Tag Archives: waterfront properties
John Lorinc – Globe and Mail
Mayor Rob Ford’s administration is preparing to hang a huge for-sale sign on the city’s waterfront real estate assets and is now in the process of auctioning off the first parcel – the new Corus Entertainment building, as well as the land it sits on at the foot of Jarvis Street, just south of Queen’s Quay East.
Council earlier this monthly quietly voted to change the rules governing the activities of the Toronto Port Lands Company, a city agency that owns and leases 400 acres of land in the eastern waterfront. Under the new rules, TPLC will be allowed to sell its real estate holdings for a profit and funnel the proceeds back into capital reserves. The move represents a sharp departure from the city’s long-standing policy to retain ownership of waterfront properties created by landfill.
The Corus project, designed by architect Jack Diamond, was the first new commercial building to open on the lakeshore in a generation. It was financed by a $128.5-million loan as well as a $12.5-million contribution from Waterfront Toronto. In 2007, council voted to negotiate a 20-year lease with the entertainment giant.
But a March, 4, 2011, staff report indicates there’s strong interest from institutional investors in the complex, although Corus has the right of first refusal. Build Toronto is now overseeing the sale.
It comes at a time of mounting uncertainty about the direction of the city’s waterfront revitalization efforts.
Real estate sources say landowners in the East Bayfront area may be gearing up to challenge strict city bylaws governing development on privately owned land along the north side of Queen’s Quay East.
And the new rules allowing TPLC land sales raise questions about the status of a five-year-old memorandum of understanding between the city and Waterfront Toronto, which specifies the duration of leases that Toronto’s economic development agency can negotiate with commercial tenants.
An influential Vaughan developer, who donated generously to Mayor Ford’s pre- and post-election fundraising drives, controls a long-term lease on the Port Lands’ Hearn Generating Station, which has been proposed as a site for an NFL stadium by the mayor’s brother Doug.
Developer Mario Cortellucci, together with various relatives and individuals who listed his company’s premises on their donor forms, contributed $30,000 to the mayor’s campaign, about half of which was raised following the election as part of a multi-candidate effort to eliminate campaign deficits. He also secured a private meeting with Rob Ford, according to scheduling documents released under access to information laws.
The figures, based on election contribution filings, were compiled by York University political scientist Robert MacDermid. “The important point here is that when a councillor or mayor runs a deficit and wins, every person seeking influence crowds into the subsequent fundraising events.”
Adrienne Batra, the mayor’s spokesperson, says Mr. Cortellucci wanted to discuss a charitable organization Mr. Ford and his brother Doug “might be interested in getting involved in.” Neither Mr. Cortellucci nor Doug Ford responded to requests for interviews. Ms. Batra declined to reveal the charity, saying it was a “private meeting.”
Owned by Ontario Power Generation, the iconic but abandoned Hearn site has been leased since 2002 to Studios of America, controlled by Mr. Cortellucci. The city issued a demolition permit on Dec. 15.
OPG spokesperson Ted Gruetzner says the lease gives the company broad latitude to re-develop the property. “It’s between the city and the Studio to work through this.”
While Mr. Cortellucci’s development companies in the past have pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to right-of-centre municipal and provincial candidates, Prof. MacDermid’s analysis shows the 2010 race was his first serious foray into Toronto politics. In 2006, Mr. Cortellucci and another relative gave just $2,500 to Jane Pitfield’s mayoral campaign. In 2010, he donated $4,000 and $2,000 to George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone respectively.
The Studio venture is largely considered to be moribund, and the massive structure’s future continues to be the subject of much speculation. During its Dec. 16 meeting city council voted 39-1 to urge OPG to consult broadly about the heritage value of the Hearn before proceeding with the demolition. Both the mayor and his brother voted in support of the motion.
However, in a recent interview with The Globe and Mail, the mayor’s brother said a stadium at the Hearn site could be the anchor for a massive redevelopment of the Portlands that would “turn this dump site into a wow factor.” It would include dramatically designed residential buildings and high-end retailers such as Macy’s department store. A monorail elevated transit system would link it to downtown.
