Tag Archives: In Conversation With

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In Conversation With… Gregg Lintern, Chief Planner, City of Toronto

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In Conversation With… Gregg Lintern, Chief Planner, City of Toronto

Gregg Lintern, for those in the urban planning field, has one of the most desired gigs in all of Canada – chief planner of the City of Toronto. But heading up the planning department of the largest city in the country, indeed, one of the fastest growing in the world, is no cushy assignment. Managing growth, housing development, transit and cycling infrastructure… the list of tasks is endless and the critics plentiful and often harsh. And in a COVID world, everything is that much more complicated.

Lintern opens up about his vision for the city, his department, and the challenges of the development approvals process.

You’ve been in the chair a few years now… What have you learned or come to appreciate about the job?

Growth and change in a city of three million people is complex. The job is about managing that complexity to focus finite energy and resources to influence positive outcomes – usually in partnership with public and private interests. I’ve learned that is not easy – and it takes people and your ability to inspire people to get things done.

How would you describe your philosophy as Chief Planner for the City of Toronto?

Be values driven – I ground my thinking in values such as humility, empathy, generosity, perspective and resilience – and be people-centred. Think about the outcomes – the city we want to be in 20 years, and work backwards. What choices can we make now that will get us there and have our children and grandchildren say we made good decisions?

The city as we know it is a consequence of evolutionary change, driven by internal and external forces. Part of my role is influencing change for the better, understanding mistakes and showing a willingness to change direction, and push for beneficial outcomes.

The tensions that exist within the system of evolution are many, including things such as cars versus other modes of transportation, and exclusivity of land use versus mixed use. These tensions often result in incremental compromise, even as the general direction is clear.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, but COVID has seemingly accelerated and clarified both our opportunities and challenges. Ideas with long-standing support, such as increased cycling infrastructure, have moved forward quicker than they otherwise might have. But just as quickly, existing issues such as access to housing and social and health inequities have an increased urgency and visibility around them.

If we remain grounded in our values, I do think we can use this moment of clarity, even if it feels overwhelming at times, to make some lasting changes for the better, particularly for our most vulnerable groups.

What do you hope to accomplish in your tenure?

I set out a simple goal at the beginning of my tenure, and that was to build on past accomplishments and leave the Division and the City in a better place than I found them. I see that as the contribution everyone should make – in service to their family, friends, community and city – is to add, to enrich, to get it ready for who comes next as an intergenerational responsibility. In that sense, the city having more housing available and affordable for more people and better mobility than they have now – to have that access to opportunity that people across the city require. Toronto has landed on many top 10 lists across many measures of success; my job is to keep us there and to grow the list.

What changes would you like to make, or are making, from the way your office has operated in the past?

I would simply emphasize communication with staff and stakeholders. I know you can’t get things done alone – the more we communicate in a way that resonates with people, the better off the results of the services we provide and the outcomes in the community.

What are the top priorities in the planning department these days (such as improving the approvals process, addressing the need for “missing middle” housing, cycling infrastructure…)?

While we are looking at improvements to the approvals process, we are very much focused on improving the outcomes of the process – ensuring that new development contributes positively to the idea of complete. That’s really our main priority and much of what we do is aligned with this objective. In addition to the construction of new housing and commercial space, expanding and improving transportation infrastructure, cycling connections, expanding and making better use of our public spaces are all elements in the process of building complete communities.

Building a more livable, equitable Toronto is also a top priority. The City’s recently approved Housing Now projects are examples of smart density, building complete, mixed income, mixed-use communities with housing accompanied by child care facilities, open spaces, pedestrian connections and new streets, and retail and office space in various configurations. It’s about developing a broad range and mix of uses, combined with good urban design, to support daily life. Missing middle housing, and expanding housing options in neighbourhoods, is part of that work and city planning has a considerable role to play.

The home building industry is lobbying various levels of government to make the approvals process faster and simpler. How do you see this issue, and how are you addressing it?

The City conducted an End-to-End Development Review, which provided recommendations to improve the development process for both applicants and the City. To implement the recommendations, the City has established the Concept to Keys (C2K) program – a dedicated, multi-divisional team that will guide this work and will modernize how the City of Toronto attracts, facilitates and regulates development activity. C2K is working to create more predictability, efficiency, transparency and collaboration. Early areas of focus include a revised operating model and governance structure, enabling online applications and evaluating options to enhance backend technology to more effectively manage the development review process from start to finish.

New home supply and affordability, some say, are at or near crisis levels, and that we really need to approve and build more new housing, and more quickly, in order to meet demand and address affordability concerns. What’s your take on all this, and how realistic is it to expect your office to “fix” this problem?

Affordability and access are major challenges facing Toronto and many other growing North American cities. Council adopted the HousingTO 2020 – 2030 Action Plan in December 2019. It recommends a host of actions to improve supply and affordability across a whole spectrum of need. It’s a tool kit approach because there isn’t one fix for the housing challenge. About 20,000 units of housing are approved every year in Toronto, but a greater variety of housing more targeted to specific needs is required. Ideas such as expanding housing options in neighbourhoods, and more ground related housing such as laneway suites and secondary suites in homes, are gaining interest, for example.

What other cities, either in Canada or elsewhere in the world, have planning departments, systems and processes that you believe work well, and that we could learn from, and why?

We are always looking toward other cities, and encourage other cities to look to Toronto, to seek out and share best practices. No two places are the same and local context is always important, but there absolutely are lessons to be learned from work being done elsewhere.

Many cities in Canada and around the world are contending with the same challenges, though perhaps at different levels of intensity, as Toronto. Expanding housing options and providing for some that of “missing middle” are one such example, where cities are looking at what other jurisdictions are doing and then developing a suite of tools that work for their communities.

How did the early days of the COVID-19 shutdown impact your office? We’ve heard a lot about approval processes slowing, and submission backlogs…

Like any other organization, the pandemic disrupted core business in the very early days but the initial disruption was short-lived. Staff pivoted to work from home over the course of eight weeks, and that transition limited backlog and enabled staff to perform duties normally undertaken in the office.

One of the challenges posed by COVID has been hosting community consultation meetings. We host hundreds of these meetings in communities throughout the year to consult on new development applications and the development of new planning policy. What used to occur in person has moved online, and there has been a period of adjustment in adapting new consultation approaches. These new approaches to consultation present an opportunity for us to reach a broader audience and incorporate more constructive feedback into the planning process.

Lintern cycling on Lake Shore Blvd. during one of the recent ActiveTO weekend road closures.

How have things progressed since then? Is the planning department back up to full capacity?

Since the initial weeks of the shutdown, we have provided staff across the Division with resources to continue processing development applications and new policies remotely. We have been running at full capacity for several months now.

What has your office learned, or changes you’ve made, since the pandemic began?

We focused initially on keeping the economy going with development approvals, introduced temporary use bylaws to expand cafes, supported new housing initiatives for vulnerable people such as modular housing, moved consultation online with virtual consultation meetings and workshops, reformatted services including holding Committee of Adjustment hearings online. We have adapted our processes to work better remotely and provided our staff with resources to continue managing development review applications.

Additionally, the pandemic provided a renewed sense of clarity and urgency to certain areas of work, including the need to expand housing options and build local resilience right across the city.

toronto.ca

And on a personal note:

What part of town do you live in (from your Twitter account, it looks like you’re a west-ender…)?

In Toronto, you are either east or west of Yonge. I’m west of Yonge – actually grew up in Rexdale and have lived in the west end ever since. But I love the east end too, of course!

What is your favourite thing about Toronto?

When I get asked this I usually say – it’s a good place to call home. I often think of the people who were here before European settlement, of the waves of immigrants who have come here and of the people who desire to come here. It’s grown into a big city, but remains a place people want to call home.

