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Toronto Real Estate

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Toronto Real Estate

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First look: New Yonge and Bloor tower would be Toronto’s tallest

Alex Bozikovic – The Globe and Mail

Is it The One? The new development at the southwest corner of Yonge and Bloor streets will be sold with that catchphrase, and it will in some ways earn that title. The design by global architects Foster and Partners is tall, brawny and complex.

The project, which developer Sam Mizrahi and the architects presented to a community meeting Wednesday night, would be the third tall tower to rise at the corner. However, in size and architectural character, it would stand out: The proposal places 72 levels of apartments on top of an eight-level luxury shopping mall, and wraps a grid of structural steel outside of its glass skin.

Comment: I love this project, a lot. For my fellow geeks out there, think of both One Bloors as Toronto’s Argonath - The gateway to the city.

One Bloor West
The Proposal

The planned tower would be Canada’s tallest, aside from the CN Tower, and perhaps its most expensive. Mizrahi Developments will ask the city for a total height of 318 metres, or more than 1,000 feet, with nearly one-million square feet of retail and residential space; the budget, Mr. Mizrahi said in an interview, will approach $1-billion, excluding the land costs.

Comment: Kind of good for the local economy, you think?

The proposal is being submitted to the city this week. If approved in its current form, it would be an exceptionally large building – the tallest in Toronto other than the CN Tower. Yet Yonge and Bloor is already emerging as a cluster of tall mixed-use towers, well-placed at the junction of two subway lines.

The developer’s argument for height and density will be aided by two nearby precedents: One Bloor East, across the street, is already rising to a height of 257 metres, and the Holt Renfrew redevelopment at 50 Bloor West was recently approved at 230 metres.

Mr. Mizrahi plans to clear the site, including the former Stollery’s, and proceed immediately with construction – digging more than 30 metres down for 10 underground levels, and leasing out the building’s retail space starting in 2018, even as construction continues on the tower above.

The design, by London-based Foster and Partners with the Toronto firm Core Architects, is a three-part composition: At ground level would be retail and restaurant space, reaching up through eight levels and pierced by a public atrium; above that, a box containing the tower’s mechanicals; and on top, a tower, about 9,000 square feet on each floor, of condo apartments. The tower would fill about half of the site, tight to the corner. A smaller eight-level box would form the western half of the retail space.

One Bloor West
The tower would place its structure on display. From ground to tip, the tower’s bulk would be carried by a steel exoskeleton – perhaps coated with bronze paint – that stands around the facades of the tower, leaving the interiors of each level wide open. Each facade would include one or two strips of “winter gardens,” semi-enclosed outdoor spaces, instead of balconies.

In drawings, this composition makes the tower feel like a piece of infrastructure – giving it a strange kinship with the 1970s behemoths on the northeast and northwest corners of Bloor.

This exoskeleton model has commercial advantages. The condo floors would be highly flexible and the retail space (more than 240,000 square feet) would be free of structural columns, with 22-foot ceilings. “We call it uncontaminated space,” Mr. Mizrahi said. “This is for global retailers who haven’t been able to bring their vision to Toronto because the space they need doesn’t exist.” Mr. Mizrahi would not disclose any potential tenants. One of the drawings he showed me included space for an “electronics retailer.”

Below ground, the building would connect to the PATH system to the north, and also reach diagonally under the intersection of Yonge and Bloor to connect to the subway.

In a strong concession to the public realm, sidewalks around the building would be widened substantially, to at least five metres on Yonge and at least eight metres on Bloor. The public lobby, facing Bloor, would be a 40-metres-tall atrium that, Mr. Mizrahi hopes, will evoke the strong urban space of New York’s Rockefeller Center.

One Bloor West
The architects

Mr. Mizrahi has made an ambitious choice of architects. Foster is among the best big architecture firms in the world. Sir Norman Foster co-founded the office in 1967, and by the 1970s, he was recognized as one of the leading architects of his generation. The firm grew to corporate scale – they now employ more than 1,000 people in 14 offices – but continues at a high level of design ambition. The firm’s most prominent current project is designing Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

In Canada, the firm has designed the Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building at the University of Toronto; a tower in Vancouver; and The Bow in Calgary, that city’s most prominent high-rise that, like other Foster high-rises, uses an exoskeleton structure.

