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What's Going Up: Mystery business building million-square-foot facility near Newmarket

Developer says approximately 1,325 new jobs expected at new advanced distribution and logistics centre on Woodbine near 404 in East Gwillimbury
2022-01-19-East Gwillimbury Project-JQ
A conceptual drawing of a new distribution and logistics centre planned by Rice Group in East Gwillimbury, just north of Newmarket.

A developer is proposing to build a more than one-million-square-foot facility near the border of Newmarket for a mystery company that will employ approximately 1,325 people.

Rice Group presented its plan to East Gwillimbury council last night for an advanced distribution and logistics centre at 18574 and 18818 Woodbine Ave. by Highway 404, approximately 3.5 kilometres from the northeast border of Newmarket.

The developer seeks to rezone the lands from rural to employment, with accompanying permits to remove topsoil and demolish a farmhouse on the property. Site plan applications would follow.

Site work has been underway since July. 

The identity of the tenant due to move in has yet to be released publicly. Council members questioned when that information might come, but Rice Group development vice-president John McGovern said they could not yet disclose it.

“We’re as anxious as you are, believe me,” McGovern said. "We believe the news is good news, and we’re waiting for the opportunity … and we continue to ask for that opportunity to be sooner.”

Rice Group vice-president Mike Rice told council Dec. 21 that they hope the facility can open in early 2025. He said they believe more industrial development will follow from this company coming in.  

Rice Group development manager Aarthi Thaya said they look forward to being part of the community and will maintain ownership of the property the business will occupy.  

“We are committed to developing high-quality retail and commercial developments, with the simple philosophy, we develop properties where people work,” Thaya said. “We become proud members of the communities we invest in.”

Rice Group is also behind a new retail complex under development in Newmarket at 1250 Davis Dr. and 1240 Twinney Dr., near Highway 404, where Costco and other retail stores are expected to open. That complex is separate from the building proposed in East Gwillimbury.

East Gwillimbury resident Geoff Lander told council it feels like the project has already been approved. He said it could be a great economic opportunity, but he was concerned about the possible daily activity and traffic that impact the the surrounding area.

“Even if there’s 100 trucks a day in the area, there’s going to be a lot of extra traffic,” he said. “Woodbine Avenue, as it is right now, cannot handle that type of traffic.”

Town staff said traffic impacts would be analyzed and considered through the site plan application process. Still, Mayor Virginia Hackson said they would be sure to get answers on traffic.

Councillor Scott Crone said some might feel like the town is indiscriminately opening up farmland to create jobs and asked for a historical explanation. 

Director of planning Marco Ramuno said the area has long been considered for future employment land, with a secondary plan completed in 2020 to guide the development of the area.

Council made no decisions at the public meeting and will vote on the zoning amendment at a later date. In the meantime, Rice Group has pre-approval to do earthworks at the property.

“We appreciate this employment coming to our town,” Councillor Loralea Carruthers said.