When you’re not at the office (real or home office), you’re:

Walking or cycling in my High Park neighbourhood.

If you weren’t a city planner, you would:

Cook for people.

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In Conversation With Brian Sutherland, Director of Development, Argo Development Corp.

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In Conversation With Brian Sutherland, Director of Development, Argo Development Corp.

There’s something big happening in Mississauga, specifically in the Lakeview area of Port Credit.

Perhaps you’re familiar with Lakeview, the former location of the Lakeview Generation Station, demolished in 2007. Or maybe you’ve been following the development plans for this prized, expansive lakefront location.

More likely, if you’ve driven by the area recently, is that you’ve noticed some new activity on the site – notably a striking, 1,600-ft. hoarding featuring the works of local artists. It’s an immediately noticeable sign that things are on the move for this development, and that soon, Lakeview Village, eventually comprising 8,000 new homes and 20,000 residents, will come to life.

Brian Sutherland, director of development for Argo Development Corp., the lead developer for Lakeview Village, discusses the plans for the transformation of Mississauga’s waterfront into Canada’s most innovative and sustainable mixed-use community.

And we have to say, impressive doesn’t do it justice.

The recent unveiling of the art installation is a significant step for Lakeview Village – a symbol of what’s to come and a signal to area residents that things are on the move. Why was it so important to make such a noticeable statement, and involving local artists?

Creating a hub for arts and culture is deeply embedded in the vision of Lakeview Village. Through this artist collaboration, we created in partnership with Artscape Atelier, and launched a platform for artists during the construction process while laying the groundwork for the future community. Our team is very passionate about the concept of placemaking, and these bold, beautiful artistic works make the site a vibrant and enjoyable place for locals and visitors. And although our original plan did not anticipate a global pandemic, we felt even more dedicated to this project and the employment opportunities it presented for artists to earn income during this particularly difficult period.

The murals also significantly enhance our sunflower program: One million sunflowers have been planted next to the art installations and are set to bloom alongside the works in late August. This is the second year in a row for the sunflower program, and we’re excited to welcome people back to experience their impressive beauty.

What will be the next noticeable sign of activity? Your project timeline shows the Discover Centre opening in late 2020…

The Lakeview Village Discovery Centre will a be a modern, welcoming space where we will showcase the vision for the project and its exciting regional impact, as well as the work of our neighbours and partners, including the adjacent Jim Tovey Lakeview Conservation Area. We also envision the Centre being a safe gathering place for the community that we can offer for activities and events throughout the construction phase. This exciting space will also serve as our future sales centre.

Implications of the pandemic have delayed our original plans to open the Discovery Centre by the end of this year. We’re now aiming to open its doors in the spring of next year.

The timeline also shows breaking ground in Q1 2021 for phase one… Is that still on track, and what will be included in phase one?

We still anticipate earthworks occurring in 2021. Our goal for the first phase is to start with excavations, followed by beginning to install key servicing infrastructure. These foundations will be key components to bringing the community to life.

What are the timelines for the other phases?

The project will be developed in multiple phases and our focus right now is on Phase 1. By 2025, we anticipate first occupancies occurring in our first phase blocks, which will be in sync with the completion and opening of the project’s many parks and the adjacent Jim Tovey Lakeview Conservation Area. We are currently evaluating and advancing plans and timelines for future phases. We hope that businesses are drawn to Lakeview in the near future and we (in partnership with the City of Mississauga Economic Development Office) can start construction within the Lakeview Innovation District and establish this district in the early phase of development as well.

What is the breakdown of housing types, highrise versus mid- and lowrise, and the approximate timelines?

The 177-acre project will combine diverse high-quality housing options for all lifestyles and life stages. The council-endorsed master plan allocates approximately 60 per cent of residential builds to be midrise, 10 per cent townhouses and 30 per cent highrise, creating around 8,000 residential units.

As a true mixed-use community, residential areas will be integrated alongside retail, commercial and recreational areas. This will include almost two million sq. ft. of office and institutional space, plus thousands of sq. ft. in retail, hotel and educational spaces.

As for the timeline, we’re working with the City of Mississauga through our development approval process right now with hopes of securing planning approvals by the end of 2020, allowing us to begin detailed engineering design, earthworks and servicing in 2021. This will be a multiphased project with a buildout over 10 years or more.

When can prospective buyers expect to be able to actually purchase at Lakeview Village?

We are hopeful that the first phase of unit sales will go forward in fall 2021.

Lakeview Village’s homebuilding partners include Branthaven Homes and Greenpark Group. What other builders might be involved?

Lakeview Village’s development is led by Lakeview Community Partners Limited (LCPL), which is an unprecedented collaboration between five community builders, including TACC Construction Ltd, Greenpark Group, CCI Development Group, Branthaven Homes and Argo Development Corp. Each developer plays an important role in the project. I find it incredibly rewarding to work with true innovators and leaders in the industry on something as unique and exciting as Lakeview Village. We are seeking to create Canada’s most transformative mixed-use waterfront community, bringing new life to Mississauga and connecting residents to this portion of Lake Ontario for the first time in decades.

The list of amenities for this new community looks very impressive. What are the top highlights, in your view?

What we’re creating at Lakeview Village will rival the world’s most acclaimed waterfront developments. One thing that really jumps out at people when they visit the site or look at the plan is the pier. We have one of the longest piers on Lake Ontario in our development. It was created to bring coal to the power plant, but we’re going to reimagine it as a place for the community to gather and to draw tourism and events. It will be fully open to the public, and it’s something no other community can match.

We’re planning on delivering more than 67 acres of land back to the city through the waterfront park, the pier, cultural lands and space for employers across sectors. This is in addition to several new parks, more than three kilometres of waterfront trails, and connections to bordering parks in the surrounding regions. After years of being cut off from Lake Ontario, we want residents and visitors to be able to reconnect with the water and create an unparalleled urban waterfront experience.

Our commitment to reviving the natural landscape also includes the collaboration with Credit Valley Conservation (CVC). This includes restoring Serson Creek – an extensive project that will realign and restore the creek back to its original and natural location as part of the conservation area, revitalizing habitat for wildlife and nature in the region. We are also supporting CVC, which is building the Jim Tovey Lakeview Conservation Area, a 64-acre coastal conservation area that attract both wildlife and fish species back into the rebuilt habitat. Another exciting and vital component of the project is the Lakeview Innovation District, which will be a new business corridor with a variety of employment, institutional and educational uses. The District presents the opportunity to bring 9,000 jobs and attract innovative companies to the region, creating a true mixed-use community with significant economic impact. The city of Mississauga has so much potential and we strongly believe this hub will attract top talent, new employers and innovation to the city’s already established business sector.

How will Lakeview Village pay homage to the Lakeview Generation Station, the decommissioned coal-fired power plant whose former site the community will be built on? The plant, with its smokestacks known locally as the “Four Sisters,” had been a part of the local history since the early 1960s…

This site has a rich and interesting history – something we very much respect and keep top of mind as we plan for the future of this community. The former power plant delivered electricity to the region, which helped facilitate the considerable growth of Mississauga and the Region of Peel over the past 60 years. But it also produced heavy pollution in the form of smog days and contributed to the disconnect between the community of Lakeview and their access to Lake Ontario. We’ve been given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform this former polluting utilitarian site and make it a vibrant, sustainable place to live by the lake.

One of the most exciting outcomes of the plant’s demolition is that we were able to donate more than 200,000 tonnes of concrete from the former foundations of the power plant to the Jim Tovey Lakeview Conservation Area being built next to our project. The former foundations of a polluting coal burning powerplant will forever be the foundation to a new coastal conservation area. This creates an incredible start to the revitalization of the waterfront in southeast Mississauga.

