines,” Katz said.

If all goes smoothly at city hall, he believes construction could begin in 2025.

As for why the development has so many units, the greater, the density the lower the cost for consumers, Katz said. “The higher the density, the price per unit comes down. We can build cheaper.”

Katz has worked in the development industry for about 10 years and with his brothers, Jonathan and Dan, has another business Litera Group, that built subdivisions in Strathroy, Kilworth and now is working on a 314-unit project in north London.

But Katz found himself at the helm of the Beaverbrook project when his father died about four years ago from cancer.

“When my dad passed away, it was clear someone had to step up,” Katz said. The project also bears his father’s name – Sam Katz Developments.

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Jacob Katz is one of the directors at Esam Group.(Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)

“We were brought up in the construction industry. I was tearing out carpets in apartment buildings when I was 16 and my brother, Dan, replaced kitchens. Now, we’ve built 200 houses,” he said.

In addition to Litera Group, the brothers own Werrington Homes.

When the Katz family sold Cherryhill Village Mall in 2011 – it sold again in 2022 – Jacob and his brothers found themselves without work and launched the building companies.

“Selling Cherryhill changed our mindset. I thought we had a path to work in management and, when they decided to sell, I was out of a job, so we were able to do this,” Katz said. “Now, 12 years later, we’re doing well.”

Esam Group still owns the Fleetway bowling plaza, Costco, Sobeys and GoodLife Fitness head office sites in the Oxford and Wonderland area.

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As for Beaverbrook, building more than 3,800 units on 37 hectares sounds like a highly dense development, but more than half of the site will be green space and will include parks. Mud Creek will have a 60-meter-wide new channel for storm water retention and control, to mitigate flooding on site.

Esam Group plan
Esam Group is proposing a major subdivision on 37 hectares (91 acres) north of Oxford Street, west of Cherryhill Village behind Fleetway Bowling in northwest London.

Also, a site in the northwest portion of the development may be home to a school.

There will continue to be a community garden, important to Sam Katz, where residents of the Cherryhill community grow food in their own gardens.

Katz recalls how his grandfather bought the Cherryhill site when no one else saw any use to it, seeing it as a wetland.

“It was a swamp in the middle of the city, a low area. Sam had the vision to build a community there,” Katz said.

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  • $1-billion residential development
  • 3,817 units in 51 buildings including 18 highrise towers.
  • We have 37 hectare (91-acre) plot of land at 323 Oxford St. and 92 and 825 Proudfoot Lane behind Fleetway Bowling and west of Cherryhill Village Mall.
  • To be built in seven blocks from 2026 to 2035:

Block 1: 10 towers, 14 to 18 storeys, 1,760 units.

Block 2: 2 towers, 14 stores, 452 units

Block 3: 2 buildings, six storeys. 193 units

Block 4: 11 townhouse developments, 134 units

Block 5: 14 townhouse development, 174 units

Block 6: 4 buildings, 13-storey towers, 782 units

Block 7: 6 townhouse developments, two buildings 12 stores each, 366 units

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