Tag Archives: In Conversation With

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Canada-China realty professional association caters to growing demand from Chinese Canadians

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Canada-China realty professional association caters to growing demand from Chinese Canadians

It’s no secret that buyers from all over the world are attracted to real estate opportunities in the Greater Toronto Area. Chinese Canadians, in particular, are showing a strong appetite for homes and investments in the GTA, and the Canada-China Realty Professional Association (CCRPA) is building a collection of services to offer these influential clients. Steven Sun, president of the CCRPA, explains what the organization offers – including the upcoming Real Home Expo 2019, Oct. 5 and 6 at Le Parc Banquet & Conference Centre in Richmond Hill.

HOMES Magazine: Real Home Expo, with co-organizer Jade Expo, is the largest home show in Canada that caters to the Chinese Canadian community. What does the event offer these prospective homebuyers?

Steven Sun: Based on our past successes, we have upgraded the scale of the event this year and are happy to welcome well-known companies such as Times Group, Sotheby’s International Realty, Reliance Home Comfort, Menkes Developments, Tridel, Kingdom Developments, Z Square Group, CoStone Group, Gemterra Developments, CIM Development, Foxwood Developments, Woodside Group and others. More and more real estate development companies are recognizing the potential purchasing power of the Chinese community. We are pleased to be the platform for these well-established developers to conduct business within.

We have also introduced a “HomeMania Festival” to bring special discount offers for homebuyers and homeowners. Ethan Allen, Reliance Home Comfort, PageOne Furniture & Lighting and others will be offering exclusive deals for attendees.

HM: Beyond a strong exhibitor lineup, what’s in the event for attendees and prospective homebuyers?

Sun: Real Home Expo fills in gaps in real estate and home exhibition in the northern GTA. It is recognized by the governments of Canada and China, being the largest local Chinese real estate and home exhibition and sales platform, catering to northern GTA residents who are well known by their purchasing power and high living standard. Prospective homebuyers can meet professionals to help them purchase a new home, renovate an existing property, furnish their home space inside and out, and provide the day-to-day services.

HM: How else does the association help homebuyers, on an ongoing basis, after the Expo?

Sun: We are the largest Chinese real estate organization in Canada, with more than 8,000 realtors, developers, builders, financial reps and service providers. We provide our clients and attendees with professional knowledge, services and advice during and after the exhibition.

We also plan to host a number of seminars and real estate related events over the next few months, to provide guidance to clients and homebuyers on every single step in the home purchasing process.

HM: What areas of the GTA do Chinese Canadians, or newcomers to Toronto from China, find especially appealing?

Sun: Downtown and midtown Toronto for are popular for condos, while in North York, they look for both high- and lowrise properties. York Region areas such as Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan are the hottest and the most popular areas for Chinese homebuyers and investors.

HM: What housing types are they looking for most? Lowrise homes to live in? Condos as investment properties?

Sun: Most commonly, lowrise as a primary home and condos as investments. However, since the introduction of foreign buyer taxes, many are looking at businesses and commercial opportunities such as plazas, apartment buildings, farms, vineyards and cottages. Some of the biggest vineyards in the Niagara area are now owned by Chinese immigrants. Plus, a great number of Chinese immigrants are investing in GTA new condo projects.

HM: How is the CCRPA growing? For example, a couple of Chinese developers have recently launched projects in Toronto. Are you actively involved in this… trying to encourage such activity and acting as a liaison for Chinese background developers?

Sun: Yes. Most of the active real estate developers are among our board of directors. We are their business partner in promoting their condo projects and lowrise community developments. Our 8,000 realty professionals use their connections to spread these homebuying and investment opportunities within the GTA and Vancouver communities. Our prospective clients are given first-hand information and exclusive offers.

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In Conversation With… Angela Marotta, Director of Sales & Marketing, Solmar Development Corp.

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In Conversation With… Angela Marotta, Director of Sales & Marketing, Solmar Development Corp.

For more than 30 years, Solmar Development Corp. has focused on excellence, whether it’s building highrise projects in the GTA or lowrise communities in Niagara-on-the-Lake, or delivering on its promises of exemplary customer service.

Director of Sales & Marketing Angela Marotta shares her insights on what the company values most, and where it plans to go next.

Condo Life: Solmar has been in business for more than 30 years. What have been the keys to your success over this time?

Angela Marotta: We are family owned and operated, and as key family members, we have continued to share the same philosophy and vision for the company for all these years. Each project is thoughtfully designed with the buyer in mind. From our amenity spaces to landscape and surrounding greenspace, and ultimately to the suite and home designs.

When we acquire property, we always have the big picture in mind, which has allowed us to navigate through any difficult zoning and planning issues, and consolidation of various parcels of land. We have a very strong planning department and consultants that have been with Solmar from inception. They understand and continue to support the long-term vision to bring our projects to final stages. As principals, we are involved every step of the way. My father, Benny Marotta, is a visionary and has a very keen eye for design and architecture. No architectural plans are redesigned or enhanced without him and then flowed to myself and brother-in-law Giuseppe Paolicelli for final review, always with the buyer in mind.

CL: The homebuilding industry is undergoing a lot of change these days, with increasing government involvem ent, policy issues and other challenges. How do you see all this playing out in the foreseeable future?

AM: Regulatory changes within the Planning Act have given municipalities more local power to facilitate change in zoning bylaws, and thus hopefully allow for economic growth within their communities. As developers, we have faith that the governing bodies take into consideration the future economic growth, together with quality of life of residents. There has to be a balance.

However, changes to the Ontario Municipal Board are somewhat troublesome, as they may restrict the tribunal to propose decisions based on the best planning solutions, as the process has now been fast-tracked. It’s complicated, and I’m still trying to come to grips with the pros and cons. There will always be complex appeals, which make the process difficult to navigate. We will always try to push higher density on proposed developments, as it increases their viability. Giuseppe works very closely with our inhouse planner to ensure that we do.

CL: Affordability is a growing concern for homebuyers in the GTA, but much of what determines end costs – land use policy and availability and approvals processes – are out of builders’ control. How does Solmar address the affordability challenge?

AM: Everything boils down to timing and the span from inception of a project to construction to proposed occupancy. We never rush developing our proformas without having a clear understanding and comfort level of the market and future costs that are at times not completely defined. We are careful, but still take on a level of risk that we are comfortable with. We never want to sell out a project that quickly. Allocations are determined and timelines for release are defined so we always have a contingency whereby we retain flexibility with pricing over time to protect us against any instabilities or change.

We also try to price ourselves at or just above market without being “out of” market. Our projects are higher end, with various luxury amenities and features that attract a consumer that appreciates value and may be willing to spend a little more as a result. We attract a lot of end consumers, and any investors purchasing in our projects feel comfortable knowing they have a secured investment based on our reputation as a builder.

CL: Where do you see the next homebuilding – and therefore, for customers, homebuying – opportunities in the GTA, in terms of geographic area and housing type?