What would you like to say to potential buyers, who may be watching all this unfold, perhaps have lived in the area, and are looking to see what buying opportunities there might be coming at Lakeview Village?

To either future buyers, locals or people who have been following Lakeview’s story, I would say get excited and get vocal! Our team is incredibly enthusiastic and dedicated to the vision for Lakeview Village – an urban experience that will transform Mississauga’s waterfront into Canada’s most innovative and sustainable mixed-use community. It will be waterfront revitalization done right, and be a place to live, work, play, learn and enjoy.

We always encourage people who are interested in the project to use their voice, whether that’s to share their visit to the murals on social or connecting with local government representatives to share their thoughts and support for the future of this community.

mylakeviewvillage.com

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In Conversation With… Mark Palumbo, Sales Manager, Democrat Homes

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In Conversation With… Mark Palumbo, Sales Manager, Democrat Homes

If COVID-19 has done anything, it’s convinced some homebuyers that more is necessary. Bigger homes, larger lots, more privacy and personal space. Or, as Mark Palumbo, sales manager at Democrat Homes’ Forest Heights Estates development, describes it, to live without being “squished on top of one another.”

Homes Magazine sat down with Palumbo for his insights into these and other matters at Democrat Homes, as well as his background in acting. Yes, acting.

Let’s start with an easy one: How’s business these days?

Business is booming. Our beautiful Forest Heights Estates site is situated 20 minutes north of Barrie in Horseshoe Valley. Every lot that we offer here is nestled into the trees and gives people the space both on their lot and in their home that is so hard to find in the city.

There is no need to live crammed into a subdivision like sardines where you can touch your neighbour’s house from your window. From the minute you drive into the site, the first thing you notice is the incredible towering trees on the 100-ft. frontages each one of our lots provides.

People have really begun to realize that it’s possible to live in a stunning community like this with the space and house you’ve always wanted. The affordability and lifestyle you get with this community is what has fueled the steady traffic we have seen at the model home.

How did the pandemic affect construction and sales at Democrat Homes?

It has been a crazy year! Our model home remained closed through the early months of the pandemic. We were lucky in that construction was one of the few industries allowed to continue working. We have moved to an appointment-based structure at our sales office, which allows us to control the flow of people coming through, as well as effectively clean and sanitize our model home after each visit. We also provide masks, gloves and hand sanitizing stations for people. Safety is a priority, and something we take very seriously.

How has the company ‘pivoted,’ in terms of virtual sales and other changes during the pandemic?

Almost all of the appointments I have now are set up virtually. All the information a potential purchaser needs can be found on democrathomes.com. We made it a priority to make the website as functional and informative as possible. You can view everything from floorplans and site maps to quick move-in options and virtual tours right on the site.

What distinguishes Democrat Homes and its product from what else is available in the market?

Democrat Homes has always prided itself on offering people a better home on an incredible lot for much less money than you could ever hope to find in Toronto markets. We want to show people that the home of your dreams is possible and it’s just an hour away from the city.

But beyond that, we are a familyrun business that cares about our customers and the product we build for them. With so many other home builders out there, the process of buying and designing a new home can be cold and joyless.

We offer a more personal experience that makes buying a home special. I am the purchaser’s main liaison throughout the entire process, from sales to house design. This is the biggest purchase people make in their entire lives, and I strive to make the experience the best it can be.

You’re building in non-GTA markets – Horseshoe Valley and Orillia. How are those markets doing?

Better than ever. In these crazy times, people have begun to realize the importance of working remotely. We offer incredible homes in beautiful areas with the highest quality services around. Bell FIBE is available at all our sites, offering lightning fast Internet speeds, so working from home is an easy transition. Not only do you have the flexibility to realize your remote working options, but our sites are surrounded by the most incredible year-round activities. Lake Simcoe is just 10 minutes away, and our site is situated with direct access to hundreds of kilometres of walking, ATV, snowmobiling and snowshoeing trails. We are a five-minute drive to Horseshoe Valley ski resort and six different golf courses. The possibilities are endless, and the markets reflect that.

Some experts say larger detached homes on sizeable lots, in more remote locations like yours, will be a growing market in future, given everything COVID-19 has taught us in terms of working from home and personal space. How do you see this?

The future is now! COVID-19 has made people understand the issues that come with living squished on top of one another. Democrat Homes offers empty nesters a tranquil setting and stunning home to retire in. We offer families the space for their kids to play and explore nature instead of being cooped up in a small home devoid of living space, or a 500-sq.-ft. apartment. There really is something for everyone here in Forest Heights Estates, and there has never been a better time to make your dream home a reality.

What’s next for Democrat Homes?

We are currently focused on the two brand new sites we have just begun: Forest Heights Estates in Horseshoe Valley, and Professor’s Walk in Orillia. But, the future looks bright! We plan to be providing quality-built homes to the people of Ontario for many years to come.

And on a personal note…

When I’m not at the office, I am: A husband and soon to be father!

My greatest inspiration in this business is: My father, who started this business with my uncle almost 20 years ago now. He is the best man I know, and I have learned so much from him. He inspires me every day to be better at everything I do, from our business to home life.

If I wasn’t in the homebuilding industry, I would: Be an actor. I studied acting at an arts high school in Toronto, then went on to get a university degree in dramatic arts. I’ve been in a ton of plays, commercials and even had a TV show all about Canadian beer that I cohosted with my brother Chris.

Portfolio

Forest Heights
Horseshoe Valley
Estate homes

Professor’s Walk
Orillia
Detached homes

democrathomes.com

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In Conversation With, Anson Kwok, Vice-President, Sale & Marketing Pinnacle International

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In Conversation With, Anson Kwok, Vice-President, Sale & Marketing Pinnacle International

Toronto is blessed with a number of signature high-profile condo projects, forever changing the landscape and city skyline. Few are as noteworthy as what’s about to rise into the sky and pierce the clouds in the heart of the downtown area – Pinnacle One Yonge from Pinnacle International.

One Yonge, as a location, is notable in its own right, as the address of the landmark Toronto Star building, built in 1970 and acquired by Pinnacle in 2012. The property was in the news again recently, when in May the Star itself was sold to a private equity firm, leading some to again wonder what the plan was for the area.

And an opportunity for Pinnacle to again discuss its vision for One Yonge.

The plan is a nothing short of a spectacular master-planned complex of residential, commercial and retail space, that over the years of its development will reshape that area of downtown.

The first phase of Pinnacle One Yonge involves The Prestige, a 65-storey residential tower with 497 condominium units, a community centre and extensive retail space. Phases 2 and 3 will add SkyTower, a 95-storey tower, and then an 80-storey tower, significantly contributing to the densification of the block. Phase 4 will develop the south parcel of the land, introducing an additional three buildings, including a 12-storey addition to the existing Toronto Star building.

Designed to densify and enhance the urban streetscape, Pinnacle One Yonge links to public transit, improves and widens sidewalks and provides prioritized pedestrian and cyclist access.

And this is just one project Pinnacle has on the go in the GTA.

Condo Life sat down with Anson Kwok, vice-president of sales and marketing at Pinnacle, to discuss the progress at Pinnacle One Yonge, how the company is adopting to the COVID-19 pandemic, and other topics.

When we spoke to you at the beginning of the year, things we very different. Pinnacle had four active construction sites in the GTA, and you mentioned possibly increasing that to six projects by the end of the year. Generally speaking, where is all that now, in this unprecedented COVID-19 world?

Our four active construction sites have continued during COVID-19 with some delays, and we are still looking to deliver three of those projects for our purchasers to get their keys in the next 12 months.

Our sites are ready to go for both Pinnacle Toronto East and SkyTower at Pinnacle One Yonge. We are just finalizing approvals and future permits to proceed.

