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For condo buyers, living in a high-rise suite doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the backyard lifestyle.
Several products in the city and GTA are capitalizing on the spaces on rooftops and atop podiums to create outdoor living spaces, equipped with everything from swimming pools to cabanas to barbecue pits.
Several projects under construction or new to the market â€“ iLOFT, 550 Wellington, VU, iLOFT, Luna, Casa, the Forest Hill, Murano and the Yacht Club in Whitby, to name a few â€“ are among those incorporating outdoor amenities.
“The big concern of a lot of people is ‘I don’t have a backyard if I buy a condo,’” says Jeanhy Shim, editor of Urbanation, the quarterly publication tracking the Toronto condo market. “This addresses that concern and is considered an extension of the amenities. It’s something you didn’t see five years ago, but it’s what consumers like and want.”
Shim also explains that many projects are being constructed with towers rising from a podium base, “and the podium offers a great amenity space.”
“I think it’s a recent trend, though it had been done in the past,” says Peter Freed, President of Freed Developments. Until recently, people ignored the opportunity to do exciting things on the top of buildings.”
Freed took his inspiration for newly launched 550 Wellington W., which will have 327 luxury condos attached to a hotel, from a couple of sources: his own penthouse now being built at 66 Portland, where he had a pool and cabana designed for the roof, and the “great rooftop pool and bar” he visited at New York’s Gansevort Hotel.
One of the key features of 550 Wellington’s rooftop will be its infinity pool, an approximately 20-by-50-foot rectangle, where “water rolls off the edge of the pool and is seamless with the sky,” says Freed.
The rooftop will also include a 5,000-square-foot deck for lounging or sunning, a 3,000-square-foot restaurant and “lots of cabanas for dining,” where condo residents can have dinners catered by the rooftop restaurant’s chef.
The ground floor outdoor amenities will be equally creative. A quarter-acre courtyard will face Victoria Memorial Park across the street.
“The courtyard will have a large water feature and we might use it as a skating rink in the winter,” says Freed. “We’ll also be using lots of vegetation and potentially a statue or two.”
“People are nesting now and their suites are more important to them, not just as a place to flop down and sleep, but a place to call home,” Says Michael Firestone, vice-president of marketing for Camrost-Felcorp. “A lot more are working from home offices and they don’t want to be confined to an apartment.”
At Camrost-Felcorp’s iLOFT at Mystic Pointe in Etobicoke, the recreation centre sits on top of the condo’s podium above the parking garage (the tower soars up another 22 stories), where the exercise room, yoga and aerobics studios look out onto a landscaped deck, barbecue area, outdoor pool and whirlpool, running track and sun decks.
“One of the most exciting things is that you’re four storeys in the air, protected by the surrounding buildings, with great views of the downtown,” says Firestone. “The beauty is, you can buy a 500-square-foot suite and still have 14,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor recreation space. Many units have a balcony, but it is covered, it’s confining, and you usually can’t put more than four people on it. Here, you can have a party on the terrace.”
In the ’90s, amenities started to get less sophisticated, Firestone says, as the belief was that people didn’t want to pay for them.
“But that’s turned around and they want more amenities now,” he says.
Luna at City Place is catering to this demand.
“When we started looking at the type of amenities we’d offer, we looked at hotel resorts around the world,” says Alan Vihant, vice-president of develop for Concord Adex, which is launching Luna, the largest master planned community in the GTA.
“We took the pool, a traditional indoor amenity, and put it on the nine-floor podium on the southwest corner, overlooking an eight-acre park,” he explains.
“We were inspired by boutique hotels, and it has a very loungey bar/pool area, some tanning areas and, in another rooftop area, we have cabanas with Zen gardens, which terrace up to an indoor/outdoor party area.”
The area will also have a waterfall, outdoor rain shower, heated whirlpool, dining area and trees and vegetation to create an urban forest.
“It’s a newer trend in Toronto, although it’s been popular in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles for a while,” says Vihant.
“Rooftops are very trendy. But very few condos have the space and you have to have views and sunlight. They are still a fairly rare commodity in Toronto, it costs a premium to build them, but it’s an exciting amenity.”
At the Yacht Club in Whitby , now under construction, resident can enjoy spectacular views of Lake Ontario, Port Whitby and the Whitby Yacht Club from the rooftop terrace of 10 storey building, where they can suntan on deck chairs and relax in the hot tub or by the outdoor fireplace or barbecue.
Buyers have already moved in to Daniels Corp.’s Capital North and South in Mississauga, where Laura Starr of the Starr Landscape group was recruited to design the third storey outdoor space with a retreat theme, says Niall Hagart of Daniels.