AM: Consumers are finding pricing within the downtown core to be very high and competitive. Projects such as ours at The Edge in Mississauga allow consumers to have homeownership at much more reasonable pricing, gain equity over time and still be able to work in the city due to the great transit infrastructure in Mississauga. The LRT is along Hurontario right at The Edge. With higher density projects outside of the downtown core, you’re seeing more and more buyers looking there. Our project at Park Avenue Place in Vaughan, which is sold out, saw buyers coming from all across the GTA. Again, municipalities that have planned and developed transit infrastructure well have seen economic growth and a superior quality of life in their community as a result.

CL: How are things coming along at Edge Towers in Mississauga?

AM: We’re excited to see the development come to life. It took great perseverance to consolidate individual lots to comprise what is now three luxury buildings with more than 1,400 units. Tower 1 is currently under construction and nearly sold out. Tower 2 is not far behind, with construction starting before the end of the year and nearing 80 per cent sold. Tower 3, launching this fall, will be the pinnacle of the project, with 50 floors of luxury suites and amenities that will make this tower a unique place to live.

CL: And at Park Avenue Place in Vaughan?

AM: Park Avenue is currently under construction with occupancy set for fall 2020. This has been an amazing project, as it is referred to as the sister project to our now completed highrise, aptly called Bellaria, which was the first development of its kind in Vaughan. Park Avenue comprises two towers of beautifully designed suites located at the south east corner of Jane and Rutherford. This project saw lots of end users as buyers, many of whom were referrals from Bellaria – a major source of pride for us.

AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

If I wasn’t involved in homebuilding, I would:

Be in the hospitality industry, as my passion is wine and food. Together with our family, my sister Melissa Paolicelli and I own and operate Two Sisters Vineyards.

My greatest inspiration in this business is:

My father. I have seen him take on such high levels of risk and navigate through them in the most decisive and intelligent way. He has accomplished great things and built or developed many landmark communities that we are very proud of.

When I’m not at the office, I:

Am enjoying quality family time with my three teens and the rest of our close family in Niagara-on-the-Lake, preferably at the Vineyard! We live part time in NOTL, and it has become such a special place for us all.

PORTFOLIO

Edge Towers
Downtown Mississauga
Under construction and register now

Park Avenue Place
Vaughan
Under construction

solmar.ca

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In Conversation With… Michael DiPasquale, Chief Operating Officer Dunpar Homes

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In Conversation With… Michael DiPasquale, Chief Operating Officer Dunpar Homes

From building much needed townhomes in the GTA, to a recent focus on luxury rental properties, and now to developing a full mixed-use neighbourhood around a shopping mall rejuvenation… This is Dunpar Homes, a builder evolving with the times. We spoke to Chief Operating Officer Michael DiPasquale to learn more about these interesting moves, and more.

HOMES Magazine: Dunpar’s Kingsway Village Square on Prince Edward is an interesting project in that it’s boutique luxury rental. Why did you choose to go that route with this project, as opposed to an ownership-based offering?

Michael DiPasquale: There are a few factors that led us to a luxury rental product. Years ago, the project was on sale as a joint-venture with another developer, but the sales levels weren’t achieved. After a few more years went by, we took a look at our portfolio and the number of projects we have in that neighbourhood and came up with the idea of creating synergy and shared amenities between them. This thought process brought us to a luxury rental community, as we saw the rental achievements start to improve over time, meaning it became viable as a long-term rental project.

HM: Why in that neighbourhood?

MD: The Kingsway neighbourhood speaks for itself. It’s a highly desirable and very beautiful neighbourhood. Dunpar has been part of this community for many years. We also saw a need in this neighbourhood for rental units that coincide with the prestige of the community.

HM: Does this project signal a move to more rental properties for Dunpar?

MD: Yes, this will be project-based, and whether each is viable in the long term. We do plan others in that neighbourhood that will work together with this first project; this is why we called it Kingsway Village “Square.” We didn’t want to compromise on amenities, and since we have multiple projects in this area, we can have amenities done really well to share between the buildings, instead of compromising similar amenities in each building, for example, fitting only a lap pool or small gym.

HM: How are you positioning and marketing this property, in terms of target demographic and rental rate?

MD: This building is positioned for the Kingsway neighbourhood. The unit layouts are much larger than the average condo being built in Toronto. We expect this to cater to “downsizers” who live in the area, want to sell their property but remain in the neighbourhood. But, we also expect it to be mixed with young families as the unit sizes are very efficient and large, giving families as much space as possible to live. There are wonderful schools nearby that are very desirable for parents. It also serves to provide many people who cannot afford houses in the Kingsway neighbourhood, to live in and participate in the community without having the upfront equity required in a purchase.

HM: What if people really love this building and their unit? Is there an option to buy?

MD: No, there is no option to buy. This is a rental building. What actually distinguishes us compared to other condo rentals, is that many condo rentals are owned by individuals (instead of a corporation). Many tenants are getting kicked out when that owner themselves moves in, or wants their son or daughter to move in. Well, a corporation does not have children and cannot use this to get people out.

HM: What are some of Dunpar’s other more interesting projects underway?

MD: We are continuing with our townhouse history in the Lake Shore Village project in South Etobicoke, as well as Streetsville Centre in Mississauga, which is located right across from the GO station. We will continue to provide opportunities to live in existing neighbourhoods with transit access. Dunpar is also building its first commercial/industrial condo units at Jutland Square, creating a new and vibrant employment community with the same design guidelines that have made our townhouses so successful and timeless.

HM: What’s the status of your Streetsville Centre community?

MD: Construction is starting very soon with the underground services and a few townhouses, one to be used as a model home. We had some unfortunate delays, but a lot of activity will start in the next few months, and into 2020, we’ll be under full construction.

HM: You have a new community in Oakville coming up this year. What type of community will it be, and where, exactly?

MD: This is located off of Sixth Line near the QEW. It will be a smaller collection of luxury townhomes, with many units overlooking the beautiful Sixteen Mile Creek.

HM: And beyond that, what’s next for Dunpar?

MD: Dunpar has many lands throughout South Etobicoke that it has accumulated over the years. We will continue to serve this community with townhomes, as well as our foray into luxury rentals in the Kingsway neighbourhood. Much more to come in different pockets, as well.

One of the largest upcoming projects is the renovation and rejuvenation of the Sheridan Mall neighbourhood in Mississauga. We own the mall and all the surrounding lands. We are in preliminary stages, but we plan on building a vibrant, cool and future-proof mixed-use neighbourhood that utilizes the best parts of the mall while incorporating all different types of residential into this community.

AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE…

When you’re not at the office, you: My wife and I enjoy the booming restaurant and food scene in Toronto. We’re out trying new type of food or fusion-type restaurants, as those have taken off in the past few years. I also enjoy golf, and a bunch of us at Dunpar really enjoy rock climbing. We climb in gyms here in Toronto, as well as the mountains down in Arizona.

Your greatest inspiration in the homebuilding industry is: Quality over quantity. I enjoy being a part of an industry that has tangible results and part of a builder/product which I am proud to play a part in producing. I live in a Dunpar home, because it’s a great unit in a great location. There are no townhomes like them. The uniqueness and thoughtfulness we put in our projects is what keeps me going.

