Tag Archives: Wayne Karl

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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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It's about a lot more than the Falls in Niagara

It’s about a lot more than the Falls in Niagara

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It’s about a lot more than the Falls in Niagara

When people think Niagara, they often think only of the Falls themselves, those natural wonders to which a visit never seems to grow old.

But beyond the awe-inspiring beauty and power of the Falls and the Niagara River, Niagara Region offers a lot more that’s worthy of just a weekend getaway.

Encompassing towns such as Grimsby, Lincoln, Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Catharines, Thorold and Welland, the Niagara Region is blessed with a great natural location. It occupies most of the Niagara Peninsula, bounded by the U.S. to the south and on the north by Lake Ontario, and of course the Niagara Escarpment – all of which offers strong potential for business and lifestyle choices.

These natural landscapes and climate make the Niagara Region perfect for agri-businesses such as winemaking – a key economic sector. The Niagara Wine Route, for example, connects dozens of wineries and is a growing tourism draw, complementing cultural events such as the Shaw Festival.

Indeed, a visit to the area can involve a stop at the Falls, winery tours, the quaint town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Botanical Gardens with its Floral Clock and Butterfly Conservatory, several championship golf courses and a growing casino industry in downtown Niagara Falls.

But this is all for play. To live and work in the region is another matter.

Economic growth

Again, a blessing of location, Niagara is within 800 km of two provinces, nine states and 130 million people on both sides of the border. This means opportunities for business. The trade that flows across Niagara’s borders totals more than $100 billion annually, and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across Canada and the U.S. The infrastructure network to support this trade activity comprises five international bridges, multiple railways and the Welland Canal, linking Lake Erie into the St. Lawrence Seaway system.

All of this is conducive to growth potential for the region’s manufacturing and transportation and logistics sectors, to complement the historical strength in agriculture and tourism.

Niagara’s economy has shown steady growth in a number of areas, particularly in job creation and new investment, but still lags slightly behind Ontario averages. The Niagara economic development department confirms the area still has challenges in higher unemployment, lower participation rate and lower household income per capita.

But that’s changing. In 2018 alone, Niagara had $1.7 billion in construction investment. From 2015 to 2018, such investment grew by 56 per cent in Niagara, compared to 19 per cent for Ontario overall.

New home development

As the economy grows and affords people more opportunity to live and work in Niagara – or close by – new-home development is following.

Much of the housing growth is in the lowrise category, as buyers from the GTA find the lot sizes and price points far more appealing and affordable.

But that, too, is changing, as some consumers prefer the condo lifestyle, even in a nature-rich area such as Niagara. Developers are responding in kind, with several new condo projects, many of them midrise or boutique condominiums.

Homes by DeSantis, for example, has condo projects in both Grimsby and Stoney Creek, and Urbane Communities is building Marbella Condominium in Niagara Falls.

Part of the appeal for homebuyers in Niagara, of course, is affordability relative to Toronto and other parts of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. According to the latest Royal LePage House Price Survey, for the first quarter of 2020, aggregate median home prices in Niagara-St. Catharines were $453,483. This is up 1.1 per cent from $448,631 in the fourth quarter of 2019, and 7.4 per cent from $422,294 in the first quarter of 2019.

And from the ReMax 2020 Housing Market Outlook Report in late 2019, the realty firm noted that average residential sale prices in Niagara increased by almost 13 per cent, from $378,517 in 2018 to $427,487 in 2019. Value-conscious consumers from the GTA were buying in droves, ReMax says, with many choosing to live in the region and commute to Toronto.

Location, location, location

A regional municipality in Southern Ontario comprising 12 municipalities such as Grimsby, Lincoln, Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Catharines, Thorold and Welland; 130 kms from Toronto; 86 kms from Hamilton.

Key landmarks

  • Botanical Gardens
  • Casino Niagara
  • Clifton Hill
  • Legends on the Niagara Golf Course
  • Niagara Falls
  • The Niagara Wine Route
  • Welland Canal
  • Whirlpool Golf Course

Select condo developments

1 Dexter Condos, St. Catharines by RO Beam Construction

157 Griffin St. Smithville, Smithville by Phelps Homes

AquaZul Condominiums, Grimsby by Homes By DeSantis

Marbella Condominium, Niagara Falls by Urbane Communities

Montebello, St. Catharines by Marydel Homes

South Port, Port Colborne by Rankin Construction Inc.