You also mentioned at the time that lengthy municipal approval processes were resulting in longer completion times. How hopeful are you that this will improve? During the pandemic, governments have demonstrated that they can and do move more quickly when they really have to…

Fundamentally, I don’t see the process speeding up, as the system is set up so that all city staff, especially planners and reviewing departments, are working on projects for years, with new applications and resubmissions continuously ending up on their desks. The complexity of projects is also increasing, resulting in additional consultant reports and more detailed drawing sets. This all leads to longer processing times, and it perpetuates the constant cycle.

Even having city staff working on the same file at the same time, would help improve efficiencies and to expedite timelines.

How did COVID-19 affect your projects, in terms of both construction and sales?

Our construction sites have continued to operate, but we did experience about a six-month delay due to new procedures onsite with social distancing, inspections and supply chain delays.

Our sales program took a pause for about four weeks, and then we have been pretty active with inquiries and sales since.

Working from home is expected to become more prevalent in future. How might Pinnacle address this trend in future condo designs and amenities?

We have been offering larger product in the marketplace, so we will continue with that strategy, as I think this has benefited people who have been working from home. Also, providing amenities such as study rooms, business centres and boardrooms will be in higher demand.

How are things coming along at The Prestige at Pinnacle One Yonge?

We have built out the extensive podium of our first Phase 1, and now reached our typical floorplate at The Prestige at Pinnacle One Yonge, so you will start seeing the building really rising quickly. We are on schedule for our first occupancy in May 2022.

And with SkyTower?

Sales have gone extremely well at SkyTower, and we are in position to start construction and will be mobilizing in the near future.

Besides a pretty unbeatable location, how will The Prestige and SkyTower stand out from other projects in the area?

The location and address of this master-planned community definitely speak for themselves. What also stands out is that it’s part of a true master-planned community. At its completion, it will comprise:

  • Three residential towers, including the tallest residential building in Canada at 95 storeys
  • 80,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor residential amenity space
  • 50,000-sq.-ft. community centre with a six-lane swimming pool and gymnasium
  • 1.1 million sq. ft. of office space
  • 160,000 sq. ft. of retail space
  • Two future hotels
  • PATH connected
  • Next to a future a 2.5-acre park.

So, there is a lot to be excited about!

The Prestige and SkyTower are two of the three towers planned for One Yonge. What is the third, and what is its status?

We are currently working on the final design of the 80-storey tower planned on the north parcel, as we review the suite layouts.

What’s next for Pinnacle, beyond these noted signature projects?

We are currently working on rezoning our Pinnacle Etobicoke and Pinnacle Uptown Communities which will consist of eight future residential towers and three residential towers, respectfully.

We are also looking forward to start leasing our new office building at Pinnacle One Yonge.

And on a personal note…

When I’m not at the office, I am:
In my condo, enjoying time with my wife and our two young boys.

My greatest inspiration in this business is:
My mom, Grace. She brought the concept of preconstruction sales to Vancouver and is dubbed as BC’s First Lady of Pre-Sales. She has been consistently leading successful sales programs in all different market conditions.

If I wasn’t in the new condo business, I would:
Be pursuing my previous passion of running a hotel.

Portfolio

Amber at Pinnacle Uptown
Move in now
Mississauga

Cypress at Pinnacle Etobicoke
Under construction
Etobicoke

PJ Condos
Under construction
Toronto

Perla Towers
Under construction
Mississauga

Pinnacle Toronto East
Pre-construction
Toronto

SkyTower at Pinnacle One Yonge
Pre-construction
Toronto

The Prestige at Pinnacle One Yonge
Under construction
Toronto

pinnacleinternational.ca

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In Conversation With Vince Santino, Senior Vice-President of Development, Aoyuan Canada

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In Conversation With Vince Santino, Senior Vice-President of Development, Aoyuan Canada

Talk about making a statement. Chinese builder Aoyuan International doesn’t exactly dip its toes into the waters of global condominium development. With signature projects in Sydney Australia, Vancouver, Hong Kong and now Toronto, Aoyuan goes all out.

M2M, Aoyuan’s first development Toronto, is located in a prominent neighbourhood in North York – Newtonbrook. Located just north of the Yonge and Finch transit hub, this master-planned community is a statement, indeed, with easy access to the subway and GO Transit, and dining and shopping hot spots.

When completed, the 8.6-acre community will be a fully integrated neighbourhood designed for living, working and playing. Five towers and two podiums will host a total of 1,650 residential units, as well as hundreds of thousands of square feet of office and retail space, a community centre, children’s daycare, and even its own greenspace for a future park.

Condo Life sat down with Vince Santino, senior vice-president of development, to get a sense of how M2M is coming along, and what’s next for Aoyuan.

How’s business these days, in these unprecedented days of COVID-19?

While we experienced a temporary pause at our construction site, we’ve been pleased to see things begin to pick up again more recently. When the COVID-19 preventative measures were at their strictest, we saw this as time to get involved with our neighbourhood more deeply. Times like these are opportunities to support others, and especially as a newer member of the North York community in Toronto, we felt strongly that we should do what we can to help our most vulnerable neighbours. To support the North York community, we donated $25,000 to the North Harvest Food Bank, and we encourage our peers to do the same in their neighbourhoods. Since then, we’ve launched M2M Spaces, the newest inventory from the master-planned M2M community.

How has the market reacted to construction being allowed to resume, and things beginning to ease up? Are buyers running back? Are you seeing pent-up demand…?

Initially, when Ontario began its lockdown, we saw buyers exercising caution when it came to buying new real estate – and understandably so, there were restrictions placed on all of us, and a lot of uncertainty. Now, we’re starting to see homebuyers come back and new sales since launching M2M Spaces, which shows us that there is still demand for great products and home offerings in Toronto and surrounding GTA communities.

How has the pandemic affected your plans for releases at M2M? Are things progressing as planned, phases being delayed…?

While we experienced some delays and pauses initially when Ontario was under the strictest lockdown measures, we have been very fortunate to get things running smoothly again, though we have had to make adjustments to ensure the health and safety of our team, construction sites, and sales centres. Our first few releases at M2M experienced an initial sellout, and we released the latest inventory (in early June). M2M Spaces includes two- and three-bedroom townhomes and tower suites.

What has the pandemic taught Aoyuan in terms of project sales or planning… using virtual sales techniques and so on?

Though we have always offered virtual signing opportunities, we have had to pivot to use these tools more frequently and earlier in the sales cycle and with a wider range of customers. Our M2M sales centre is being prepared for scheduled visits, with the intent for all visitors to adhere to all social distancing guidelines. We are setting up a video walkthrough and live stream presentation for our M2M Spaces model suite. Brokers and potential buyers can also utilize a cloud-based presentation system to view project information, our 3D building model and compare floorplans from the comfort and safety of their home.

Are you making any design changes at M2M to address changing consumer demands? Say, for example, more “working” spaces built into homes as a result of an expected increase in people working from home?

At Aoyuan, our philosophy has always been centred around living healthy lifestyles and building homes that allow its residents to do just that. To us, that includes giving residents options to make their homes fit their personal needs. We have always prioritized this and will continue to do so, which we know will be appreciated by homebuyers as our communities continue to evolve. Since we’re all at home much more nowadays, our M2M Spaces offering comes at a great time for prospective homeowners with its flexible and functional floorplans. These residences are great options for multigenerational families and working parents, with added features and amenities to suit their lifestyles. For instance, we’re proud to offer features such as our smart glass technology, which is an extremely beneficial feature for residents working from home. By simply flipping a switch, residents can change the transparent glass panels to transform to opaque, allowing for added privacy or increased concentration. You’ll find this feature in a variety of suites throughout M2M.

What other fundamental changes do you foresee as a result of these unprecedented times?