Your greatest accomplishment outside the office is: I do my best to keep a balanced life as much as possible, while enjoying activities that make us happy. I don’t have many specific events to claim, other than a happy marriage and lifestyle that we are both very happy with, while surrounding ourselves with friends and family all the time. We keep very busy seeing everyone in our lives as much as we can, just because we enjoy spending time with them.

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In Conversation With… Zev Mandelbaum, President and CEO, Altree Developments

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In Conversation With… Zev Mandelbaum, President and CEO, Altree Developments

Imagine growing up – quite literally – in the development industry, and becoming a third-generation builder. The lessons imparted by your father, and grandfather before him, and how such family mentoring would help shape who you are today and how you view not just developing projects but growing communities. Zev Mandelbaum, president and CEO of Altree Developments, is one such builder. We caught up with him to discuss two of the company’s new signature projects, and more.

Condo Life: What made Altree decide to choose The Queensway area in Etobicoke for your latest project, Thirty Six Zorra? Was it more a product of land availability, or is there something about the area in particular?

Zev Mandelbaum: Altree chose The Queensway for two principal reasons – ability for high-density development and ample surrounding amenities and entertainment for the public.

As Toronto expands and becomes a larger and more metropolitan city, fewer places are designated to allow for high-density development, and The Queensway was an area we could develop a community of this size. The land that spans from The Queensway to Islington, trickling into the Gardiner, is designated to allow for high-density condominium towers. So, when I saw that opportunity, I knew we would have the ability to build an entire neighbourhood from scratch.

In addition, the neighbourhood already has ample amenities, including the Cineplex Cinemas and Sherway Gardens just down the road, many restaurants and a tremendous parkland that was already planned and under construction at the time. We felt The Queensway would be the most optimal neighbourhood to live, work, play and grow a family. It’s the perfect opportunity to expand on a loyal community that was already present within the area.

CL: What do you foresee as the typical buyer profile? Singles, young families…?

ZM: As urbanization increases, condominium living will become the norm for the city dweller and lead to a whole new way of living. As people change their mindsets to own a home with a white picket fence and large backyard, the shift will be to a more urban lifestyle where amenities are at the tip of ones’ fingertips, with less worry about the maintenance of the property.

Thirty Six Zorra is going to contain a wide selection of amenities that will target all different types of buyers, from singles, to young couples, as well as those looking to downsize. This building will also cater to a larger mix of buyers because of the price point and affordability that will come with these units (compared to those found in the downtown core). Toronto is seeing a year-over-year increase in price per square foot of condominiums within the core, making condo options downtown less and less feasible to many working Torontonians. As a result, we also see a lot of Millennial demographic and end users gravitating to this particular building.

CL: Amenities are becoming an increasingly important part of any condo project – features that speak to the character of the local area and the target buyer demographic. What are the key differentiating amenities at Thirty Six Zorra?

ZM: The way we’ve approached this project is recognizing that The Queensway already has a great mix of retail amenities. For Thirty Six Zorra, we wanted to communicate that this building is really somewhere where prospective buyers can live, work and play on a daily basis. The Queensway offers a plethora of shopping and culinary experiences, and we wanted to bring this vibe into the building. We wanted to create something that really unites people by adding amenities focused on enjoying the company of others – getting off our phones and tablets and hanging out with one another. The building features a gym, a dry sauna, outdoor pool, and a rooftop patio ideal for throwing a great summer party.

The most unique amenities include a rec room that features a social space with various games for everyone to relax with friendly competition after a long day of work. We also added in a demonstration kitchen to allow for a communal space for future homeowners to share their passions and creativity through cooking. With the freelance working economy becoming so popular, there will also be multiple cohesive working spaces where buyers can base their office and hold meetings from the co-working space, the lounges, outside patio or parks that surround the project.

CL: You recently entered into a strategic partnership with EllisDon for Thirty Six Zorra. What are the reasons behind this decision, and how will it benefit the project? 

ZM: As a developer, ever since childhood I have loved to watch buildings being constructed and grow. I sought a partnership with EllisDon Capital – the best to do just that – build this community. My goal has not been to merely build a building, but to team up with someone as part of a strategic partnership where we could align our values and goals, leading to a long-term working relationship.

EllisDon is the number one leader in the construction industry in Canada, has built more buildings than anyone else and is set on building the best buildings for communities. Being able to have a strong alliance with EllisDon, not only as a constructor, but also as a fully dedicated partner in the project, gives us the longevity not only to do this project spectacularly well, but also to create more fantastic buildings in the city of Toronto.

CL: Etobicoke certainly as a price point advantage over downtown Toronto and elsewhere in the 416. How long do you think this will last, given more and more developers are seeing the potential of the area?

ZM: As Toronto and the downtown core continues to grow and pierce new heights within the price range of condominium projects, the affordability of units in this area becomes a farther stretch for many people. The multiplier effect means that once a city gets more attention, it gets more amenities and attracts more people who want to live there, just like New York City.

An economist once told me, 30 years ago Manhattan was overpriced, 20 years ago Manhattan was overpriced, 10 years ago Manhattan was overpriced and it’s still overpriced today. I believe the lesson in that was when you have a city that is desirable and continues to g row, it just builds upon itself. As it happens, when the price in Toronto becomes more and more unaffordable, people are starting to look just outside the core to acquire something that is within their price range. Since the pricing in the downtown core is so high, it is only reasonable to think that a market just outside the city, where average square foot prices are in the mid $8 00’s per sq. ft., there is more room to grow.

However, even with this room to grow, these areas will still remain at a $300 to $400 per sq. ft. discount from the downtown core. This is exactly where The Queensway market is, and future homeowners will see this value as well.

CL: Altree has plenty of other projects in the Toronto area. What are the common qualities or characteristics about these that speak to Altree’s mission, vision… that really say, yes, this is an Altree project? 

ZM: Altree is all about understanding neighbourhoods! When we decide on a neighbourhood, we place importance on understanding the character and feel that is already in place, so we are able to blend in. The common denominator of all our projects is that we are generally not coming into an area where there are other buildings in the immediate vicinity, meaning that the architecture of the area really has no identity. We need to create an identity within that building that is unique to the character of that neighbourhood. Essentially, we marry a building with the neighbourhood around it.

The most important vision to Altree, is we look for where a community is going to be in the next five to 10 years, not where it is today. It is difficult to do this, as humans are very “touch and feel,” where if something is not there, it’s hard to visualize. When we first look at a site, we analyze the area and really understand the core values and characteristics of a neighbourhood and build on how we understand it to be in the future. Once we understand this, the sky’s the limit. So, if you look at all our projects, we are entrenched in neighbourhoods that have the fibre of growth already existing.

CL: Forest Hill Private Residences is another milestone project from Altree Developments, in a high-profile neighbourhood. What is it about Forest Hill that will stand out from other projects in the area?

ZM: Forest Hill Private Residences is a unique building. When we first saw the project and the piece of land and understood how the zoning would come to be, we noticed that this was a project that would not only be on the cusp of Forest Hill but would be a statement to the neighbourhood.