The Bench Beamsville, Beamsville by Lanca Contracting Inc.

The Niagara, Niagara Falls by M5V Group of Companies

The Schoolhouse in Old Glenridge, St. Catharines by PBG Homes

Utopia Condominums, Beamsville by New Horizon Development Group


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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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Back in the saddle - e-bike style

Back in the saddle – E-bike style

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Back in the saddle – E-bike style

There’s an old adage that goes something like: “It’s like riding a bike,” meaning, once you learn, you never forget.

But maybe it’s been years since you’ve used your pedal power, and you’re a little hesitant to climb back in the saddle.

Park those doubts right now, and jump on board with the biggest trend in cycling these days – E-bikes.

Among the 45-plus crowd, especially, these high-tech whips are surging in popularity.

Indeed, E-bikes are becoming so popular that The Toronto International Bicycle Show, a biannual consumer exhibition running for 34 years, this year rebranded to become The Toronto Bicycle Show and E-Bike Expo. E-bike exhibitors have multiplied every year – from five in 2016 to 24 in 2019.

“Things are growing very quickly, with double digit growth year-over-year for the past several seasons,” says Pete Lilly, owner of Sweet Pete’s Bicycle Shop, a Toronto retailer with three locations. “At Sweet Pete’s in downtown Toronto, we’ve seen our year-over-year E-bike sales double the past four years.”

Major manufacturer Trek Bicycle says E-bikes are the company’s fastest growing category in terms of sales and product development.

“We are seeing consistent growth both in volume and in ways an E-bike can change someone’s life,” Taylor Cook, Canadian marketing manager for Trek, told Active Life Magazine.

The 45-plus age group is dominating E-bike growth at Sweet Pete’s. “It’s a good way to get back into cycling if someone has parked their bike for a few years,” says Lilly.

“They’re the great equalizer,” adds Cook. “If your partner is an avid cyclist and you aren’t, E-bikes allow you to ride together.”

E-bikes 101

By now, you may be wondering exactly what an E-bike is. Basically, they fall into three classifications:

  • Class 1, pedal assist, with a top assisted speed of 32 km/h
  • Class 2, pedal assist with a throttle, also running up to 32km/h
  • Class 3, pedal assist, with a top assisted speed of 45 km/h. These are currently not allowed in Canada.

Trek, for example, makes only Class 1 E-bikes.

“Our approach is that it is, first and foremost, a bicycle, amplified with electronics,” says Cook. “This means that as soon as you stop pedalling, the motor stops assisting. Thirty-two km/h is the maximum amount the motor will assist you to. However, you can ride faster than that under your own power. It also means it is a normal riding experience for people who are new to E-bikes, and you can ride the bike with the motor completely off – which is great if you run out of battery.”

The anatomy of an E-bike involves three major components

  • Motor, usually located in the crank area near the pedals
  • Display or controller, usually up on the handlebars, showing your E-bike’s settings, battery power, speed and distance
  • Battery, usually integrated into the downtube (the angled part of the frame connecting the handlebars and front forks to the pedal area); the more watt hour (Wh) in the battery, the more power at your disposal

E-bikes initially made their way into the market sort of as a fringe category, often with large, clunky models that were more of a novelty. Now, you can find E-bikes in virtually every category – mountain, hybrid, road and even cargo bikes – and most large manufacturers are along for the ride.

No matter what your interest may be – from just wanting to get back into cycling, to tackling some rough terrain, running errands without the car or getting out for long journeys – E-bikes can help make it all happen.

“From a commuting standpoint, E-bikes are great tools to get to work consistently, without dripping in sweat, and are way more fun than sitting in traffic,” says Cook. “We just launched the Domane LT+, which is our first E-road bike in Canada, and our e-MTB category continues to evolve and see consistent growth.”

Expect the E-bike market to continue to grow.

