Huge success for small units at University Studios
By Anita DeVries – DRHBA
I never thought I would see it here in Oshawa.
But yes, the millennial phenomena of smaller is better has been spotted in the spacious, beautiful, green Durham Region at University Studios, located at Durham Region’s Education Hub.
Podium Developments and Building Capital are building SmartStudios and, at 275 to 400 square feet, they are an efficient use of small spaces that creates comfortable lifestyles.
Built within walking distance to the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College, these compact units are very functional and affordable and offer better living spaces than traditional dorm life or room rentals.
For example, the Murphy bed — with the military quality hinges — can be pulled down over a kitchen table. The bed is made and ready to snuggle into with your laptop or book and there are reading lights and USB connections built right into the wall unit. In the kitchen area you will find a two-element cooktop and a clever height-changing desk, which can be used as a stand-up table, extra counter space or regular sit-down breakfast nook. The kitchen and hall cabinetry is combined into a single sleek bank on one side of the apartment, providing storage and functional space.
This new building will be highly energy efficient as it will be built under the new building code.
There are 308 studio units being built in the eight-storey mixed-use building — just south of UOIT and Durham College — at 1900 Simcoe Street North. Commercial units on the main floor provide convenient access to shopping and restaurants.
The starting price for a fully furnished unit — including bed, refrigerator, washer, dryer, stovetop, dishwasher, standing desk, dining table, four chairs, loveseat, side table and LCD television — was $150,000 and they were gobbled up by eager buyers in the first weekend that sales opened. The project is under construction and will be occupied by September 1, 2018.
Due to the desirability of the location on a main public transit route, the developers negotiated with the City of Oshawa for reduced parking space allotments from more than one space per unit to 0.22 spaces per unit. There will be four car share spaces and residents will be able to have membership in the car share program. This will encourage tenants and owners to use public transit and active transportation, which leads to cleaner environments.
“Today’s millennials don’t have an interest in owning cars,” said Christian Huggett, one of the masterminds at Podium who researched and designed the suites. “They are more socially responsible and environmentally conscientious.”
Building an entire building full of micro suites is not a traditional approach to a multi-storey condominium building. Generally, a range of unit types are provided for variety and to reduce sales risk. But the Podium team discovered that there has been no bachelor units built in Oshawa since before 1989, so the market for these units was wide open. After studying micro suites built in New York, San Francisco and Tokyo, and realizing the new mindset of people who have grown up in an era where owning a home and two cars means working your life away, Huggett pitched the exclusively micro-suite project and soon everyone was excited about it.
“The proximity to campus will mean that most residents will be students, who will live better than we did in university,” said Huggett, noting that they have their own bathrooms and kitchens at University Studios.
It is difficult to make small units function well, but Podium’s design team had a wealth of life experience in living small — from dorm rooms to sailing and living in Scandinavia. The team also came up with a flexible design to make units accessible; as a result, 49 of the 308 units will be fully accessible, meeting CSA and ADA standards.
“The accessibility committee was very excited about this project,” said Huggett.
Podium Developments has an established reputation for building student housing; they have already built towns and condos in north Oshawa geared for students. As land prices continue to increase, and household sizes continue to decrease, we may be seeing more of these types of smaller functional units — and not just near universities.
Due to the strong demand for the units at University Studios, Podium and Building Capital are teaming up again to build on the success of the SmartStudios with the launch of the lowrise University Towns on the same stretch of Simcoe Street North.
Anita DeVries is the executive officer at the Durham Region Home Builders’ Association.