Tag Archives: global economic crisis
Stephen Dupuis, Toronto Sun
Last week, I let readers in on the highlights of the inaugural address of the newly elected president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association, Victor Fiume, of Durham Custom Homes.
BILD wishes Fiume well as he takes over the reins from Gary Friend, a Vancouver builder who led his industry at the national level with great distinction throughout one of the most challenging years ever faced by a CHBA president given the global economic crisis that dominated Friend’s tenure.
Fiume’s speech was given in Victoria, B.C., where spring was about a month ahead of schedule with the trees blossoming, the flowers pushing up and the grass green and growing.
As if picking up on the optimism that always comes with spring, the economic presentations we heard were quite encouraging. As Dr. Peter Andersen, consulting economist to the CHBA told builders, “fears of a double-dip recession have been put on the back-burner and it looks like we’re in for a sustainable recovery.”
Andersen declared that the recession ended in August, 2009, described 2010 as a “transition year” and said the true recovery would kick-in next year with 4-5% growth.
Unfortunately that economic growth rate will bring with it rising rates but that’s next year — for the balance of this year, Andersen sees rates as being on hold. Holding at the lowest levels in 50 years is a very good thing.
Further to the rosy forecast, Andersen noted that part-time employment is up adding that employers typically bring on part-timers as a prelude to hiring full-time.
Commenting on house prices, Andersen stated that he sees no sign of runaway prices and wondered out loud why all the fuss. “I don’t buy the bubble theory,” he stated. “Prices are just getting back to where they were before the economic crisis,” he added. Andersen also offered a very interesting perspective on the renovation market.
Where the conventional wisdom says that market may go down due to all the activity brought forward by the Home Renovation Tax Credit, he thinks that activity just primed the pump and now that homeowners have caught the renovation bug, they will just move onto the next project. Sounds plausible to me.
The good news is that Ontario builders were part of a British Columbia/Ontario sweep of the recent Canadian Home Builders’ Association Sales & Marketing (SAM) awards.
The bad news is that of the eight awards taken by Ontario builders, only two winners hailed from the GTA, but they are both deserving of a shout-out, so hats off to Empire Communities who got the award for Best Brochure/Kit for Fly Condos, besting builders from Victoria, Calgary, Ottawa and Hamilton.
A big tip of the hat to Bachly Construction of Bolton, Ont. who captured the award for Best Single Detached Home (over 4,000 sq. ft.) against heavy competition from Vancouver, Kamloops and Delta, B.C., as well as a place called Quispamiss, N.B.
The Bachly house is well worth checking out at www.bachly.com (click on featured home). Last but not least, BILD congratulates former local president Joe Valela of Valemont Homes on his election to the CHBA Executive Board, and Mike Cochren of Oakville-based Cochren Homes (and a RenoMark contractor) on his appointment to that board.
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Olivia Stren, National Post
“Just wait to see what Toronto will be in the next 10 years. It’ll blow your mind,” real estate developer and king of King Street Peter Freed tells me in his typically mellow way. For a man who seems to acquire land and throw up design-conscious buildings the way others brush their teeth (a global economic crisis did nothing to slow his pace) he speaks with the sort of drowsy, mid-nap calm you’d expect from someone reclined on a massage table. (Instead, we’re sitting at his boardroom table of Freed HQ.)
“This is finally Toronto’s time,” he announces tranquilly. It’s also, evidently, Freed’s time: His 550 Wellington condo project is nearing completion, while its adjunct Thompson Hotel (the first international Thompson property) is slated to open in May. To go along with the hotel – and eventually command two square acres of land – is the latest jewel in the Freed crown: the Thompson Residences.
“In terms of major design-driven projects, Toronto has basically been ignored on the global stage. And that’s one of my favourite things about Toronto: There’s so much opportunity here,” Mr. Freed says. “It’s so hard to stand out in New York or London or Los Angeles. Here, it’s not that hard.”
But Mr. Freed himself doesn’t seem inclined to do the standing out; he leaves the business of head-turning to his buildings. His choice to join forces with Thompson – a brand specializing in things attention thieving (i.e. its celebrity guests) – has already proven savvy. “With the Thompson Hotel component, 550 Wellington has been our most successful project ever,” Mr. Freed says.
The Thompson Residences (the U.S. hotel brand’s inaugural foray into real estate), with 310 suites ranging in price from $219,900 to $2-million, is set to command the former Travelodge Hotel’s choice King West locale. It was Mr. Freed’s fantasy site. “It was the dream. But every developer in the world wanted to buy that site. The Travelodge’s owners were getting calls every day, but when the owners decided to sell, they called me directly and gave me first dibs,” says Mr. Freed, with a Cheshire cat’s contentment. “With it, we want to build our most spectacular building yet,” he says with uncharacteristic hyperbole.
Like the Thompson’s first hotel, Manhattan’s 60 Thompson (on SoHo’s Thompson Street), the Toronto Residences will be fashioned to set a new bar in urban swank. Designed by Thomas O’Brien, 60 Thompson opened in 2001 to be the final word on hip hostelries. If now hardly avant-garde, the boutique property’s neutral-toned suites, faux-suede headboards and velour pillows, and its slick, animal-hide-clad bar served up a winsome formula. “Every time I called 60 Thompson, I couldn’t get a room,” Mr. Freed says. (The hotel remains perpetually booked and celebrity packed; on a recent visit, I spotted a unitard-sporting Fergie mid photo-shoot in the Thom bar.)
The Residences’ most spectacular feature will be its rooftop pool and cabanas, courtesy of Diego Burdi and Paul Filek, principles of top Toronto design firm Burdifilek. “It’s going to be a rooftop Shangri La,” Mr. Burdi says. “From the street, all you’ll get is a glimpse of a tree canopy. It’ll be a secret world. But as soon as you step out of the elevator capsule and on to the pool deck, you’ll be completely transported. It’ll feel very global, like you could be anywhere in the world.” At 140 feet, it will be the longest rooftop pool in North America, stealing the apparently coveted title (who knew?) from Miami’s Gansevoort Hotel (which claims a 110-foot pool). But, unlike that South Beach leisure ground, this pool, Mr. Burdi insists, will be an “adult space.”
“I’m sick of walking into places and feeling too old,” Mr. Burdi says. “It should be fun and flirty, but it’ll also be elegant and comfortable. It’ll be like a hotel lobby, but on the roof!” It will also – let’s be honest, Toronto is not Miami – be a very seasonal space. But after bikini season, as brief as the suits themselves, residents will have plenty of options in the way of indulgence: the Residences will claim a screening room, a health club, private dining rooms. And residents will also be privy to all of Thompson Hotel’s amenities: a yoga studio, 30,000 square feet of retail space, a 24-hour diner and chef Scott Conant’s haute-rustic Italian restaurant (and New York import) Scarpetta. (Save yourself the airfare to Rome and try Mr. Conant’s signature tomato-basil spaghetti. Trust me.)
“I remember this neighbourhood when it was so desolate at night, you could shoot a cannon through the streets,” says Mr. Freed, unfurling renderings for the Thompson Residences, like a sovereign studying a map of soon-to-be-charted territories, “I knew it could change. And it has.”
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