“The technology changes fast, so there is a constant flow of new products, and product lines are getting more robust,” says Cook. “We doubled our E-bike business in each of the last two years, and expect to again in 2020. In three years, the technology is only going to get smaller, more integrated, more connected and offer more possibilities for people everywhere. It’s extremely exciting.”

With an E-bike, no ride is too long, no load too heavy and no place your legs can’t carry you.

As the saying goes, “It’s just like riding a bike.”

And it really is. Only easier.

E-bike shopping essentials

Pricing: Like anything – a car, for example – you can spend as much as you want on an E-bike. You can find some around the $1,000 mark, but an inexpensive motor in a low-quality bike can mean ongoing service needs and limited options.

The lowest price E-bike Sweet Pete’s offers is about $2,000, but most of the bikes in the category in the store are in the $3,000 to $5,000 range.

“The value of E-bikes depends on perspective,” says Lilly. “Looking at it as a bicycle, it seems expensive. Looking at it as an alternative to a car, the price seems extremely low.”

Safety: Laws in Canada say the motors must stop providing assistance when the bike reaches 32 km/hr (you can easily go a lot faster than that, downhill on a regular bike). This restriction keeps the overall speed of E-bikes at a manageable level that most riders will find safe.

“The better-quality E-bikes are designed with more safety features to prevent the bikes from feeling ‘jerky’ when power is applied to the pedals,” Lilly says. “Torque sensors allow the bikes to get up to speed in a predictable way so the bike doesn’t pull away from the rider.”

Concerns over safety are lessened when dealing with a more mature customer, he adds. “A rider who respects the fact that an E-bike has the potential for more power and speed than a traditional bike is ahead of the game, and will be safe aboard an E-bike.”

Use: What do you want to do with an E-bike? There are models designed for efficient commuting, some for carrying kids or cargo, and some for just simple comfort and fun.

Different brands will use different motors and batteries, which determine performance. “What, in the end, will be the most telling is a test ride,” Lilly says. “Giant and Trek bikes ride differently, and a test ride will speak to a rider about which one is the ‘right’ one.”

Photos: Trek Canada


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Vaughan is on the move – in more ways than one

Vaughan is on the move – in more ways than one

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Vaughan is on the move – in more ways than one

Vaughan is a city on the move – quite literally, and in more ways than one. Located north of Toronto in York Region, Vaughan has long been one of the fastest growing municipalities in Canada, with a population now exceeding 306,000.

Comprising the Woodbridge, Maple, Thornhill, Concord and Kleinburg communities, each with their own characteristics and enjoying their own growth, Vaughan is a hub of development and activity. Once known as the city above Toronto, it’s now “the place to be.” And with good reason.

Vaughan Metropolitan Centre

With Hwys. 400 and 407 right there, and Hwy. 7 also running through town, transportation and transit have long been important parts of Vaughan. Now they’re central to its future, with the new Vaughan Metropolitan Centre rapid transit station, the north terminus of the western section of the Toronto subway’s Line 1. It is also a major transit hub for York Region Transit and the Viva and Zum bus rapid transit services.

Economic growth is occurring in lockstep. Vaughan is now the third largest employment centre in the GTA after Toronto and Mississauga, and the largest contributor to York Region’s economy.

Manufacturing is the star economic performer here, accounting for 22 per cent of total employment, followed by construction, retail and wholesale trade, and transportation and warehousing. United Parcel Service, in fact, operates a signature shipping warehouse near Jane and Steeles.

In the near future, you can add healthcare to the mix of economic and lifestyle benefits, as the City has entered into a first-of-its-kind partnership with Mackenzie Health, York University and ventureLAB.

The City is leading the collaboration to transform an 82-acre parcel of land at Jane Street and Major Mackenzie Drive into the Vaughan Healthcare Centre Precinct. Vaughan, York University, Mackenzie Health and ventureLAB are to study to the best use of lands surrounding the site of the Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital. The hospital is under construction and expected to be completed later this year.

The goal of the collaboration is for the Vaughan Healthcare Centre Precinct to leverage resources to bring healthcare, innovation and jobs to this growing community.

Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua
Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua

“This feasibility study is an illustration of how partnerships can be truly effective when values, principles and beliefs are perfectly aligned,” says Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua. “The new state-of-the-art Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital will be a catalyst for other uses, like medical offices, labs and research space, healthcare incubators, and education and conference rooms related to healthcare. This is where thought leaders, subject matter experts and innovators will come together to advance a shared vision of healthcare innovation. This transformational collaboration will benefit the healthcare of residents of Vaughan and beyond.”

Highrise living

Vaughan is noteworthy for a lot of condominium development taking place around new transit infrastructure, though there’s also noteworthy new lowrise communities in the area. This is where buyers come for expansive single-detached homes and large lots.

And once you’ve bought a home in Vaughan, Improve Canada will help you furnish and operate it. Located in Concord and more commonly known as the Vaughan Home Improvement Centre, the complex is a unique offering of about 400 home improvement stores.

Location, location, location

Located in the Regional Municipality of York; bounded by Brampton to the west, King to the north, Markham and Richmond Hill to the east and Toronto to the south; more than 273 sq. kms; population 306,233; includes the communities of Concord, Kleinburg, Maple, Thornhill and Woodbridge.

Key landmarks

• Canada’s Wonderland

• Kortright Centre for Conservation

• McMichael Canadian Art Collection

• Reptilia Zoo

• Vaughan Home Improvement Centre

• Vaughan Metropolitan Centre

• Vaughan Mills

Select housing developments

9560 Islington by Kingsmen Group

Abeja District Condos by Cortel Group

Boutik Condos by Bremont Homes

Festival Condos by Menkes

Festival Condos by QuadReal

Hwy 7 & Jane by Gold Park Homes

Park Avenue Place by Solmar Developments

SXSW by Primont Homes


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M2M Spaces, Aoyuan Canada

COVID-19 already influencing new home and condo design – experts

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COVID-19 already influencing new home and condo design – experts

COVID-19 is challenging all kinds of things about life in Canada – including the way we live and work. Our panel of experts share their insights on the new home and condo design changes already taking place.

M2M Spaces, Aoyuan Canada
Photo: M2M Spaces, Aoyuan Canada

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Broccolini

COVID-19 has transformed our homes into our offices, classrooms, gyms, and playgrounds. Our homes need to encourage physical and mental health. To support the growing roles of our homes, flexibility in design will be key. For remote workers, we’ll need to prioritize flex spaces which offer natural light, plus acoustical and visual privacy to maintain separation between work and homelife.

Building amenities such as the coworking space offered in Broccolini’s River & Fifth and upcoming LeftBank projects can make this possible for residents with less space. For material selection, we’ll continue to prioritize durability and cleaning ease, incorporating choices such as quartz countertops and porcelain tiles in residences and amenity spaces.

Megan Collins
Design Manager, Broccolini
Toronto
broccolini.com

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Dunpar Homes

There’s no question that moving forward people will continue to work from home if they’re able to, and that decision will greatly affect how people choose to design their new homes or condominiums in this new normal. Our space will have to be very functional, livable and afford us the room we need to work. There will be great emphasis on building out multi-purpose rooms that have the ability to work smarter for us and take full advantage of square footage.

There’s great power in good design. A living room equipped with bookshelves and a console table could function as an office, whereas a guest bedroom could also have built-in desk and storage solutions to offer the same value. It’s less about dedicating a specific room as an office and instead making certain rooms offer dual functions.

Lisa Rogers
Executive Vice-President
Design
Dunpar Homes
Etobicoke, Ont.
dunparhomes.com

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Flato Developments

Flexible spaces are a great way to reconcile livability with affordability. In response to the working- from-home reality, we have started exploring the idea of co-ownership condo suites with a shared flexible zone that would allow two potential owners to share a home office space.

In multi-unit condo design where space is typically very efficient, we are looking beyond the four walls of each suite in order to find flexible and cost-effective design solutions through cost sharing. We think shared indoor and outdoor amenity areas with generous, strategically located flexible spaces designed with functionality, wellness and technology features would be very marketable. This way, a potential buyer might opt to pay more to buy into a building where there are options to work from home, but not always within the confines of the walls in his condo suite.