Seeing that every floor from the third to the ninth has terraces – units with tremendous outdoor exposure – this aspect is one that is missing in buildings in the area and elsewhere in Toronto. Usable personal outdoor space while not having the responsibility of a lawn or backyard. There seems to be quite the gap between condominium and lowrise housing living. There are towers that span up 30 to 40 storeys with great views and exposure, but without much personal outdoor space. There are lowrise houses that have large lawns and backyards, but have become completely unaffordable. Forest Hill Private Residences is a project where we are marrying that outdoor and indoor space. Merging that indoor-outdoor lifestyle together in condominium living is a type of living that is missing in Toronto. It’s the missing middle between a home and a condo, and we are so happy that Forest Hill Private Residences will be able to bring this happy medium to the future homeowners.

CL: What is the current status, in terms of planning, sales launch, suite sizes and price range? 

ZM: Currently Forest Hill Private Residences is at the tail end of its zoning. We hope to have that completed by the end of the year and be in the market early next year, with units starting from 900 sq. ft. and up, so there are units catering to everyone.

On a Personal Note…

CL: You’re a third-generation developer… how has essentially growing up in the industry, with a strong family legacy, formed who you are and what you want Altree to become?

ZM: I have learned everything I know from my family. It all started with my grandfather, Sandy Hofstedter, who started H&R Developments 70 years ago. All I remember from a young boy was talk about buildings, neighbourhoods, construction and development. Dinner table talks were all about neighbourhoods in Toronto, the planning context and what we were doing to change it. So, to me, the only thing I have ever dreamt of was building buildings that add to Toronto – buildings that have names that people would look at. The satisfaction of being involved in developments that added to the city skyline, is something words can’t describe. My goal is to make sure Altree continues that legacy for my children for generations to come.

CL: You’ve had some other executive level stops in your career, at Marlin Spring and Lanterra Developments, for example. What did you learn – about development, housing or homebuyers – that aids you in your current role at Altree?

ZM: I started off working in all the family businesses, from H&R Developments to Lanterra Developments, until I formed Marlin Spring along with my two brother-in-laws. In each role, I specialized in the development industry, from acquisition to zoning to marketing to sales to construction to registration to warranty and all the way to the end. At each phase, I was able to delve deep into each aspect of condominium development. Anyone who regularly develops land can tell you that, when you’re a builder it’s all about perfection! It’s all about specialization, working the kinks out of the design, taking that design and tweaking it until it’s perfect.

Working at Lanterra allowed me to see massive projects at macro levels and being able to work alongside the team. When I formed Marlin Spring, I was able to take everything I learned from my family and work on different projects and partnerships. Now with Altree, I’m able to work on specific projects that interest me, allowing me to put my own stamp on this world.

CL: Your greatest inspiration in the development industry is:

ZM: My father and grandfather. For as long as I can remember, I have been inspired and awed by what they have accomplished – from so many great buildings in Toronto and so many artistic styles, to communities that have changed the landscape of the way we live. From ICE Condominiums to Maple Leaf Square, which has totally changed the south core of Toronto, to Murano and Burano that has completely changed the Bay St. strip, to many other areas that both H&R Developments and Lanterra Developments have been involved in shaping.

CL: When not at the office or in the field…:

ZM: I’m spending time with my three children and wife, exploring Toronto’s neighbourhoods and parks and exploring off beaten tracks of Toronto’s gorgeous ravine systems.

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In Conversation With… Bob Finnigan, Principal and COO Housing, The Heron Group of Companies

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In Conversation With… Bob Finnigan, Principal and COO Housing, The Heron Group of Companies

Homebuilders and their associations are only as good as their executive leadership. Bob Finnigan, currently COO Housing at The Heron Group of Companies, who was recently named CHBA Member of the Year, has led them all – local, provincial and national bodies. With such unique and extensive expertise, Finnigan shares his insights on recent industry and government initiatives, and what’s to come to address issues facing the industry and homebuyers.

Condo Life: You were recently named CHBA Member of the Year. How does that feel, as an established industry veteran with so many years in so many important capacities?

Bob Finnigan: When they first made the announcement, my initial reaction was, ‘Wow, this person has done a lot of work.’ Then I realized it was me! It’s a very nice surprise, and I’m very honoured for being recognized in this way by my peers. I have been volunteering for a long time, and the years have passed very quickly – so the workload seems normal to me – but when it is highlighted, you realize that, in fact, your efforts do make a difference.

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CL: What do you think was the chief reason or accomplishment that earned you such accolades?

BF: I would think that in addition to the years of previous work, including serving on the boards as president of all three levels of homebuilders’ associations, it was the additional efforts I had put in over the last year to ensure that the items I have been working on will be seen to fruition. Those of us who serve on the boards do so in order to better the industry on an ongoing basis. We all feel strongly about what we do, and we know what needs to be changed to continually improve the situation for builders and homebuyers.

CL: How are you applying this now award-winning expertise in your current capacity?

BF: The award is great, but essentially, nothing has changed for me where my work is concerned. My passion is still to bring new houses to people who are proud to call them home. In a way, the work on the associations is an extension of what I do every day at Heron and Herity.

CL: Ontario recently unveiled its Housing Supply Action Plan. What’s your assessment of it?

BF: I applaud the provincial government for moving this way. It is definitely a step in the right direction, but a lot of things have to happen before the program will work. My assessment is, let’s see how it rolls out. Things change all the time, and we have already seen the program evolve with new announcements. As long as we keep moving in this direction, the results should be positive and good.

CL: What are its key strengths, and where does it come up short?

BF: Its key strengths include cutting red tape to make it easier to build a variety of types of housing in the right places, and hopefully making housing more affordable in the process. Paperwork and layers of permits, approvals and development charges add greatly to the cost of new homes. This plan looks at the situation in a pragmatic way. Up until now, the choice of homes in specific areas has been restrictive. Obviously, the government has been listening to what we in the industry have been saying for years. Now, it will be interesting to see how long the rollout and implementation take.

CL: In its budget in March, the federal government, by many industry accounts, failed to truly tackle some of the key challenges in the housing industry. What do you think Ottawa should have done, and should focus on making happen, going forward?

BF: The federal government’s mortgage stress test that came into place in January 2018 has been a huge problem for homebuyers across the country. A lot has changed since then, and in the two markets the stress test was designed for (Vancouver and Toronto), it has certainly cooled things – but it also had strong negative effects and hurt the rest of the country.

Sales are down in many markets, and even if they are not, people who could have purchased prior to January of 2018 with the very prudent lending rules the banks had in place, are now shut out of the market or have to get additional financial help. Even worse, many have turned to unregulated lenders that don’t have to adhere to the rules, and that charge a much higher rate than regulated lenders. The potential homebuyer loses both ways. We had hoped that the government would recognize these market changes and look to relax the stress test for longer-term mortgages – five years or more – but it did not.

In addition, we asked that they reinstate the 30-year amortization period, again making the qualifying payments easier to afford. It does not create any additional risk; it just allows more people to realize the dream of homeownership.

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What Ottawa did do was to announce additional RRSP funds that can be taken out to purchase a home, which is very good, and also a CMHC program that will help bring homeownership within the financial reach of some purchasers. The concern with the CMHC program is that it is complicated, the specifics of which have not been fully disclosed yet and won’t be until the fall, and it is capped, so is limited in scope.