It’s tough to speculate on the future while we are still in the thick of things, but we can definitely see the increased importance of green and outdoors spaces for city dwellers who don’t necessarily have access to backyards as you would in the suburbs. We will continue to prioritize amenities like this because we know the importance of our connection to nature as well as the importance of being able to use greenspaces for socializing, playing sports, or just relaxing. We’ll also want to keep the idea of flex spaces which can be used as at-home offices or playrooms as families seek to make the best use of their homes.

M2M won the 2019 BILD People’s Choice Award. What did that mean to Aoyuan Canada?

As newcomers to Toronto, we were very excited to receive this recognition. We felt that it reinforced and recognized the work we were doing specifically in Toronto and the GTA. When we began working in this city, we handpicked the team to make our approach hyperlocal to the area. By working with experts who understood the nuances of Toronto’s development landscape, we were able to respond to the community’s wants and needs. Our approach was clearly successful, as evidenced by our People’s Choice win. I’m truly looking forward to the opportunity to showcase the excellent work our team has done in this award-winning community with this latest release of M2M Spaces.

What’s next for Aoyuan Canada?

Tightly connected with our Vancouver team, we see numerous opportunities in both cities and we are not limited ourselves to any specific type of development. Our immediate focus here in the GTA is M2M. We’re really excited to see how buyers respond to our new townhomes and exquisite tower suites. Because M2M is a multi-phased development, we’re staying focused on the subsequent launches still to come in this vibrant new community. There are some really incredible amenities for future residents to enjoy, such as a courtyard terrace, an infinity pool, a dog spa and business centre. We really designed this community to make it simple for residents to get everything they need at home.

And on a personal note…

If I wasn’t in the homebuilding industry, I would:

Pursue a career as a World Class Barista somewhere in Europe, making people happy with every cup of hand-crafted espresso!

My greatest inspiration in this industry is:

Our resilience. As an industry, especially here in the GTA, the “box” we work in is always changing and it forces us to be dynamic as a group, and I am inspired when I see great and practical solutions come to life via some of the best developers in the world in the form of vibrant communities – communities where people who come from all walks of life can truly live, work and play. It’s a testament to how our industry responds to market forces and how well it works with all levels of government and regulatory agencies.

When I’m not at the office, I am:

Walking! On a GTA golf course with friends and colleagues as much as I can… a great way to enjoy the outdoors!

aoyuaninternational.com

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In Conversation With… Enzo Di Giovanni, President, Briarwood Homes

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In Conversation With… Enzo Di Giovanni, President, Briarwood Homes

Enzo Di Giovanni’s love for homebuilding began as a boy, adopting the skills and work ethic of his father and uncle as he followed them around construction sites. Today, these traits are part of his DNA as president of Briarwood Homes, carrying on his family’s legacy of new home excellence. We spoke with Di Giovanni to learn more about Briarwood, and how the company aims to deliver families a better quality of life in exceptional locations – now and in a post- COVID-19 world.

How has Briarwood been doing and operating during COVID-19?

Dealing with the reality of COVID-19 has taken everyone by surprise. I can’t think of a similar event that has imposed so much change in such a brief measure of time. At Briarwood, our response was to immediately implement all health and safety protocols in our presentation centres, establishing a safe environment, and setting up private social distancing appointments.

What’s your sense of how prospective homebuyers are feeling, now and when the pandemic has passed.

The people of Ontario are very resilient and have stuck together during this contradistinctive time. I am sure they will recuperate quickly and come back even stronger. First, I think we will re-evaluate what is most important to us, discover a new approach and subsequently work very hard to achieve a better new normal.

How do you think their homebuying preferences may change? Some experts believe one growing segment will be buyers looking for bigger homes, more space, larger lots, given what COVID-19 has taught us about personal space…

Briarwood’s communities are always imbedded with the ideal that spacious surroundings are just better for people. We put value on personal space. Safer lifestyles will become a sought-after, precious commodity. Choosing a more natural location with fresh air and wide-open spaces will be at the forefront of all buyers’ minds. Smart urban communities that include tranquil areas such as sizable gardens and courtyards will be popular. More people will choose the work-from-home option, capitalizing on telecommuting or buy their new home in communities located outside gridlocked, overcrowded spheres. Families will find it advantageous to choose better and healthier surroundings with room for their families to grow and be protected.

What are some of your highlight communities, and how were they progressing before the pandemic?

All of Briarwood’s communities have been selling very fast, with homes being purchased even during the initial COVID shut down. Young’s Cove in Prince Edward County has 65- or 150-ft.-wide homesites, and trails along 7,000 ft. of Lake Ontario shoreline. Families living there also enjoy the 200 acres of forest and wetlands. In our Stayner project, Ashton Meadows has true open concept designs. The bungalows and two-storeys have proven to be the area’s most popular choice. The first phase sold in just a couple of weeks, with the next offering quickly following suit. Brand new to Milton, our Connectt condo and townhome community has had a very successful start, with the first tower almost selling out immediately, and new registrations still flooding in.

How do you expect they will do post-COVID-19?

We spend a lot of time in the initial development of all our properties. We know what new-home buyers are searching for. I am confident that all of our new-home neighbourhoods will maintain their successful status. I am proud of our leading role in the new-home industry.

What about Briarwood Homes and its communities helps distinguish your properties from others?

Building liveable, sustainable environments is our main focus. I take into consideration and evaluate all the natural elements and amenities unique to each property. Our research team is super focused on rejuvenating and updating our homebuilding knowledge, ensuring modern homes with functional, well featured interior spaces and prominent exteriors. Synonymous with Briarwood, and one of our cornerstone ideals in the new-home industry, is understanding what is important to people with complex new modern lifestyles.

Many of your communities are located outside the GTA core. How advantageous do you think that will be, if, in fact, there’s a surge in buyers looking for homes with bigger lots and more privacy?

I build communities and homes with my own family in mind. I always take into consideration that their and my own well-being and health is affected positively by natural surroundings. So, whether I have the opportunity to offer wider more spacious homesites in amazing locations, create open concept home designs in sustainable natural green places encompassed by world class amenities or build urban highrise communities with environs that foster a feeling of solitude and tranquility… Briarwood is leading the way.

What community initiatives or charitable causes is Briarwood involved in.

Children are our most valuable resource. Briarwood is proud to partner with exceptional children’s sports organizations, to advance active healthy living, and SickKids Hospital and its world class children’s healthcare facilities.

What’s next for Briarwood?

The public will ardently welcome our new soon-to-be released 50-ft. bungalow and two-storey community, Woodland Creeks in Angus. It has not one but two creeks and green forest surrounding it. Angus is well connected. People will discover notable new home choices outside the overcrowded GTA, supporting all working and lifestyle choices.

briarwoodhomes.ca

AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE…

If I wasn’t involved in the homebuilding industry, I would: Most likely be in the boutique hotel and restaurant business.

My greatest inspiration in this industry is: I am inspired by a quotation from German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.” Briarwood Development Group and our Building Forward initiative are culminations of that ideal.

When I’m not at the office or on a job site, I am: The greatest gift you can give someone is precious time. I enjoy being on the lake or walking the trails, with the loves of my life – my family.

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In Conversation With… Debbie Cosic, Founder & CEO In2ition Realty

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In Conversation With… Debbie Cosic, Founder & CEO In2ition Realty

New-home buyers, builders and marketers had big plans this spring. Then COVID-19 struck and things changed. Consumers went into a holding pattern, and developers and sales outfits had to figure out what to do.

For In2ition Realty of Mississauga, Ont., a prominent new home and condo marketing firm, that meant pivoting quickly to online and virtual sales. Founder and CEO Debbie Cosic explains how the company responded – and how she sees the market post-pandemic.

How’s the business of marketing and selling new homes and condos during these challenging days?