Meeting with Rogers
The Globe has learned that NFL football in Toronto was discussed in a March meeting between Rogers officials and Doug Ford.
According to the city’s lobbyist registry, Councillor Ford in mid-March met with three Rogers executives, including Rogers Media president Keith Pelly, who oversees the company’s sports assets, including the Rogers Centre and the Blue Jays.
The registry indicates the three officials sought the meeting to discuss “cell towers.” But Rogers spokesperson Jan Innes said they also discussed the “Bills in Toronto” series with the mayor’s brother.
The communications giant in recent years has drawn huge crowds to regular season matches at the Rogers Centre between the Buffalo Bills and other NFL teams. Ms. Innes stressed the meeting was purely an “informational session.”
The Globe and Mail has also obtained a September, 2009, federal audit of Ottawa’s oversight of Waterfront Toronto. The report, conducted for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, concludes the agency has complied with all 12 recommendations from a 2005 audit.
Among the findings, the four-person audit team found that Waterfront Toronto has moved to “disallow” all sole-source tenders over $75,000, and brought its travel-expense policy in line with federal Treasury Board guidelines enacted in 2006.
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.
Incoming search terms
Suzanne Wintrob, National Post
Looking to own a piece of waterfront? By the looks of it, developers think everyone does and are eagerly pumping their high-rise and low-rise waterfront properties to anyone who will listen.
From Cobourg to downtown Toronto and all the way to Oakville and Burlington, the waterfront is abuzz with activity. Projects already on the market are pushing their last remaining units, while new developments are either awaiting final approval or are under construction and set to launch.
“People everywhere view waterfront ownership as a sound investment, especially in high demand areas,” says Marc Hewitt, president of Niche Development Ltd. building Oakville’s Edgemere Private Residences. “Waterfront land is a commodity, and in urban areas such as the GTA, it’s a scarce commodity. That makes it a sound investment and something people take great pride in owning.”
While Muskoka chairs and pesky black flies may be missing from this urban waterfront equation, it’s the idea of waking up and gazing out at the lake — or walking the dog a block or two to it — that has purchasers hooked. Even the well-chosen names — among them Bluwater, River City, South Beach and Westlake — conjure up thoughts of sand castles and seagulls in a bid to heighten sales.
The lifestyle is so desirable that a decade ago the governments of Toronto, Ontario and Canada joined forces to create Waterfront Toronto, charged with overseeing the renewal of Toronto’s waterfront. Derek Goring, director of development at Waterfront Toronto, says the corporation is taking a “holistic” approach to waterfront development by creating people-focused neighbourhoods with a mix of residences, commercial and retail space, public spaces, plus community necessities such as childcare, schools, community centres, libraries and access to transit.
Initially, 13,000 residential units are planned for Toronto’s East Bayfront and West Don Lands areas — 7,000 and 6,000 respectively — with another 27,000 units expected over the next decade in those ‘hoods plus North Keating by the Don River. At least 20% will be affordable housing, says Mr. Goring, and 20% will be rental. All will be LEED Gold-certified. One-quarter of residential design will be devoted to public green space, he adds. In fact, this summer, Canada’s Sugar Beach at the foot of Jarvis Street and Sherbourne Park at the foot of Sherbourne Street will open in the East Bayfront area, with construction starting later this fall on Underpass Park and Don River Park in the West Don Lands.
“What makes Toronto’s new waterfront communities so appealing is that, not only are they at the water’s edge, but they are also in the heart of the city,” says Mr. Goring. “This waterfront gives people the best of both worlds — the beauty and tranquility of life at the lake and the culture and vitality of the urban experience.”
The first two developers to sign up are Great Gulf Group developing East Bayfront’s Parkside, a 540,000-square-foot project including a residential tower (launch date expected in 2011); and, Urban Capital building the West Don Lands’ River City, comprising 900 loft–style condos, penthouses and townhomes over the next five to seven years. Phase 1 — two high-rises totalling 348 units — is now selling at $239,900 to $750,000 with occupancy in late 2012.
