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Toronto Condos Have Outdoor Pleasures

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 – iLOFT, 550 Wellington, VU, iLOFT, Luna, Casa, the Forest Hill, Murano and the Yacht Club in Whitby, to name a few – 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 café 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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Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information


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