As such, we continue to call for the stress test reduction and the 30-year amortization as an instant and no-cost solution to the many Canadians wanting to get into homeownership. If they did this, we would see many more Canadians come into the market.

CL: Between the federal and provincial government involvement, plus more on a municipal level, and actions such as BILD’s Building Answers public awareness campaign, the homebuilding industry is really involved with all stakeholders. Where is all this going? What’s next? What else needs to happen?

BF: All three levels of homebuilders’ associations are working more closely than ever before. Of course, technology helps keep us connected on a nationwide level so we are all on the same page, wherever we are in the country. We all have the same concerns, but on different scales. One thing we agree on is that housing affordability is the number one issue facing young Canadians. Our collective associations’ goal is to drive this message home to all three levels of government. The province seems to have gotten onside with that goal, with the recent Housing Supply Action Plan. Municipalities still need to work harder to make Development Charges more reasonable and to cut red tape. The federal government has different pressures to deal with, but making it more difficult for people to purchase with actions such as mortgage stress test is totally counterproductive.

AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE…

When I’m not at the office: I never sit still. I try to lead a healthy lifestyle. I play hockey, golf, ski, bike, work around the house. I love it all. I also love to travel, which helps to keep me active.

The accomplishment or achievement I am most proud of in my career in homebuilding is: I’d have to say working with my colleagues at Heathwood, Heron and Herity – a group that has stayed together for decades. To me, these people are family members, and it shows in the communities we build. I am also extremely proud of helping to establish The Mikey Network in memory of our late friend and colleague Mike Salem. That we have helped to save many lives in his name is a true privilege.

What’s next for you, personally or professionally? While I am not on any association board officially, I am still active in the industry by serving on the board of Tarion and helping out when asked. What’s next for me both personally and professionally is to continue what I’ve been doing for years – a good balance of work and play!

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In Conversation With… Jared Menkes, Executive Vice-President, Menkes Developments

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In Conversation With… Jared Menkes, Executive Vice-President, Menkes Developments

Few builders are as active in condo development in the GTA as Menkes Developments Ltd. Charged with the construction, sales, management and customer service of nearly 6,000 condominium units is Jared Menkes, executive vice-president, Highrise Residential.

Condo Life spoke to him for his insights on the company’s key projects and more.

Condo Life: Mobilio is an interesting new project Menkes has underway – offering both condos and townhomes. What is the inspiration for this project, and what will be its differentiating features?

Jared Menkes: The GTA continues to experience the phenomenon known as the “missing middle,” whereby neighbourhoods lack the diverse housing options that make them more balanced, and – most important – affordable to the average family. The new community will deliver architectural diversity, while simultaneously fulfilling the area’s fundamental need for more density. It will be the first project in Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC) to blend a mix of housing types on one site, striking the perfect balance of housing, greenspace and amenities, many of which will be shared between the condos and townhomes.

CL: What is the status of the project, in terms of number of housing type, unit and home sizes?

JM: With more than 1,000 units of low- and highrise living, Mobilio will feature a mix of highrise condominium towers, and two- and three-bedroom townhouses, including some with rooftop terraces. This community is one where we are able to accommodate all different types of buyers – first-time buyers, new couples, empty nesters and retirees all have options to buy.

CL: Vaughan Metropolitan Centre is seeing a lot of development at the moment. Where do you see this going in the next three, five or 10 years?

JM: Vaughan is already the largest employment centre in York Region and will continue to be the destination of choice for the 905, especially with the development of VMC. By 2031, VMC alone will be home to 25,000 residents, 1.5 million sq. ft. of new office space and 750,000 sq. ft. of retail. And with the addition of the subway line added to the area, VMC will continue to become a downtown connected to Toronto’s downtown. Connectivity will also continue to be a major draw to Vaughan, with access to the TTC, VIVA and such close proximity to Hwys. 400 and 407.

CL: Family-friendly condos and amenities are an increasingly important part of the market. What types of new features is Menkes introducing with its projects? For example, developers are including libraries, bike parking, pet-wash stations and even music practice rooms in their projects…

JM: When it comes to amenities, I try to think about everything you would want or get out of living in a single-family home, and incorporate it into a condo. People like to entertain large groups, so we have sophisticated party rooms with kitchen and bar areas. If you like to barbecue, we offer a landsc aped terrace equipped with barbe cues. You enjoy a quiet night in? We have state-of-the-art theatres and game lounges. And if you want to stay active, we have fitness centres with separate weight, virtual and yoga studios.

When it comes to entertaining kids, we’ve offered all kinds of cool amenities such as hobby rooms, music rooms and play rooms with amazing interactive features.

We have really considered every member of your family right down to your pets. Mobilio will include a convenient pet-washing st ation. I am also very excited about the park aspect of this project. We will have the linear parks that connect all the projects together on this block and on future blocks that provide trails and exciting ways for families to stay active.

CL: And at Mobilio, what features there will speak to the neighbourhood or expected buyer profile?

JM: More and more people are looking to invest in walkable suburban communities near jobs, schools and other amenities, so they can experience more of an urban lifestyle in the 905. Mobilio is a short dist ance from Vaughan’s transit hub, and Vaughan is currently the only municipality in the GTA aside from Toronto that offers connectivity to the TTC subway system, GO Transit and regional transit services.

Also, this kind of versatile development will allow people to stay in the same community through every stage of their lives, should they choose to. For instance, families could potentially have their aging parents live close by without moving in with them.

CL: What kinds of things are you personally bringing to Menkes that perhaps previous generations didn’t focus on?

JM: I wouldn’t say there are things that I can offer that other generations didn’t, but I will say that as a previous condo owner with a young family, I can appreciate the need to make smaller spaces more livable for families and the need for amenities that cater to children. My experience living in a condo with two kids and a dog (at that time) helped shape of lot of Menkes’ recent condo projects.

AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE…

When not at the office or in the field, I: Explore the city with friends and family.

My greatest inspiration in this business is: Getting the opportunity to work with my family and getting to work on true city-building projects that will shape our city for generations to come.

If I wasn’t involved in the development industry, I would: I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Real estate is in my DNA. I love the opportunity I have to work on the types of projects that we get to develop. Every single one is a new challenge unto itself.

PORTFOLIO

87 Peter Street
King and Peter Streets

Fleur
Church and Shuter Streets
Under construction

Harbour Plaza
South Core Financial District, Toronto
Complete

IN.DE
Dundas East near Dundas Square

Mobilio
Vaughan Metropolitan Centre
Register now

Sugar Wharf
Toronto Waterfront
Under construction

The Eglinton
Yonge and Eglinton

menkes.com

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

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

Condos are king in Toronto and, increasingly, elsewhere in the GTA, and one shining example is M2M, an 8.6-acre master-planned community from Aoyuan at Yonge and Finch in North York. When complete, M2M will be a fully-integrated, live-workplay neighbourhood with 1,650 residences, a community centre, daycare, 180,000 sq. ft. of retail and office space and a new public park.

Developer Aoyuan International set out with a master plan and smartly designed suite layouts to provide a variety of living options for families at different stages of life.