The Muskoka- inspired outdoor space, with trees, rockeries, decks and patio, integrates with the central indoor amenity space, which has floor-to-ceiling windows, a stone fireplace, spa, fitness areas, library and billiards.
“From an urban design perspective, “it’s a great use of this space,” says Haggart.
At another Daniels project under construction in Mississauga, One Park Tower, a club area on top of the 38-storey building includes a lounge, internet cafÃ© and billiards are surrounded by outdoor terraces.
“It’s a really wonderful selling feature, as everybody, whether they have a 500-square-foot unit or a 1,500 square-foot-one, can enjoy the space in the sky,” he says. “It’s democratizing the view.”
Here are some other projects offering outdoor amenities:
* Pinnacle Centre has a golf centre, tennis courts, running track and terrace on its podium, integrated with its indoor fitness and leisure amenities.
* Vu, a master-planned community launched by Aspen Ridge Homes downtown, will make use of an eight-floor podium to include two outdoor party rooms, barbecues and a lawn bowling or bocce court.
* Casa, on Charles St. by Cresford Developments, will use the entire fifth-floor podium as amenity space, with swimming pool, hot tub, landscaped terrace, double-sided fireplace, dining pavilion and alfresco bar. The fitness centre will overlook this space.
* The Forest Hill by the Goldman Group will make a 3,000 square-foot, Miami style patio with outdoor furniture, landscaping and indoor-outdoor whirlpool adjoining the condo’s fitness and recreation centre.
* The two phases of Murano, at Bay and Wellesley Sts., will share a second-floor podium recreation area that features an indoor pool with retractable roof, overlooking an outdoor terrace.
* The third-floor podium will include a running track and landscaped lounging areas.
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Yourhome.ca – Alex Newman (www.integritycommunications.ca)
A few years ago, I took my daughter on a drive along the Bridle Path. She observed, with the pragmatism of a 10 year old, that these were houses, not homes, but glad nonetheless that Toronto had such places to show off to tourists.
The other day while driving along Doulton Dr. — Mississauga’s Bridle Path — I recalled those comments. A Taj Mahal here, a mini Fountainebleau there. And then No. 2350. Although sizable at 10,000 square feet, it could never be accused of being merely a house. Built by businessman John Sazs in the 1970s, and designed by Montreal architect Frederic Roman, it’s a home that’s both compelling and confusing.
Many people have compared it to Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. But its architect has a different story. A young man when he designed the home in the ’70s, Roman asks: “Who wasn’t influenced by Wright, the greatest architect of the 20th century?”
What made Wright great, Roman believes, was that his work was firmly rooted in North America and never copied Europe. “A great architect starts with the context of the land, not just in its topography but in its materials.”
In that respect, he followed Wright in the design of this home, choosing indigenous materials like Appalachian stone from Quebec, walnut and maple from Ontario, and a “distinctly Canadian architecture.”
How the two men met — the Montreal architect and the Toronto businessman — was at a party held by family friends in Toronto. At that time, Sazs had already acquired the lot — five treed acres perched atop the Credit River Valley — and he’d hired eight architects to draw up plans. Nothing measured up to what Sazs was envisioning, but after touring the property, Roman knew exactly what he wanted to do. Returning to Montreal he worked for two months perfecting the concept. Roman had already designed and built homes of this type for several of Montreal’s elite, including two for Bronfman family members.
So this story comes in two parts; the design and the execution. What’s unique about the design is that the floors are reversed. With bedrooms on the ground floor — each with its own bath, study and sliding glass door to a private patio — it left the top of the house free for Roman to design the other unique element. Every room is octagonal: the living room, just off the front entry and accessible through one of four open doorways, is all glass; the family room at the back overlooking the pool; the dining room; and the master bedroom, a half flight up from the main hall.
Each of those rooms has a fireplace, the chimney of which creates the unusual features obvious from the outside. Like tall pillars clad in Appalachian stone, they lend the exterior a feeling of Eastern European sand castle, or some Arizona desert cathedral paying homage to nature.
Rather than install chimneys that nudged out the roof, they became the roof line. Between those chimneys the roofline rolls down in a curve towards the next room, and then up again with the next chimney.
In that respect — and in choosing indigenous materials like the Appalachian stone — there is some Wright influence in the level of detailing, but that’s where the similarity ends. Wright’s homes are about compression, whereas this is about height, particularly the way the spikey chimneys are pulled towards the sky as if on puppet strings.