To say the least, challenging. All of our sales offices are (at press time) currently closed and have converted to online sales. We have been running virtual sales offices across the GTA, and at any given time we have about 20 sites operating.

Fortunately, we’re used to this, as we’re a pretty tech savvy company. This whole challenge has made us kick everything up a notch. We believe the online new home sales world is definitely here to stay. We’ve had to change our method of operations.

We’re still very busy internally with Zoom and conference calls, with developers a couple times a week on various projects. We had 24 sites to launch in 2020, and just before COVID started we basically got two out of the gate. So that means 22 still to launch. Will they all launch this year? We hope so. None of them have been cancelled. We’re hoping that these delays will just toggle things into a fall market, or some of them into the summer market, fall, winter or early next year.

How are consumers responding to virtual sales? Buying a home is obviously a very significant purchase, so to do so without being able to go to the development site…

Even during the shutdown, we have been doing deals consistently. Buyers may be a little slower to consummate the deal, but it always surprises me how technologically savvy everybody is. We’re all online with Facebook or LinkedIn or Instagram. Young or old, people are connected to the computer, they’re online shopping or reading the news every day. So, if you make it simple, which is what we’ve done, using Zoom or FaceTime, our team walks them through all the steps, and we have the presentations ready online. Sometimes it may take a little longer, maybe a second or third meeting, but we make it extremely easy for them to be able to navigate.

We all got some good news when the province announced that construction could resume on May 19. How do you think the market will react – will it quickly lead to renewed buyer interest and activity?

It will spur our whole industry to start moving. Everybody’s sort of gearing up. We have a master blueprint on how to reopen our sales offices safely when the time comes, such as following the government precautions for social distancing, and otherwise doing things to make them feel safe.

We have regular calls on the status of our developments, to get a pulse on the market and feedback from clientele. Some buyers are pushing us to open, we’re getting requests regarding particular projects and we still have people in the pipeline. Do 100 per cent of interested buyers still want to proceed? It’s a new normal now, so we just want to get out there and start selling, whether it’s 80 per cent volume or 50 or 20… We don’t know that yet.

When the restrictions are fully lifted, do you foresee buyers easing their way back into the market, or will there be more of a rush because there might be some pent-up demand?

It may take some time, but I believe things will return to a normal marketplace. In 2019, we had a banner market with 76,500 pre-construction sales in high- and lowrise combined. The first couple of months of 2020, we launched two projects and we basically blew through them, and within a couple of weeks we sold out beyond our construction thresholds. That, we are not expecting, and our brokers are not expecting either. We just believe that we’re going to return to a normal balanced market. And we’re fine with that. Instead of us selling out a development in a couple of weekends, it may take six or nine months or even a year to get to preconstruction thresholds. We’re fine with that.

We’re anticipating a new normal, even in the way we conduct sales, in that we’re not going to be able to have big groups in our sales offices, and these big events that create a lot of hype. We know that it’s going to be a more tempered sale because only smaller groups can come in. As long as you manage expectations, we’re all happy to go back to work and start doing some sales. That’s the important thing.

How do you think homebuyer intentions may change? Do you foresee people buying smaller homes or buying condos instead of lowrise homes or buying more with friends and family?

I think intentions are going to change differently for different segments of the population. Some buyers may enjoy being closer to family, or they’ll prefer a multi-family residence, or a loft upstairs from their parents, or splitting a home with a sibling.

Some experts believe there will be a notable and growing segment of buyers who prefer the bigger homes, larger lots and more space, given everything the pandemic has taught us about being apart from others. Supply and affordability issues in the GTA may preclude that, but areas outside the GTA – Kitchener-Waterloo or Hamilton, for example – may represent opportunities. What are your thoughts?

Definitely. In recent years, areas outside the downtown core have become more desirable…the 905s and some of the 519 areas and even in 705, and that will continue to grow.

I also believe others will migrate back into the city because they will not want to endure public transit, because of concerns over the lack of social distancing.

Do you see any other fundamental changes either for builders or buyers? For example, working from home may become more prevalent, so will home designs further change to accommodate more places people can work separately in the home?

I definitely believe that. Just in my own experience, I have a house with a den, and I have a desk in my bedroom, each of the kids have a desk in their bedrooms, and it’s still not enough. They’re being schooled from home, I’m working from home, the other adults in my house are working from home… We’re all looking for that quiet space, whether it’s a room in the basement, a den in their next house, or a flex space or solarium in a larger condo.

There will also be a portion of population that will want to age in place, so we’ll have to have housing that can accommodate that.

New home supply in the GTA has long been a very serious issue. During the pandemic, governments have clearly shown that when they want to, they can act quickly. How hopeful are you that such legislative agility – clearing red tape and shortening development approval processes – can extend beyond COVID-19?

I’ve been preaching for years that a lot of the legacy supply has been sold off, especially in lowrise and midrise homes. But governments really need to look at the way they’re allowing approvals to occur – not just the speed, but the type of product they’re allowing. They should be allowing more multi-family residences in our subdivisions and communities. I’m not saying we should turn a whole subdivision of 40-ft. lots into triplexes, but you should allow some of these build forms, because they’re desirable, affordable and something we really need.

Instead of a 3,000-sq.-ft. home, why not build a 2000-sq.-ft. home with 1,000-sq.- ft. loft or secondary suite? That kind of thing. Some of this is allowed, but I really think it has to be speeded up, and fast, so on a dime, a developer can change a planning application to have these different types of build forms woven into these communities.

in2ition.ca

And on a personal note …

If I wasn’t in the new home and condo marketing business, I would: Be working on Wall street as a venture capitalist. I love the energy and challenges of that industry, and I love NYC.

My greatest inspiration in this business is: My life partner Ralph, who has taught me to believe in the power of the universe and the power of positive thinking. He has the attitude of “some will, some won’t, others always do.” And if something bad happens, don’t fret over it, learn from it and let it go. Something bigger and better is around the corner.

My greatest reward is: Spending time with my loved ones and surrounding myself with the wonderful group of people who work with us. I’m also grateful this industry has given me not only the financial means but also the time to help people less fortunate than I am. I love and thrive on our charitable endeavours.

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In Conversation With… Mike Parker, Vice-President, Sales and Marketing Georgian International Build Corp.

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In Conversation With… Mike Parker, Vice-President, Sales and Marketing Georgian International Build Corp.

Some homebuyers, be they empty-nesters or those just looking for a little more privacy, love space. Quieter locations, larger homes, bigger lots… it’s as much a lifestyle choice as it is a new home selection. Georgian International, with unique communities in locations such as Blue Mountain and Horseshoe Valley, is one builder that caters to this demand.

It’s early days yet, but some experts suggest these very homebuyers might become a fast-growing demographic in a post-pandemic market.

And Georgian, offering “more than a floorplan, but an opportunity for a more balanced way of life,” seems well positioned to deliver.

Mike Parker, vice-president of sales and marketing, discusses the Georgian approach – pre- and post-COVID-19.

When we last spoke, for our Special Report: Outlook 2020 in our January issue, you were quite bullish on the outlook for 2020. How were things unfolding before COVID-19… pretty much as you expected?

Yes, we had a positive start to the year. All of our sites were essentially in the same position, with final lots and suites in current phases well positioned to be sold out by the end of the first quarter. We continue to have strong interest in our communities with people connecting with us daily, collecting information and asking questions, however, people are more cautious to move forward with a purchase at this time. Due to demand, we opened our final phase at Mountain House in Blue Mountain just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Obviously, this altered our outcome, however, a good percentage of our purchasers continued with their purchase.