Vince Santino

We spoke with Vince Santino, senior vice-president of development for Aoyuan Canada, for an update on this signature project, and what might lie ahead for the company.

Condo Life: How are things coming along at M2M?

Vince Santino: Sales of our first phase began in June 2018 with a very successful launch, selling out the north tower. We released the south tower in February 2019, and the response was the same. We’re very pleased with the results to date. People want to be in North York.

We’re on track to begin construction in late Q2 of this year, or early Q3, and we’re looking forward to receiving our first homeowners for our first phase, which includes both towers and our lower suites, in late Q2 of 2022.

CL: What is it about North York that is so appealing?

VS: For one, it’s still within the 416, and when buyers are looking for a condo, they’re looking for convenience and being close to amenities. North York offers it all. Where we are situated, it’s very close to transit, the TTC and GO Transit, but also very accessible to all the major highways.

CL: Who are the typical buyers for this project?

VS: We’ve seen a lot of end users. They’ve been the majority of our buyers, whether they’re young couples, young families or downsizers… many of them have grown up and raised families in the area. They love it and don’t want to leave.

CL: What have you learned about development – delivering on your customers’ needs and wants – since launching this project?

VS: People want convenience. Even though they’ve made the decision to move into a condominium space, they want amenities that they don’t need to necessarily get into a car to get to. And they want choice, in the type of suites, with efficient design where space isn’t wasted, and to maximize utility at a price they’re willing to pay. They’re happy to pay for a bigger suite… our larger suites, our two-bedrooms plus den or three-bedrooms… we’ve designed them very efficiently. So, for a younger family, or someone who’s downsizing, they don’t feel like they’re sacrificing by getting into a condo.

CL: At M2M, you’re not just building a condo, you’re building an entire community, all with easy access to transit, which is increasingly key these days. How import ant are all of these inclusions in appealing to family living in condos?

VS: We’ve got more than 100,000 sq. ft. of office space planned, 8 0,000 sq. ft. of retail… that gives any family all the necessities, literally at their doorstep. Our site is complemented by really good restaurants, shopping, proximity to schools, universities, and we’ve got a future daycare conveniently located within the development that gives the younger families a key service that helps reduce the stress of the day-to-day commute and a busy family life.

The community centre, along with the public park that we’re going to construct as part of the development, provides families with options for better quality of life year-round, just footsteps from you. And because you’re in the 416, you’re close to transit, reducing your commute time, all of that time can be spent enjoying these amenities, spending that time with your family. It isn’t always so conveniently accessible in other developments, so this is really a one-of-a-kind opportunity, because of the sheer size and the amenities we’re providing.

CL: How do you foresee the condo market in that area performing in the next three to five years?

VS: We’re feeling very, very bullish. If you look at what’s been happening in the midtown area, Yonge and Eglinton, and up to Yonge and Sheppard, this is just a natural progression. We’ve seen a lot more launches in North York in the last year, and more coming into the market this year, and the area is starting to undergo a renascence, and over time people are going to continue to choose to be in North York. It tells us that buyers still want to be within the 416, but they have no problem not necessarily being in the downtown core, as long as they can get to it and the rest of the GTA conveniently.

CL: Affordability is a key concern for homebuyers in Toronto. How is Aoyuan addressing that issue, in how it plans and delivers its communities?

VS: The reality is, in the last little while, traditional lowrise homes have become more unaffordable and more out of reach for families. For us, providing well sized, even of the smaller units, are designed with the utility and growing families in mind. It provides people with an alternative. As for M2M itself, delivering those things, all in a masterplanned community, and not just a couple of towers in the middle of nowhere, it’s a great example… we’re trying to give people everything they need, moving into a space that isn’t perhaps traditional for younger families.

We’re taking the opportunity to intensify in an area of the 416 in North York where people want to live because of all of the existing amenities, and all those other elements. It gives our customers a lifestyle that offers it all, really – easy access to schools, transit, universities… people don’t feel like they’re giving up a lot, but the value they get by living in this area makes the affordability challenge a little easier to bear, especially for a young couple or young family moving into their first home.

CL: For some, affordability is a key reason for choosing a condo, but what are some of the other reasons families might consider a condo in the city, versus a lowrise home in the suburbs?

VS: A condo in the city helps with the cost of transportation, as it’s a significant expense for any household, so with the option of public transit, it means families may not need to purchase a vehicle, or a second vehicle. You’re reducing the commute time, and for families working in the city, it allows them more time to spend with their children, parents or grandparents. The city provides families with a lot of choice – where they shop, work and play – and there’s everything around, especially where we are in our setting.

CL: What have you learned – be it about development in Toronto or family-centric condos – from M2M, that you will use in future projects?

VS: Listen to the needs of your buyers. It’s refreshing to try things that maybe haven’t been at the forefront of condo development in the past. There’s a significant segment that wants living in the sky to provide the options, flexibility, amenities and opportunities that in the past attracted families to traditional lowrise homes, and the more we’re able to build those amenities in the sky, it becomes more and more attractive.

CL: What’s next for Aoyuan in the GTA?

VS: The future is bright for us here. We’re not limiting ourselves to condos only, and it speaks to our mantra of building a healthy lifestyle in trying to build complete communities. We’re looking at all kinds of other opportunities across the GTA.

Certainly, we’ve got Phase 2 at M2M coming, and we’re going to continue to build on what we’ve seen has been very successful for Phase 1, but we’re not limiting ourselves to one building form or type. We’re looking at a lot of opportunities, in and around the 416 and the 905 as well. Stay tuned.

PORTFOLIO

M2M Condos
Yonge and Finch
Now selling

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In Conversation With Niall Collins, President of Great Gulf Residential

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In Conversation With Niall Collins, President of Great Gulf Residential

Fresh off a milestone 2018 filled with multiple industry awards and groundbreakings at signature projects, Great Gulf is poised for another, well, great year in 2019.

From landmark highrise developments in Toronto, to expanding its footprint south of the border, Great Gulf has no plans to rest on its laurels.

Niall Collins
Niall Collins

We spoke with Niall Collins, president of Great Gulf Residential, to get his take on what lies ahead for this leading developer.

Condo Life: Great Gulf’s tagline is, “At Great Gulf, we do more than just build — we transform.” Please elaborate on what exactly that means.

Niall Collins: We are continuously researching new opportunities to add more value to our products. Investing in innovation is at the core of our business.

CL: Last year was a huge year for Great Gulf – winning Highrise Home Builder of the Year at the BILD Awards, then Builder of the Year at the OHBA Awards of Distinction. What are you doing for an encore in 2019?

NC: Great Gulf is launching three highrise residential projects in Toronto. We’re also starting construction in the spring of La Clara, a luxury condominium building in West Palm Beach; we’re currently building a 10-storey mixed-use, multi-family development in Washington, DC’s vibrant Union Market District; and we’re registering Monde by Toronto’s waterfront.

One-hundred per cent of Great Gulf homes and midrise buildings are being manufactured by H+ME Technology. The entire production process at H+ME Technology is entirely controlled through the complex computer design of every single element of home structures, which are CSA approved.