Although River City is a Waterfront Toronto initiative, it is not technically “waterfront” because it is not on Lake Ontario. But it will have beautiful views of the revitalized Don River and will sit on the new 18-acre Don River Park. Ben Rusonik, River City’s sales manager, says Phase 3 will be situated closer the lake, so it will have actual lake views. But at this point, he says, River City’s slogan is “This is Where it Starts,” a reference to it being the first private development on the Waterfront Toronto property.
Down the road in Etobicoke, sales at South Beach Condos + Lofts are brisk. When complete, the four-acre project will comprise two 27-storey, 313-unit Art Deco-styled glass-and-steel towers, 30,000 sq. ft. of amenities including pool, squash courts hotel guest suites and a pet daycare, 16,000 sq. ft. of retail space, and reflective rooftop solar panels to generate energy. Tower 1 is sold out and Tower 2, with summer 2012 occupancy, is more than 80% sold.
After years of building up Montreal, Amexon Development Corp. decided to bring its expertise to Toronto’s waterfront with this four-acre site conjuring up thoughts of Miami’s funky Ocean Drive. Jason Shiff, Amexon’s executive sales manager, says the company had owned the land for a while but was waiting for the right moment to bring it to market.
“We wanted something that would enhance waterfront living,” he says. “It’s really vacation-type living to the tee. It emulates South Beach and Ocean Drive. It gives you the exact same Art Deco features.”
Nearby, Vancouver-based Onni Group of Companies is finalizing plans for its second Toronto project after The Garrison, this one at Lake Shore Boulevard and Park Lawn Road. Westlake — described by executive vice-president Chris Evans as “an urban village” with internal roads and storefronts — will comprise 1,300 units in three towers, the tallest with 48 floors, plus 85,000 sq. ft. of retail including national grocery and drug stores, and 25,000 sq. ft. of amenities. Units will range from 500 to 1,500 sq. ft., though pricing has not been announced.
Oakville’s coveted waterfront is also seeing some action. Daniels Corp.’s executive vice-president, Niall Haggart, describes the 12-storey, 68-unit One Eleven Forsythe as “a quintessential boutique condominium nestled on the shores of 16 Mile Creek in downtown Oakville.” Only a handful of suites remain, priced from $1.2-million to more than $2.5-million, with all suites on the east side of the building overlooking the water.
In Oakville’s Bronte Village, The Pemberton Group has taken over an old piece of land that once housed a grand heritage home. In its place will sprout Bluwater Condominium, with three eight-floor buildings and 10,000 sq. ft. of amenities infused with a wellness theme. The 220 units will range from the low $400,000s for a 600-sq.-ft one bedroom to more than $1-million for a 3,200-sq.-ft. combined suite with wraparound balcony. All purchasers will receive a one-year membership to the Oakville Club. The project will launch this fall, construction will start next year, and occupancy is expected in 2013.
“[This is one of] the most sought-after locations in real estate,” says Christopher Invidiata, team leader at Re/Max Aboutowne Realty in Oakville who has worked the area’s real estate market for 25 years. “[Bluwater] is also set in a resort-type setting, which elevates the living experience. The combination of those two facts will drive a lot of buyers to our doorstep.”
In Burlington, Molinaro Group is working on a 21-storey, 186-unit tower called Strata Condos. It is 75% sold, with remaining units selling for $265,000 to $900,000. Billed as “luxury condo living for the hip, fit and green,” company president Vince Molinaro says he expects Strata to receive at least LEED Silver certification. Besides the obligatory fitness centre, Strata will include a 5,600-sq.-ft. meditation garden, a 3,000-sq.ft, ground-level bicycle storage room to encourage cycling, and a car share program.
But the real draw will be the waterfront, says Mr. Molinaro, even though the project is not right on the water’s edge.
“With Burlington being close to downtown, the waterfront is the focus,” he says. We have probably one of the biggest parks that will not be developed. … The downtown is all focused along the waterfront — all the shops, all the restaurants are [there]. That’s the big draw for most people.”
Incoming search terms
Make sure you throw one hell of a party
Tony Wong – Toronto Star
Michael Lee-Chin is talking animatedly about his first big real estate purchase.