Eduardo Ortiz, for Flato Developments
Principal, Architecture Unfolded
Toronto
architectureunfolded.ca

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Gairloch Developments

We have been seeing the trend in work-from-home increase over the past decade. Urban professionals long to eliminate a commute to gain more time for family and personal pursuits. There is also a desire to work in a more informal environment with comfort of home conveniences. Our clients are looking for uncluttered living spaces, timeless design and large windows affording views and plenty of natural light.

We understand that a condominium amenity space is an integral part of a building. A well-designed amenity should remain flexible, be attractive to many and facilitate future ways that we will work and inhabit our homes. At our 1414 Bayview project, the flexible amenity space is realized within a series of grand rooms, including a large communal table, for formal and informal lounging and working.

Our firm believes that a well-designed living space continues outdoors. Private, open-air retreats remain a top priority for our clients, especially in these unprecedented times. Several of the upper units at 1414 Bayview have access to large private terraces which will allow for outdoor lounging, entertaining and even working, from the comforts of home.

Stephanie Vermeulen & Kelly Doyle
for Gairloch Developments
Sixteen Degree Studio
Toronto
gairloch.ca

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Georgian Communities

An open concept floorplan has generally been the defining characteristic of new home design for years. The possibility of the new norm remaining suggests that flexible private areas such as home offices, gyms and playrooms with acoustic insulation are no longer a luxury but a necessity. In lowrise homes, functional finished lower levels offer additional space at an affordable price while eliminating impact to main floor principal rooms. Extensions to the outdoors from traditional living spaces will become more valued. Enlarged windows, covered porch and patio areas, walkouts when possible all help provide a sanctuary without leaving the home.

Danielle Jaques
Interior Design Coordinator
Georgian Communities
Barrie, Ont.
georgianinternational.com

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Heathwood Homes

In the new reality of a COVID-19 world, more people will be working from their home. This isn’t necessarily new, it’s just going to become so much more prevalent now.

In most homes, the trend towards the more open concept designs over the last decade does allow for flex space on the ground floor, but that same design comes with distractions in the form of noise and other people.

The easiest solution would be to carve out some “office space” in an existing bedroom or the basement area where daytime distractions would be minimized.

Bedrooms can be modified to have a desk niche, in lieu of a closet or have a murphy bed setup that allows for lots of additional daytime space. Also, in some homes, the laundry room could be moved to the basement, and that space becomes ideal office space.

Of utmost importance is that you have your Internet connections and modems of the highest speed and quality – so that you can ensure connectivity everywhere in the house. That way you can move around the home as needed – so that morning meeting can be had with a coffee on the front porch. Good technology is key.

Bob Finnigan
Chief Operating Officer
Acquisition & Housing
Heathwood Homes
Toronto
heathwood.com

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Minto Communities

Within condos, technology must be elevated to offer keyless entry, parcel drop-off and virtual platforms which can keep residents connected. Amenities should include breakout rooms and pods that facilitate continued amenity independent use, with greater emphasis on easily disinfected surfaces. There will be value to designs that can prioritize private outdoor spaces, and offer provisions for full-time work/study for multiple people, separating work and personal life within a single space.

We must use the events of COVID-19 to think about the resilience of systems and spaces, without losing track of the importance of designing spaces that promote well-being through community and connection.

Matt Brown
Director, Product Development
Minto Communities
Toronto
minto.com

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National Homes

Remote work spaces can take many forms. In larger homes, a dedicated office can work for one or two members of a household. For smaller homes, an alcove off a hallway with pocket doors for audible separation, similar to an office cubicle, may be all that is needed.

Glass partitions can be incorporated to allow a parent to keep an eye on their little ones, while still having a noise separation. If distractions in the home are not an issue, the main living space can be used as a flex space. Built-in desks with accessible outlets, such as National’s signature “Family Centre,” can be the perfect space to work from.

Wayne Cassidy
for National Homes
Principal
Cassidy and Co. Architectural Technologists
Ajax, Ont.
cassidyco.com

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RELATED READING

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

GTA homebuilders upbeat about post-COVID-19 recovery

The Power Seat – building industry CEOs call for government change

Outlook 2020 – 5 things you need to know about real estate this year

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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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Etobicoke undergoing massive redevelopment

Etobicoke undergoing massive redevelopment

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Etobicoke undergoing massive redevelopment

In real estate terms, an area in transition is a good thing, since it generally refers to progress, development and things being on the upswing.