357 King West
357 King West, at the corner of King Street West and Blue Jays Way in Toronto.

CL: You had three major groundbreakings in late 2018 – 357 King West, 8 Cumberland and Home at 48 Power. How is the sales pace going for these projects?

NC: Sales are ongoing for all three projects.

CL: And how is construction coming along?

NC: Construction is progressing well with shoring and excavation work well underway on all projects.

CL: 357 King West is interesting in that, being in a downtown location, it includes a bike storage, dedicated bike elevator and wash and repair area. What are some similar inclusions at some of your other new projects that speak to how purchasers live, specific to that area?

NC: We’re a vertical city and should respond to purchasers’ needs. First-time buyers, families and those downsizing will have different requirements. We are building larger units to accommodate families. Home Condominium provides expansive rooftop amenities that people value, creating the experience of outdoor space.

Great Gulf executive team
The Great Gulf executive team at the 8 Cumberland groundbreaking.

CL: What is the status of the project at the Mirvish+Gehry site at King and Duncan – such as name, notable features and launch date?

NC: The Gehry project will feature the tallest residential tower in Canada at 92 storeys, with the second tower at 82 storeys. It is notable because it also represents the coming home of famous architect Frank Gehry. We are currently working through the building program and will have details available in the near future.

CL: We understand you have a luxury condo planned for the Yonge and St. Clair area? What can you tell us about that?

NC: We are planning a launch this year for the Yonge and St. Clair development. The project, with exterior and interior designed by Siamak Hariri, will feature large luxury units ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 sq. ft. and include large balconies and terraces.

CL: What’s next for Great Gulf, in terms of upcoming projects?

NC: Great Gulf currently has 18 highrise projects being developed across North America. We’re working towards completing permit design and process to start construction on three highrise residential buildings in Dallas and Atlanta.

PORTFOLIO

  • 357 King West 357 King St. West, Toronto, Now selling
  • 8 Cumberland 8 Cumberland St., Yorkville, Toronto, Now selling
  • Monde Queens Quay and Lower Sherbourne, Toronto, Under construction
  • One Bloor Yonge and Bloor, Toronto, Now selling
  • 401 King & Spadina 401 King St. W., Toronto, Coming soon
  • Yonge & St. Clair 1421 Yonge St., Toronto, Coming soon
  • Mirvish & Gehry Condos King St. and Duncan St., Toronto, Coming soon
  • Spadina 101 Spadina Ave., Toronto, Coming soon
  • Home 48 Power St., Toronto, Coming soon

 

greatgulf.com

RELATED READING

Great Gulf and partners break ground on Yorkville condo 8 Cumberland

Great Gulf breaks ground at 357 King West

 

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In conversation with… Deena Pantalone of National Homes

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In conversation with… Deena Pantalone of National Homes

With a mission that You are the blueprint, National Homes is laser focused on what new-home buyers want, the things they love and how they want to live. Having built more than 5,000 homes across the GTA, with increased focus on the highrise market, National doesn’t just strive to build quality new homes. Just as critical is exceptional customer care, and a market-leading embrace of technology every step of the way.

We spoke with Managing Partner and Director of Marketing & Innovation Deena Pantalone to get her insights on just how National connects with today’s discerning homebuyers, and what lies ahead in 2019.

Deena Pantalone

HOMES Magazine: As Director of Marketing & Innovation at National Homes, how has what you do changed over your time in the role?

Deena Pantalone: The largest change has been the evolution of our marketing to digital communications, and smart phones in particular. My role has expanded from Managing Partner and Director of Marketing, to Managing Partner and Director of Marketing & Innovation over the years, as I am constantly looking for innovative ideas to set National apart from everyone else, whether it be in our designs, technology or our customer service. We want to be at the forefront.

We are focused on keeping up to date with state-of-the-art technology and seeing how it can apply to National Homes. Keeping an open eye and mind approach to any new property technology and be willing to explore and implement if it will benefit the homeowners, potential buyers and us.

HM: Technology is an increasingly important part of home building these days – in everything from construction to sales and marketing to what customers expect in home tech. How prevalent is National involved in keeping up with these trends?

DP: Technology is central to everything we do at National. As homes and families get more and more integrated with the new digital revolution, National Homes is in the thick of it all – bringing ever more bright ideas that help our homebuyers stay on top of their lives. More choices. More options. More devices. At the end of the day, it’s about making our homebuyers’ lives easier, smarter and richer.

We do market research and workshops to determine what our buyers would like to have in their ideal homes and how they would feel if we implemented certain things, because it goes back to our core values – You are the blueprint.

We hold cutting-edge events such as our Blueprint Workshop at the IBM Innovation Space, which brought together 70 participants in discussions, presentations and interviews, learning about innovative products from building and design professionals and sharing their thoughts in a thinktank format. This way, our customers have a direct input into ideas that are reflected in our home designs. Because our philosophy has always been that, as a customer, you are the Blueprint.

We’ve brought virtual reality into our sales offices so buyers can walk around and explore their future homes, and we’re constantly looking for ways to be energy efficient and more sustainable.

 

 

National Homes Focus Group
Pantalone leading a customer focus group discussion

HM: And in the next five to 10 years, what will be the biggest change or opportunity in these areas?

DP: Property Technology is expanding at an exponential rate. That means your home will be smarter tomorrow than it is today. We will be seeing more of smart buildings, cities and communities, driverless vehicles which will affect the way that homes are designed.

Right now, smart home technology is just in its infancy, so in five to 10 years, everything will be connected not only in our homes, but our construction processes and development work.

HM: How important is social media at National Homes, in terms of connecting and communicating with customers – particularly Millennials, who have grown up in the digital age?

DP: Digital communications are key to everything we do today. Prior to a sale, it starts with social media on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Houzz and Facebook. We search out the latest innovations in architecture, design, technology from around the world and share them with our community. And, of course, we also speak to our followers about upcoming neighbourhoods and other news.

HM: National is building in a variety of communities in and around the GTA. Where do you see the next hot market – in terms of either geography or product type?

DP: There’s no question that affordability has become the biggest issue in the GTA housing market, and land prices are right at the heart of the matter. Everything starts with the needs of our customers, and if price is even more of an issue today, then we have a responsibility to find answers.

This is why we are bringing on new communities in Brampton, Courtice and Burlington, where lower land prices can make homes more affordable. And we are expanding our product design mix to include midrise condominiums that give people better prices.

National Homes Forest Phase 2
Forest Phase 2 Model Home

HM: What can your customers expect from a National home?

DP: Our customers can expect a home that is designed with their needs in mind. We put an enormous amount of effort into research, workshops, focus groups and questionnaires.

Our customers can expect exceptional customer service. Our Customer Care program has been designed to make the entire home purchasing experience a positive one. Some of the highlights include a New Home Workshop and seminar to prepare you for the homebuying process, the National Care Kit, a wealth of information on how to care for the finishes inside your home, innovative framing walk-throughs, detailed customer surveys and a homeowners’ portal communication hub where they will find everything they need to know about their home.

HM: Please finish the following statement. For National Homes, 2018 was a year of:

DP: Innovation. From the home designs we have been developing for our new communities, to the products and technology we are incorporating into our homes, this year we have been pushing the boundaries behind the scenes to ready ourselves for the launch of our next communities.