The pine trees around the house, planted after the house was finished, actually whistle in the wind that blows over the Credit Valley, their scrubby bark contributing to the sense of someplace arid. And with the leaves beginning to turn, there’s a real Canadian feel; like a Group of Seven scene, the exterior stone is like rough daubs of paint.
And in truth, the house is a piece of art, only the architectural kind that couples form with function and elevates it through craftsmanship. For example, all the trim — doors, windows, frames, baseboards — are handcrafted from rosewood veneer that was imported from Indonesia and turned into 16-foot sheets by a plywood manufacturing company in St-Therese, Que.
The grain of the wood has been painstakingly matched—”a Mies van der Rohe in wood,” says Roman.
Although the house are currently for sale (at just under $7 million) the home is priceless. “To repeat a house like that would be impossible today, the materials simply don’t exist anymore,” Roman says. And even if it were available, those three or four master carpenters he brought with him from Montreal are long gone. It took about 18 months to build — by stonemasons familiar with the Appalachian stone — and today’s labour costs would make it prohibitively expensive.
“Every piece of rosewood was sanded by hand, small pieces cut and glued down,” Roman says. “When the carpenters were finished with one detail, I’d be sketching the next detail on the drywall beside them and they would make it exactly to my sketch.”
The trim, he says, is “non standard,” and specifically designed for that house, such as the rosewood centrepiece on the ceiling of the living room. Or the front door, entirely clad in hammered copper that Roman found in a Montreal gallery. Twelve dining chairs, with velvet imported from New York, cost $2,500 apiece, and they are being more in Roman’s own home. Stairs, with treads that float, were the result of several design attempts because “Mr Sazs wanted only the best.”
What worries the now elderly architect is that whoever ends up buying the house won’t realize what a unique example of Canadian architecture it is, and that they will put a wrecker’s ball to it. But he has hope, too, that somehow the purchaser will be someone with an appreciation for heritage structures and indigenous materials.
Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they just reproduce them here for people
who are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.
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Excerpt from an article by Bob Aaron
Buying and living in a house which was the scene of a murder or suicide is not everyone’s cup of tea, but for some people, living in a tainted house is simply not an issue.
Last month, the would-be buyer of the house where child model JonBenet Ramsey was murdered lost out on his plans to move into the $1.7 million property when it was taken off the market following the arrest of John Mark Karr.
In July, Mike Hatter had signed an offer to purchase the 6,866-square foot home where the six-year-old was killed in 1996. Shortly after Karr was arrested in Thailand in August, Hatter got an email from the real estate broker in Boulder, Colo., saying the house was being taken off the market by its current owners who are unrelated to the Ramsey family.
JonBenet’s parents sold the house in 1998 soon after their daughter’s murder. A group of investors purchased the red-brick Tudor-style mansion at 749 15th St. for $650,000, and the house has had four owners since then.
The most recent owners, Tim and Carol Schuller Milner, paid $1.05 million for the house in 2004, but moved out late last year because they could no longer take the pressure of living in the glare of curiosity seekers.
The would-be buyer is not at all bothered by things that go bump in the night. In fact, he seems somewhat fascinated by the whole subject. “I’m the kind of person who likes graveyards and full moons,” he told a reporter.
In the real estate industry, this kind of house is known as stigmatized or tainted. The perception is that the value of the property has been reduced by non-physical, non-scientific, irrational or even superstitious perceptions by buyers.
Colorado realtor Joel Ripmaster has represented the last four owners of the Ramsay home. Last month, he was quoted in USA Today as saying, “It’s stigmatized. It’s always been stigmatized.”
Whether a home has been tainted by being the site of an actual murder, or by the reputation as being haunted, its value may be affected â€” positively or negatively.
Consider, for example, so-called haunted British castles and guest houses, where tourists flock to spend a night or two in the company of ghostly housemates. Or the bed-and-breakfast in Fall River, Mass., where guests can sleep in the room where Lizzie Borden was accused (and acquitted) of killing her father and stepmother with an axe in 1892.
Usually, however, the value is adversely affected by the property’s reputation.
Ontario has hundreds of homes, condominiums and apartments that were the sites of notorious and even grisly crimes â€” some private, and some very public. Consider, for example, the site of the now-demolished Bernardo house on Bayview Dr. in St. Catharines, or the site of the Mississauga home (since destroyed by fire) where Christine Demeter was murdered in 1973.
Buyers have many reasons to shun stigmatized real estate, according to Toronto real estate appraiser and educator Barry Lebow. A frequent lecturer on haunted and stigmatized houses in Toronto, Lebow is the former owner of a house that was the site of a messy public suicide.
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