One Bloor West
The developer

For Mr. Mizrahi, the project will be a radical step up in size and complexity. He worked briefly in real-estate development in the 1980s, he said, but he is best known as the founder of DoveCorp Enterprises, a dry-cleaning and laundry chain. He moved back into real estate in 2008, building custom houses in Forest Hill; then he marketed and is developing and building two condo towers on Davenport Road in Yorkville. Mr. Mizrahi’s company was the general contractor for those buildings, which are nine- and 12-storeys tall.

Building on that experience, he plans to likewise run the construction of 1 Bloor – expanding his company’s staff to more than 100. This is, as he acknowledges, a potentially risky move. A few homebuilders in the GTA have their own high-rise construction divisions, but most hire major construction companies. “I’m very passionate about the details,” Mr. Mizrahi said. “If I could find a construction company that would worry about the details in the same way, I would hire them. But I can’t.”

In design terms, Mr. Mizrahi will be stretching even further. The condos he built on Davenport Road are what builders often call “traditional” – in this case, a version of the limestone buildings of Haussmann’s Paris, stretched upward and capped in glass. Their design, by the local firm Page and Steele, is competent at best.

That, Mr. Mizrahi said, suits his own taste. But for 1 Bloor, he said, his firm interviewed a number of international architects, including Robert A. M. Stern, arguably the world’s leading designer of historicist towers (such as Toronto’s 1 St. Thomas). When they commissioned drawings of an 80-story Art Deco-style tower, “it didn’t fit,” Mr. Mizrahi said. “I quickly realized that architecture and what we do has to fit into context.”

One Bloor West
The process

Yonge and Bloor’s context is changing rapidly, with One Bloor East and the recently approved 50 Bloor West proposal. The Mizrahi building sits on a smaller piece of land than either of those, and it asks for approximately double the density of either building – but it would also have fewer condo units, 560, than either, and its larger retail area would, the developer argues, be largely served by transit.

The developer has begun private consultations with neighbourhood groups, including the local ABC Residents Association. John Caliendo of the ABCRA said his group is looking at the details of the proposal but is “broadly supportive.”

On the ground, the demolition of the Stollery’s building on the site is well under way and is continuing. Mr. Mizrahi faced harsh criticism when that 80-year-old building began to fall. Though the city granted a demolition permit, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said at the time that she had hoped to have the building reviewed for its heritage value and that Mr. Mizrahi’s demolition crews had proceeded without getting some necessary minor permits.

Mr. Mizrahi continues to insist that proper procedures were followed. Sean Teperman of Teperman Wrecking, the demolition contractor on site, said this week that the city has not issued any stop-work order or cited any permit violations on the site.

In any case, Mr. Mizrahi is making some gestures toward heritage. He asked for carved stone panels from the Stollery’s facade to be retained, and will have them incorporated into “a monument,” he said, within the tower’s atrium space. “Our goal is to build for the next 50 or 100 years,” he said. This project is “unprecedented and this corner deserves it.”

Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.


Can condos ever house families?

Units have to be flexible if groups other than students can ever move in

Fraser Abe – NOW Magazine

It’s no secret to anyone house hunting that prices in Toronto are high.

The most recent figures from the Toronto Real Estate Board puts detached houses in the 416 area at an average price of $1,040,018. So what’s a young family to do?

Comment: But a townhouse or a semi, look outside the core. There are tons of options. You can get a decent detached house near Jane & St. Clair for $500,000.

A detached home is a pipe dream for the typical buyer. Those same figures indicate that even semi-detached homes in T.O. are too pricey, at an average of $702,035.

Comment: In the 416. Try Pickering, where you can buy a 2,500sf 4-bedroom house for $500,000.

Condos are becoming the only option for many families that want to stay in the city.

Family in condo
Trinity-Spadina MP Adam Vaughan has long been a champion of the three-bedroom condo as an urban option for a young family of four or more.

But builders are often reluctant to include three-bedroom units, Vaughan says, because they’re much more difficult to pre-sell.

“You can’t sell a three-bedroom pre-sale, which is how developers make money. A project may not be ready for one, two or three years, which is not much of a problem for singles, but when there are kids involved, you need a home for them.”

Comment: It is not pre-sales that are the problem, buyers just don’t want them and aren’t buying them. Before or after. Problem is, they are either tiny and awkward to keep the prices down, or the larger ones are as expensive as a house.

Functionality also comes into question.

Many three-bedroom units are listed as 2+1 bedrooms, which typically means two bedrooms with windows and one windowless room listed as an office or den that could double as a third bedroom. That may work for an infant or toddler, but older kids (or adults) might feel claustrophobic in a space like that.