The pandemic has obviously changed everything, at least for the time being. How is Georgian Communities operating during this time – for example, accepting sales centre visits by appointment only, giving virtual tours…

Like all businesses, we’ve had to adapt to new health and safety measures to help ensure the well-being of our staff, and of course the public. Our production team continues to construct our homes and condos, albeit under stricter working protocols. We’ve increased communication with our onsite team to ensure they and our trade partners have the necessary support to conduct their activities safely. Currently, our sales centres and model homes are closed, but we have kept our regular sales centre hours the same with our team working remotely. We previously introduced virtual tours of our model homes and we connect with people through phone, video conference and, of course, email. We’ve had a 30-per-cent increase in website registrations with people spending more time online. This is positive, as it keeps our team busy with follow-up and one-on-one engagement.

And how is all that going?

Our immediate priority is to maintain and promote personal engagement with people. In many aspects, we are conducting our sales operation in the same manner we always have. It’s not unusual for the majority of our initial communication to be done remotely. However, what’s obviously missing, and what I feel will always be important, is the tangible aspects of visiting us. Walking through our model homes, taking in the views, enjoying the local restaurants and shops to get a sense of the area, and of course the in-person interaction with our team are all important components of our sales process. Technology is a tool, and one we absolutely could not operate business without. However, for us, and the nature-rich based communities we have, we want people to be able to experience what we have in person. We look forward to this returning. What we are offering is so much more than a floorplan. It’s an opportunity for a new, more balanced way of life.

Given that your community locations are outside the GTA, how conducive is that to success when the market returns to “normal”?

We are very optimistic that we will see an increase in demand for all of our communities. Windfall and Mountain House in Blue Mountain offer private enclaves away from urban congestion, close to all daily necessities, and set in one of the most beautiful four-season recreational playgrounds.

Similarly, Braestone offers large estate lots set in the picturesque Horseshoe Valley region, another four-season playground. Many of our residents have the ability to work from home, and we suspect this trend will continue as companies have been forced to provide and embrace remote working solutions. We are extremely confident that we have the locations, lifestyle and homes that people desire and, when individual consumer confidence returns, we will remain well positioned.

What is the status of Windfall? How is that project coming along?

Windfall continues to be one of the most sought-after communities in Blue Mountain. Located next to the mountain and within minutes of the slope-side village, it continues to exceed our expectations. To date, we have delivered more than 250 homes and, assuming we will be able to continue building, our construction pipeline is full through the second quarter of 2021. We are not delaying the launch of our next phase, which is scheduled for May/June 2020. You can literally walk to the chair lift from this part of our community and people are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to live here. We have, of course, been in touch with our potential future homeowners to gauge their interest, given the current circumstance, and most plan on moving ahead when we do, in fact, release.

And Braestone?

Braestone is a country estate community located in the Horseshoe Valley region with convenient access to neighbouring Barrie and Orillia. It offers large estate lots with beautiful natural amenities such as berry and pumpkin patches, a maple syrup producing sugar shack, kilometres of trails and unbelievable value compared to the GTA. Residents truly enjoy a life altering style of living, and we believe this community will increase in demand as more and more people look for options further away from the city. Similar to Windfall, we are not delaying the release of our next phase. In fact, we’ve taken advanced reservations on 40 per cent of the upcoming release. We are extremely excited about the escalated increase in interest for Braestone.

How will you welcome buyers back, when things return to normal and the market “reopens”? For example, will you offer any incentives, price discounts or free upgrades…?

We’ve always positioned our homes to offer value that exceeds their price and to be extremely competitive in the market. We have no plans to discount pricing, however, we will continue to offer decor incentives as we always have, as a means to help our customers obtain their priority upgrades.

Our sales philosophy is based on sharing, not selling. Our team simply shares what our communities have to offer, what lifestyle improvements our residents experience, and we provide information through a more holistic approach. Each community we build is designed to create positive interactions between neighbours – places for adventure, dreams, inspiration and coming together in shared experiences. We look forward to this being normal again.

What’s next for Georgian? What other new opportunities are you considering bringing to market?

We are very excited about our future development in the village of Craighurst, which is currently in the planning stages. Located minutes from Hwy. 400 and just 15 kms from north Barrie, this small town community will be embedded in nature, yet minutes to city conveniences. Additionally, we continue to study opportunities within “our own backyard” in the Grey and Simcoe County regions.

georgianinternational.com

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In Conversation With… Stella Salvador, principal interior designer, Tridel

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In Conversation With… Stella Salvador, principal interior designer, Tridel

If you love design and decor, and you strive to be a professional designer for a new home or condo builder, it doesn’t get much better than Tridel – one of Canada’s largest developers and builders of condominium residences. With more than eight decades and more than 85,000 homes, title of the 2019 Ontario Homebuilder of the Year from the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, and now a high tech showcase in downtown Toronto at Ten York called the Innovation Suite, well… Stella Salvador, Principal Interior Designer, has indeed reached a pinnacle.

We spoke to Salvador for her thoughts on this latest milestone project, and her other expert design and decor insights.

Stella Salvador

Let’s start with something very recent and top of mind – the Innovation Suite at Ten York. Clearly, there’s some very impressive home tech on display there. What is the ultimate objective in displaying this technology? Purely as a showcase, or to educate buyers on what’s to come, or…?

We used the Ten York suite as a design lab where we could experiment with various innovations in design, construction and technology. There is a push and pull of design elements, and technology is now another element that needs to be incorporated thoughtfully into suite design. The intention behind the Ten York suite was to create a modern suite with connectivity, comfort and convenience, while seamlessly integrating technology into our design. We’re using smart technologies more in our communities and we wanted to integrate this directly into our suite to find even more conveniences and enjoy new luxuries, while also introducing new opportunities to build community and connection with the rest of the building’s residents and amenities. The interior design elements are taken to a new level in the planning, use of space, lighting, furniture, finishes and fixtures. There was a significant amount of research done before selecting the features, so now that the suite has come together, it’s very exciting to describe the design. The Ten York suite is actually our fourth innovation suite, so far.

How soon might we see some of these features be offered as upgrades at Tridel projects?

Many features can be easily incorporated into our available suite options, while other design items will still need to be reviewed with our teams to ensure we can provide the detail efficiently before being offered as a personalization option. Some features which may be more complicated likely won’t be offered, but we would still try to accommodate in the homeowner’s suite design if requested.

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Outlook 2020 – Samson Fung, Vice-President Marketing, Tridel

Will they be offered as upgrades only at Tridel’s high end luxury projects and suites, or will they be rolled out across the board?

Homeowners can determine what’s important to them regardless of suite level. Some features may do well in a larger square footage, and other details would work well in any environment. If it’s possible to implement within the homeowner’s suite design and layout, who are we to limit their design vision?

What will be the pricing structure for these upgrades?

If they are offered as personalization options through our design studio, then the item will be systematized into our catalogue and made available during design appointments at The Lobby with our design services team. Our teams will assemble all the necessary steps required.

The flooring technology is interesting, especially given the current pandemic, in that it functionally helps clean the air inside the suite. How might concerns for cleanliness and air quality drive demand for other home tech features going forward?

Good design is about the wellness and benefit of people, and making your home work for you. We set the stage with calming natural biophilic elements to bring the outside in where we highlight the amazing views of the lake and city from the 68th floor, the natural patterns of the oak cathedral grain wall paneling and the bold veining in the marble. Using innovative wood flooring to improve the indoor air quality is so critical for wellbeing. The voice-activated features offer comfort through accessibility, allowing for ease of use with lighting, sound shade control, and even turning fixtures on without even pressing a button. The kitchen faucet operates by gesture, so no touch is involved to turn the faucet on or off.

Generally speaking, what are some of the larger design trends you see happening at the moment?

The design of wellness really speaks to me. Using more sustainable and natural materials, layering textures and matte colours that give a sense of beauty and comfort to those that occupy it. Design doesn’t have to be laid out like a textbook, but it must be personal as our homes are used as our own sanctuary.