It was an experiment of sorts. In 1985 he invested $50,000 in property and $50,000 in art. He eventually sold the real estate, flipping the land several years later for a $2-million profit.
“Back then nobody wanted real estate,” says the charismatic billionaire. “I did great with the property. But I don’t think I can sell the art for what I bought it for.”
The not-so-subtle lesson: Buy real estate.
It’s a well-worn tale, but the audience is lapping it up. One hundred invitees are seated in the ornate living room of an Oakville mansion this weeknight to meet Lee-Chin, the marquee speaker whose name adorns Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum Crystal.
It’s an exclusive club. The group are drinking wine and Red Stripe Beer – a nod to Lee-Chin’s Jamaican heritage – while dining on finger food at what is likely the priciest single piece of real estate in the Greater Toronto Area. The 32,000 square foot Oakville waterfront mansion was bought for an estimated $35.5 million three years ago.
The guests are invited to hear Lee-Chin and other speakers, including famed art collector Ash Prakash talk about their investments.
But the venue is the real star of the night.
With so many luxury projects in Toronto, marketers have had to go to extreme lengths to attract the kind of busy high-net-worth customers who can afford their products.
It’s stealth marketing taken to another level: Have a cocktail and, by the way, look at the nice condo.
With the plethora of luxury projects from the Ritz Carlton to the Four Seaons and the Trump residences being marketed in the GTA, luxury buyers have been spoiled for choice. Marketers have been forced to up the ante. A good cheese platter won’t cut it. But a billionaire will get their attention.
“This isn’t marketing in the traditional sense,” says developer Marc Hewitt, who donated the venue and the food and wine for the night. “Our clients may not be influenced by a billboard or a newspaper ad.”
Peer group influence, on the other hand, is key: After all, keeping up with the Joneses, the Guptas and the Lee-Chins is hard work.
“You often see people who know each other and bumping into each other at our events and it also gives them a certain comfort level to know they’re socializing with like-minded people,” said Barbara Lawlor, president of Baker Real Estate Inc., the sales team behind the Ritz Carlton residences. “This is also a gentler approach, where you’re at a cocktail party and not attacked by some high-powered sales pitch.”
The Ritz has hosted many special events for buyers, including fine scotch and wine tastings and flying in celebrity chefs. A cocktail party at Roy Thomson Hall featured the Canadian Tenors. While guests listened to music, they could also sit in one of the $228,000 Bentley automobiles on display.
“This is a great example of marketers fostering tribes, grouping together consumers who have a certain passion for something,” says Jay Handelman, an associate professor of marketing at Queen’s University in Kingston. “You’re not just blatantly pitching a product, you’re also providing an emotional connection to the product by selling them a lifestyle. It’s about mind and emotion.”
Lawlor first used the event marketing approach at One Post Road in 1998, a collection of 45 condominiums in Toronto’s Bridle Path neighborhood where the penthouse cost $2.5 million. She teamed up with a wine company – her first attempt at cross branding – and threw a party in the sales centre.
“One Post Road, was the one of the first big luxury projects, so we had to think out sidethe box,” said Lawlor. “Since then, things have gotten a lot more extravagant.”
As developments have gotten pricier, marketing budgets for events have increased substantially say realtors. Much of that money has been diverted away from what would have been traditional advertising.
“It takes a much longer time for a buyer to make a decision with luxury properties. There is a bit of a wooing process,” said Lawlor.
Back at the Oakville estate, a steady string of cars, from Porsche SUVs to Mercedes S class sedans, were directed to park on the grass, not far from the outdoor pool with the view of the lake.
Inside the mansion, many guests had gravitated to the kitchen, where skewers of plump scallops and hors d’oeuvres of beef tartare seemed to attract the most attention.
“What do you think?” one lady, a black Hermes Birkin on her arm, asked another.
“It’s beautiful. I love the water, but it also feels a little isolated at night. I’m not sure I could last a winter here.”
First lady: “Yes, But did you see the view from the washroom?”
The views at Edgemere are stunning indeed. Even from the loo.