New condominiums have to be looked at like Toronto’s older Victorian houses, says Vaughan.

“It could have started as a duplex, then became a rooming house, then someone turned it into a single-family dwelling.”

Comment: Say what? How do you turn a condo into a rooming house?

Condos need to have a longer life cycle than a few years (or decades).

Even if families aren’t the first occupants of three-bedroom units (many owners opt to rent them out to students), Vaughan believes that eventually, as prices come down, families will move in.

Comment: Prices come down? What is he on? A $700,000 condo today, a 1,000sf 3-bedroom condo, will be $800,000 in 5-10 years. And the condo fees will be $1,000 a month. Plus hydro and maybe heat. That is why families will look to a house instead. That would have the same monthly payments as a $1-million house.

The ability to knock down interior walls to build bigger units will also come into play. But new condo developments need more than a great sushi place around the corner – they need infrastructure like schools and TTC service, he says.

Comment: Like I keep saying, put schools and libraries and rec centres in the bottom of the new condos.

Families will always find a way to remain in the city if that’s where they prefer to raise their children, but there are still a lot of issues to address.

Housing prices, the most pressing issue, are predicted to remain high. According to a report by TD Economics, the plunge in oil prices, which has lowered the Canadian dollar, will be a boon to manufacturing provinces like Ontario. This, along with foreign investors, will keep the Toronto housing market hot for the foreseeable future.

Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.


Who’s winning and who’s losing (big) in Canada’s housing markets

Michael Babad – The Globe and Mail

Location, location, location

A new Bank of Montreal report highlights the sudden shift in Canada’s regional housing markets, notably the “very weak” nature of those on the Prairies.

Comment: Well, duh, oil kinda tanked there.

As The Globe and Mail’s Tamsin McMahon has chronicled, the plunge in crude prices has put a damper on the markets in oil-sensitive regions like those in Alberta.

“While Canada’s housing market balance has turned slightly weaker overall, location has become increasingly important,” said senior economist Robert Kavcic of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

“Market balance on the Prairies is very weak (resource prices), and prices in most markets there have begun to slip alongside elevated supply and a drop in confidence,” he added.

“Ditto for Atlantic Canada, though poor demographics are playing a bigger role there (at least outside Newfoundland).”

Which, as Mr. Kavcic put it, means British Columba and Ontario have to “carry the weight.”

Comment: Which, aside from Calgary booms and busts of the past decade, has been the case for a long time.

Toronto condo starts
Those markets found to be very weak, at 10, outnumber those in the other categories. There are three markets found to be weak, two that are very strong, one that is strong and six that are balanced.

Whether a market is strong, weak or balanced is based on current conditions against a 20-year average.

Here’s what he found, as of February:

* Vancouver’s market is balanced, with average prices on a three-month basis up 3.3% from a year earlier, resales up 13.6% and the average home price 11 times greater than the estimated median family income for 2015. Sales are 14.3% above the 10-year average, again on a three-month basis.
* Using the same measurements, Victoria prices are up 0.4%, and prices 14.4%, and the price-family income ratio stands at 5.4% in a balanced market. Sales are 3% below the 10-year average.
* Calgary and Edmonton are, of course, taking a hit from the oil rout.
* Calgary prices are down 0.7%, and sales are down 27%, with a price-family income ratio at 4 in a very weak market. Sales are almost 18% below the 10-year average.
* Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg also fall into the very weak category. As do Ottawa, Kingston, Ont., Halifax and the provinces of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.
* Montreal, St. John and Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., are deemed just weak.
* Then there are the “very strong” centres of St. Catharines and Windsor, Ont., and the Hamilton-Burlington as simply strong.
* Among those found to be balanced, besides Vancouver and Victoria, are Toronto and the Ontario centres of Sudbury and Thunder Bay.
* In Toronto, average prices are up 6.6% and resales 8.6%. Sales vs. the 10-year average are up 5.2%, and the price-family income ratio is at 7.5.

“Note that Vancouver’s market balance is within rounding error of being classified as ‘strong,’ while Toronto’s balanced market reflects an extremely tight detached segment, offset by much more supply in the condo sector,” Mr. Kavcic said.

Comment: Toronto is NOT balanced. It is a strong market, a sellers market.

And just today, the Toronto Real Estate Board reported that resales in the first two weeks of this month climbed 11.8% from a year earlier, with the average selling price up 10.6% to $620,106.

Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960

Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.