People aren’t interested in specific trends but rather a timelessness style. And style is equal to lifestyle. They are mixing vintage with modern, mixing metals and including matte black.

And where do you see things going, say, in the next three to five years? More luxury? More convenience and automation and smart tech? More “healthy living”?

We’re looking at a laid back and livable luxury with comfortable and relaxed spaces curated for the personal needs of the homeowner. Luxury comes from the quality of lifestyle. With so many sources of design images for inspiration, people want to create a unique space for them. It’s no longer a one-size-fits-all approach. Technology and smart home features will continue to be thoughtfully implemented. As the population ages, it becomes very real the need for universal design that is well designed.

Tridel Stella Salvador

You’ve been at Tridel for more than 15 years. How have new condo design and decor elements changed in that time, – such as the trend to smaller suites or new consumer demands?

Condo design has always been about thinking outside the box and an intelligent use of space. There are considerations to condo design that are universal, regardless of size, such as maximizing your space and your storage capability. Sustainable and smart home features are becoming more popular as they become more mainstream.

What has been the single most significant design and decor improvement or change you’ve seen in your years as a designer? Cultural influence, new materials, consumer demands, home tech, Green living?

Forget preconceived notions. Design is driven by what is important to you.

What’s the next great design or decor feature we’re going to see from Tridel – outside of the Innovation Suite?

We have a culture of innovation because we know innovation equals growth and opportunity, so we’re always trying new things. Right now, we are working on expanding our suite of smart home features, Tridel Connect, and its capability for ultimate connectivity for the community.

And on a personal note…

My greatest inspiration in the design world is:

One of my influences is Italian renaissance architect Piero Lissoni. He always inspires me when I have a chance to hear him speak or view his work. The culture of design is loosening up and tossing out traditional rules of what makes a space effective. The focus is more of a humanistic approach rather than following trends.

If I wasn’t an interior designer, I would:

Still be part of the building industry in some way. I have been influenced by architecture from elementary school and creating meaningful spaces is the purpose I have always envisioned for myself.

When I’m not at the office, I’m:

Enjoying spending time with my favourite people – my husband and three children and travelling together when we can. Those opportunities create wonderful memories that I treasure. I learn so much from them and their perspectives!

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In Conversation With Frank Clayton, Centre for Urban Research and Land Development, Ryerson

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In Conversation With Frank Clayton, Centre for Urban Research and Land Development, Ryerson

Builders and developers have long been calling for the Province and municipalities to loosen up on land supply and approval processes to allow more new homes to be built, and more quickly. To the uninitiated, however, this seems a self-serving request, since, of course, they believe these companies want to build more and make more money.

But now we have more and more third parties, without any vested interest, expressing the same concerns, and citing hard, objective numbers. One of them is Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Research and Land Development.

“Toronto’s booming economy has brought with it housing affordability challenges that will continue throughout the next decade,” Frank Clayton, PhD and senior research fellow, said at a recent Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) event. The Centre’s recent study, An Economic Outlook for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and What it Means for Housing Affordability, examined the economy and its impact on housing to 2031.

We spoke with Clayton to explore the issues discussed in the study, what government and the industry can do, and what it all means for homebuyers.

HOMES Magazine: Your recent report doesn’t exactly sound like good news for those still looking to buy a home. What positive news can they take from your findings?

Frank Clayton: The affordability picture painted in our report means that, comparatively, more prospective buyers will have to devote more of their budget to housing, rely on parents for down payment assistance or reduce their housing expectations in terms of location, size and type of structure. On the positive side, many prospective buyers (especially double income professional couples) will still be able to afford to purchase a home. Also, once prospective buyers purchase, they will benefit from the appreciation in home values.

H: Given the findings of your study, where do you see the most promising opportunities for prospective homebuyers – in terms of location and housing type?

Clayton: This is not an easy question to answer, as it depends on where people work, household composition and lifestyle preferences. Durham Region is the most affordable of the 905 areas, and has become more attractive with the extension of Hwy. 407 and improved GO train service. For buyers who want to locate closer to Toronto’s central area, there are wide swathes of existing low-density housing in the city’s post-Second Word War suburbs, such as much of Scarborough, which are priced much lower than neighbourhoods closer to the core.

Unit types depend on lifestyle preferences and affordability. The housing choice menu that I have seen over the years goes like this: Many households prefer a single-detached house, but if they can’t afford it, they move up the density ladder until they can afford to purchase. So, if a single-detached house is unaffordable, a semi-detached house, followed by a townhome becomes the targeted housing type. If a townhouse is not affordable, then a stacked townhouse unit, followed by other types of lower-rise condos (four storeys of less) are preferred. If a prospective buyer is considering purchasing in a highrise, they should look at new units being built in a mixed-use project such as those being built on redeveloped shopping centre sites.

H: You note that average home prices and rents are to rise four to five per cent over the study period. This seems low, given that TRREB forecasts home price growth to hit 10 per cent for this year… Why the disparity?

Clayton: Our home price and rent forecasts represent average annual per cent increases from 2019 to 2031. If prices rise by 10 per cent per year early in the period, it will likely be due to irrational exuberance like in 2016-17, when home purchases exploded as buyers and investors rushed to buy before prices rose more. By doing so, they pushed prices up even higher. Typically, these price surges are unsustainable and are followed by stagnant or slightly lower prices. So, if prices rise by 10 per cent for a year or two, there will be years when prices may rise only slightly, if at all.

H: If figures such as TRREB’s are accurate and continue for a couple of years, and are not just an anomaly for 2020, what does that mean for housing affordability? How much worse could it get?

Clayton: It would be very damaging for affordability, and the picture would be bleaker than what our study predicts. Even more potential buyers would be relegated to the rental market, which would put added pressure on rents. If prices were to rise by 10 per cent per year for several years, we could expect to have a rather serious market readjustment so that prices would cease to rise or even decline moderately as they did following 2016-17.

H: What kinds of things can or should builders and developers do in the short-term to deal with these challenges?

Clayton: There isn’t a lot builders and developers can to increase the supply of housing in the short-term. It is important that the industry continue to pressure municipalities to expedite development applications for all kinds of housing, to bring developments to market much more quickly than at present. Builders should be exploring ways to bring more affordable units to market by reducing unit sizes and finding locations where underlying land values are lower, such as in Scarborough and Durham Region.

H: And what can or should municipalities do?

Clayton: Municipalities first have to recognize that they are a primary cause of the shortage of housing. Their land use planning systems have bogged down the production of new and innovative types of housing. The planning system is burdensome, uncertain, time-consuming and costly. What is needed is a change of priorities. The rapid increase in the production of a range of new housing by unit types and price ranges should become the number one priority of all municipal councils and staff in the GTA. Without this, a shortfall of new housing will continue to keep prices much higher than need be.

H: What kind of response or reception has your study received from the Province or City of Toronto?

Clayton: The Province is aware of the causes of high and rising housing prices and is doing what it can to persuade GTA municipalities to increase their housing production sharply. Unfortunately, many municipalities aren’t on side, so it will be a struggle to greatly increase housing production.

Many councillors at the City of Toronto, for instance, fail to recognize how the city’s planning system, along with those in neighbouring municipalities, is a primary cause of the current housing shortage in the GTHA. While the City’s efforts to increase the supply of affordable housing over the next decade is in the right direction, this will not get at the root cause of the affordability crunch – not enough new housing is being built, particularly, non highrise varieties.

H: ReMax is citing Ontario markets as already some of the least affordable in Canada. Even with the economic growth in the GTA, how well will household incomes be able to keep up to housing costs?

Clayton: Our study is clear that average incomes are very unlikely to keep up with rising average prices and rents in the GTA. The only sure-fire way to change this projection is to significantly increase the supply of new housing in the GTA.

ryerson.ca/cur

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