Etobicoke is just one of those areas.

Really? Etobicoke, that large, narrow north-south swath that stretches from Lake Ontario up to Steeles Ave., and shouldered by Humber River on the east and Etobicoke Creek on the west? With large, well established and affluent neighbourhoods?

Yes, one and the same – the west end locale with the funny name people often mispronounce (FYI the K is silent) – that wasn’t exactly in need of an upgrade.

Blessed with a strong natural location due to its proximity to downtown Toronto, easy access to the QEW and Hwys. 401, 427 and 27, the Bloor subway line and several major TTC and GO Transit hubs, Etobicoke has long been a sought-after residential location.

North Etobicoke, for its easy highway access, plethora of commercial ventures and lower priced real estate. Etobicoke Centre, for its proximity to the Islington-City Centre West central business district, and exclusive neighbourhoods with large, treed properties such as the Kingsway. And South Etobicoke, or Etobicoke Lakeshore, for its prime lakefront location and areas such as Humber Bay and Mystic Pointe.

Southern surge

But when it comes to new condo development and buying opportunities, it’s all about the south. Well, mostly the south, until very recently.

Etobicoke Lakeshore was the first to transition, with the former motel strip at Lakeshore and Park Lawn giving way over the last several years to dozens of new projects. Today it is one of Toronto’s hottest new condo destinations. Your location here is right on Lake Ontario, with outstanding views of downtown Toronto, along the Martin Goodman Trail for cycling and running, and close to the Gardiner to commute into the city and to the QEW to head west. TTC bus and streetcar service is quite literally at your front door.

The area could get another massive boost if a proposed redevelopment of the former Christie’s bakery site at Lake Shore and Park Lawn goes ahead. Owner First Capital Realty’s plan for the 28-acre site – known, at least temporarily, as 2150 Lake Shore – calls for 15 new residential and office towers, from 22 to 71 storeys, new parks and public spaces and employment.

Now the condo boom is spreading north, into the central part of Etobicoke with new developments along Dundas St. W. between Islington and the 427, and several more planned for the south side of Dundas just west of Kipling subway. New condos are also springing up along the 427 near Burnhamthorpe, appealing to those who prefer highway access over transit.

A little further west, the Cloverdale Mall neighbourhood may get a major facelift in the next few years, as QuadReal Property Group is proposing a comprehensive master-plan to redevelop the existing 32-acre mall property into an innovative and dynamic mixed-use urban community. The proposal involves transitioning Cloverdale with a re-envisioned retail offering, residences, parkland and greenspace, community uses and new streets.

Under construction

Indeed, construction will also be the order of the day in Etobicoke Centre. For years. Six Points intersection, known locally as “Spaghetti Junction,” is a complicated interchange where Kipling, Bloor and Dundas all intersect. To support future development in the area, the City is spending tens of millions of dollars to modernize the road and surrounding infrastructure. Plans include improved pedestrian and cycle access, wider sidewalks, more trees, street furniture and improved access to Kipling subway. The station itself is being expanded into a regional transit hub to link the TTC with GO Transit trains and buses, as well as Mississauga Mi-Way bus lines.

Location, location, location

Bordered on the south by Lake Ontario, on the east by the Humber River, on the west by Etobicoke Creek and Mississauga, and on the north by Steeles Ave. W.; population 365,143.

Key landmarks

• Centennial Park

• Etobicoke Waterfront

• Humber River

• Sherway Gardens

• The Old Mill

Select condo developments

Reina Condos by Urban Capital

2150 Lakeshore by First Capital Realty

Empire Phoenix by Empire Communities

IQ3 Condos by Remington Group

Queensway Park by Urban Capital

The Tailor by Marlin Spring

Thirty Six Zorra by Altree Developments

United Kingsway by Fieldgate Urban

Valhalla Town Square by Edilcan Development

Vita Two on the Lake by Mattamy Homes


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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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