HM: And 2019 will be a year of:

DP: Introduction and implementation. In the new communities we introduce this year, all the research and development we have been working on behind the scenes will start to be available to our new buyers. And that makes this coming year a very exciting time for us.

Portfolio

  • THE FOREST, detached homes, Bradford, Final phase coming soon
  • STATION TOWN, townhomes, Markham, In registration
  • THREE RIVERS CLAIREVILLE, townhomes, Claireville, In registration
  • COURTICE, townhomes, In registration
  • BURLINGTON, townhomes and condos, In registration
  • BRAMPTON, townhomes, In registration

nationalhomes.com

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In conversation with Jim Ritchie of Tridel

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In conversation with Jim Ritchie of Tridel

It’s always a pleasure to spend time with the smart and insightful Jim Ritchie, executive vice-president of sales and marketing at Tridel, one of Canada’s largest and best condominium builders. In its eight decades, Tridel has built more than 80,000 homes, and that’s something to celebrate!

Tridel was founded by Jack DelZotto in 1934, when he built his first single-detached home near Dufferin and Bloor Streets. Jack, who arrived in Canada from Italy in 1927, was a stonemason by trade who worked in the mines in Timmins before coming to Toronto. (He helped lay the bricks at the Park Plaza Hotel. How’s that for history?).

Jack’s three sons — Angelo, Elvio and Leo — were brought into the company, and continued to grow the organization into what it is today. The name of the company evolved to Tridel (after the three DelZotto brothers).

The DelZottos have always been known as innovators and built their first rental apartment complex in 1961, featuring twin towers, a swimming pool, a recreation centre and landscaped grounds — quite luxurious for the times — the forerunner of today’s modern condo.

Today, the DelZotto brothers and their lifelong business partner Harvey Fruitman — along with their families — have carried on the tradition set by Jack of complete communities, environmental awareness and technical innovation. And it has grown.

As Ritchie tells me, Tridel manages every part of the development of a condominium project.

“We handle the entire process — land purchase, planning, approvals, marketing, selling, building, customer service and management. Overall, we control the customer experience from purchase to residency.”

In fact, in addition to Tridel, the Tridel Group of Companies consists of Deltera (construction services and management), Del Realty (real estate brokerage), Del Property Management (condominium property management), DelSuites (long-term furnished executive accommodations), Del Condominium Rentals (full-service condo rentals), Delmanor Retirement Living (seniors’ accommodations), Delcare (long-term seniors’ care facilities) and Del Management Solutions (residential and commercial property management).

Q: Did Tridel make a conscious decision to move from ground related housing to apartments and condominiums?

A: The transition from single-family homes to building rental apartments was an evolution. Tridel built a rental apartment complex complete with amenities and landscaping, which essentially became a model for the condominium we know today.

In 1967, when condos became a legal entity in Ontario, Tridel embraced the concept and started developing its first condominium the following year.

Q: What are your thoughts on the condo market in the GTA?

A: Toronto has the largest new condo market in North America. The market was outstanding in 2017, which was an exceptional year fuelled by many factors. But that record-breaking year couldn’t be sustained, and with a number of government interventions, including new mortgage rules, the market has levelled somewhat as compared to previous years.

We see consistent and long-term growth in the GTA housing market, especially with a strong economy and continuing growth in population. But it’s really very difficult to make predictions.

The success of the industry is predicated on relative affordability and more recently condos have become very popular because of the increasing cost of other forms of housing — 25 per cent of the cost of a home is various fees and taxes.

Q: What is Tridel’s philosophy of building condo communities?

A: We are city builders — actually all highrise builders are city builders — and at Tridel we put more focus on architecture and the public realm. Architecture matters and consumers understand that. Today’s consumers are well informed on these matters.

But it’s not easy, there are no easy projects anymore. No longer can we raze a parking lot and build a condo. There just aren’t any of these types of sites left. And creating real communities, which means mixed-use developments, brings more complexity.

Q: How have you seen suite design and amenity space changed over the years?

A: Architecture matters to Tridel and that includes suite designs that can optimize the use of space, and user-friendly amenities, which have changed over the years and now include more family-oriented spaces.

Evermore at West Village in Etobicoke offers some of the most current amenities and suite designs, including two- and three-bedroom suites for family living with larger entrances and bigger laundry rooms with more storage.

Some of the more in-demand amenities include shared workspaces and study pods, kids and youth zones and large outdoor terraces.

We’ve also found that putting the larger units in one area of the building — at Evermore they are in the podium — means that families can live near each other and that creates a sense of community.

Q: Tridel has a reputation for being in the forefront of green technology. Has that always been the case?

A: Tridel has always been on the leading edge of new construction methodology and energy-efficient building practices. These include the fundamentals of building design, including the building envelope and mechanic al systems. In 2005, we brought our first LEED building into the marketplace, and now we lead sustainable residential condominium development in Canada.

Q: What new innovations does Tridel have in the works?

A: I’m very excited by Tridel Connect, an innovative range of integrated smart home features, which we recently rolled out very successfully at our Ten York community. Some of the features of Tridel Connect include the ability to set the temperature, security alarm and receive notifications about community events through an in-suite wall pad or remotely with a smartphone app. Suite locks are also dig ital, opened with a personalized code, and additional codes can be programmed for service people, like a cleaner or dog walker.

You can also use the wall panel to connect visually with the concierge and select common areas, and you can open common-area doors with your smartphone, so no more key fobs. That also applies to the garage door, where a camera uses license plate recognition to provide entry.

We had this technology developed about six years ago, but we wanted to make sure we had worked out all the kinks before announcing it. It will be included in many Tridel condos going forward.

PORTFOLIO

  • Evermore at West Village, Eva Road & Hwy. 427
  • Aqualuna at Bayside, Queens Quay & Sherbourne
  • Auberge on the Park, Leslie & Eglinton
  • Auberge II on the Park, Leslie & Eglinton
  • Bloor Promenade, Bloor & Islington
  • Bloorvista, Bloor & Islington
  • Islington Terrace, Bloor & Islington
  • Bianca, Dupont & Bathurst
  • Via Bloor, Bloor & Parliament
  • Via Bloor 2, Bloor & Parliament
  • Aquabella at Bayside, Queens Quay & Sherbourne
  • Ten York, York & Harbour
  • Alto and Parkside at Atria, Sheppard & Hwy. 404
  • Trio at Atria, Sheppard & Hwy. 404
  • Parfait at Atria, Sheppard & Hwy. 404
  • Aqualina at Bayside, Queens Quay & Sherbourne
  • Aquavista at Bayside, Queens Quay & Sherbourne
  • Alter, Church & Carlton
  • 101 Erskine, Yonge & Eglinton
  • Avani 2 at Metrogate, Kennedy & Hwy. 401
  • Selene at Metrogate, Kennedy & Hwy. 401
  • SQ2 at Alexandra Park, Spadina & Queen
  • FORM, Queen & McCaul
  • Scala, Leslie & Sheppard
  • Sherwood at Huntington, Bayview & Lawrence

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