New DAG Autoplex in Toronto a product of one man’s passion for cars

Now that his multi-use autoplex in downtown Toronto has finally been completed, Shahin Alizadeh is enjoying that he has done something never attempted before in North America.

The 69-year-old owner of Downtown Auto Group (DAG) built the first mixed-use development that includes residential, commercial and automotive. It’s been in the works since he bought five acres of land in Toronto in 2011 next to his Downtown Toyota store.

“I think we all look for those sort of pinnacles of our careers – that’s something that no amount of money can every give you – the satisfaction of knowing what you’ve contributed or what you’ve accomplished as someone within that particular segment of the industry,” said Alizadeh in an interview with Canadian auto dealer. “I’ve never done anything but the car business. I don’t know any other industry. I’ve learned about the condo development business because I’m a partner in it, but would I be excited about doing another condo project? Believe it or not, no.

“I’m a car guy and to me this is what I do. This is what my passion is. This is what excites me. People excited me, good people that have contributed to our success.”

Alizadeh, who entered the business as a lot attendant 50 years ago and started Downtown Auto Group (DAG) 30 years ago, met with principals from Streetcar Developments and Dream Unlimited not long after buying the land to discuss incorporating residential and commercial into his autoplex. The City of Toronto embraced the concept because it consolidated multiple dealerships into one area, and the project broke ground in 2016. A total of 11 brands are being retailed on the property. The other aspects of the project are still being built. 

Earlier this week on LinkedIn, Alizadeh proudly posted his thoughts on the completion: “No more renderings! Finished product! Real life shot…Couldn’t be more proud and also grateful to everyone who helped make this come to life.”

Several industry people posted congratulatory words, knowing it has been a challenging project doing something that has not been done before on this continent. 

He said there were times he questioned why he decided to do the project and wondered if it would actually come to fruition. “I’m in a market where there is a huge anti-car sentiment,” Alizadeh said. “Downtown Toronto is not a car-friendly environment.”

He alluded to public bike lanes that have drawn criticism by motorists because it has condensed streets, and a push towards public transportation, which is not being used anywhere close to full capacity.

“What drove me to continue the journey (despite various obstacles)? I think it’s the passion for the business,” said Alizadeh. “What I hope to be right on is that people will never really stop buying cars as a means of transportation, because they want to have that private space.”

He said he’s already been approached with some offers to sell but decided it’s not something he wants to do right now. 

“The question that came to my mind was, is that something I want to do right now given the last five years of focusing on this particular project that is my baby, and wanting to see where I could take it and how I could potentially have an impact on the industry?” said Alizadeh.

He talked to his wife, Cina, about selling the business and she replied to not even think about it because she didn’t feel he was ready to retire.

He plans to retire from day-to-day operations in five years.

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