Since the project started selling officially in January, developer Hewitt has sold six of 30 units. The waterfront properties are priced from $2.59 million to $6.8 million, spread over 12.5 acres with 1,000 feet of shoreline.
But the development in a suburb about 40 minutes west of Toronto isn’t necessarily at the top of mind for most luxury buyers. Getting them to see the site is the challenge.
“Everyone here tonight already has a nice home,” says Hewitt, who has also purchased one of his own units. “They may come to hear the speakers, but they’ll also stop to look at the project. Some of these buyers may not even know they’re buyers.”
Turning browsers into buyers is the trick. Luxury properties compete for discretionary income with other high ticket purchases. Jewelry, fine art, an Italian supercar or a cool condo – there are plenty of baubles to distract the high end buyer.
“At this level it’s about wants, not needs,” said Michelle Levy, a pioneer of real estate event marketing.
Levy, a socialite who grew up on the Bridle Path, was one of the first to merge real estate sales with high society parties and the world of philanthropy.
In 1999, she was hired by developer Minto Communities to help sell their penthouse – then going for the unheard-of price of $3.2 million in Yorkville.
Levy sat on boards ranging from the Art Gallery of Ontario to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and invited her high-profile friends to a party in the then-unfinished penthouse. A string quartet played before a guest list that included actors Christopher Plummer and Gordon Pinsent, haberdasher Harry Rosen and National Ballet principal dancer Chan Hon Goh. The developer donated a scholarship to the Shakespeare Globe Centre of Canada, another board that Levy sat on.
“At the time it really wasn’t common to do this sort of thing,” said Levy. “The real estate community and the arts community hadn’t really come together. People thought I was out of my mind.”
Now the practice is much more commonplace. And inviting the right crowd can pay dividends. One of her guests purchased three units at a party she held for a Forest Hill condominium development, she said.
“At that level, everyone sort of knows everyone else, so they see who their neighbors are,” said Levy.
For developer Hewitt, that’s the hope, as he opens his doors to the select few.
It didn’t help that when he first started to develop the project, the financial crisis of 2008 hit hard, tanking the luxury market.
“It had a huge impact. Everyone was uncertain. I was uncertain,” said Hewitt, who is no stranger to the world of luxury real estate.
The builder was the former head of development for Emaar properties, the giant real estate corporation behind the Burj Dubai, (now called Burj Khalifa), which surpassed the height of the CN Tower when it opened this year. But it turns out – no surprise – unlike the hot (and now cold) money of the Middle East, Canadian buyers tend to be a cautious lot.
“They see this very much as an investment as well as a home,” said Hewitt.
The property was the former home of Mattamy Homes owner Peter Gilgan and is considered the finest stretch of waterfront in the city.
Gilgan paid $7.2 million for the land in 1992 and pumped an estimated $20 million in the property, launching Oakville as the gold coast of the GTA.
Hewitt hopes he has struck gold again: The area has produced some stunning returns over the years. The land was originally purchased in 1907 by Toronto jeweler James Ryrie, partner to Henry Birks for a mere $206.
One good sign for Hewitt is that so far the market seems to have bounced back. Edgemere recently picked up five awards, including the low-rise project of the year honors at the Building Industry and Land Development annual banquet. The prize is considered the Oscar of the development industry.
Meanwhile, sales of homes priced $1.5 million and above hit 269 units, up 263% from last year and the highest on record for a first quarter. That figure is also up 71% from the peak of the market in 2008.
The problem is, once you get into the $3 million and up range, where Hewitt is targeting, there are far fewer buyers. But then Hewitt just needs 24 more candidates out of the select 100 who have shown up tonight. And they seem receptive.
Many in the audience are engrossed with art collector Art Prakash, who is regaling them with tales of his $2 million record purchase of a Tom Thomson painting.
“By what you love. Canadian art is still affordable globally,” advises Prakash.
Prakash isn’t shilling condos. But the subtext is there. Windswept images of Precambrian rock are never out of vogue. Especially when they are framed by a stylish condominium on the lake.
Incoming search terms