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Luxury condos create mansions in the sky

Ryan Starr – Toronto Star

Kingly income? Some castles in the air …

Toronto’s super-luxury condo market has blossomed in recent years, even in the midst of an economic downturn.

The flurry of highrise projects from big names such as Trump, Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Shangri-La is a testament to this city’s high-end real estate coming of age.

Topping the sleek towers, poised to be among Toronto’s tallest, will be a glittering array of lavish multimillion-dollar penthouses.

These mansions in the sky will represent some of the most exclusive and expensive addresses in the city. MuseumHouse, located across from the Royal Ontario Museum on Bloor Street W., is a bit different.

At a relatively modest 19 storeys, this glass and steel structure, designed by Page + Steele architects – the firm that did Toronto’s new Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Residences and the Windsor Arms, among others – won’t be as tall as the other towers.

But with only 26 full- and half-floor residences, MuseumHouse will offer an intimacy those big-name projects can’t match, insists Romspen Investment Corp. founder Sheldon Esbin, a partner in the development.

“What’s attractive about this building is that it’s small and you’re not going to meet 20 people in the elevator,” he says. “Plus, there are no hallways. So you have privacy. You’re part of a small, exclusive community.”

Just because MuseumHouse’s two-storey, 5,618-square-foot penthouse won’t be nestled in the clouds, however, doesn’t mean its offerings will be any less rarefied.

Esbin says the $12-million suite will be nothing less than a “crystal jewel sitting atop a steel and limestone building.”

The penthouse, occupying MuseumHouse’s 18th and 19th floors, will offer 360-degree vistas of downtown Toronto and beyond.

“No one can build over us or in front, so you have a pretty unrestricted view of the university and Queen’s Park,” says Esbin. “Indeed, you can see down to the water.”

Serviced by private elevator, the two-storey penthouse will have three bedrooms, each with access to one of the unit’s four terraces (a total of 1,152 square feet of outdoor space).

The terraces will be finished in stone and accented by glass rails and stainless steel planter boxes. There will also be a private outdoor hot tub on one balcony.

With 11-foot ceilings throughout, the penthouse will include a media room, music room, library/office space, a Zen garden and a winding staircase connecting the two levels.

The master bathroom will boast a cedar sauna, steam room and heated floors. The roomy kitchen will be equipped with Miele and Sub-Zero appliances, a wine cooler and walk-in pantry. The penthouse will also have two gas fireplaces and a built-in safe.

MuseumHouse residents get round-the-clock concierge and valet services, as well.

But no final interior design decisions have been made for the top unit, meaning the purchaser can customize the penthouse to suit his or her personal tastes.

There’s a fine line between luxurious and gaudy, of course. But Esbin believes the penthouse at MuseumHouse won’t cross it.

Esbin describes the overall MuseumHouse motif as “minimalist Japanese,” with clean, sharp lines that complement the building’s steel and glass shell.

It counts for something that Page + Steele principal Sol Wassermuhl bought the 2,300 square-foot sub-penthouse on the 17th floor and plans to live there with his wife.

Esbin has also purchased an upper-floor unit.

More high-end condos

Toronto may not be in the same league as London, New York or Singapore when it comes to super high-end real estate, but the market for opulent digs here is expanding rapidly, with scores of luxury condos under development at the moment.

“The city has evolved really quickly,” says Robbyn Hayden, sales manager for Shangri-La Toronto, a 66-storey hotel-condo, with two $13.3 million penthouses, under construction at University Ave. and Adelaide St.

“You can be sure the major hotel brands and developers have done their demographic studies and know that there are people here who want and can afford these luxury properties.”

“Toronto is catching up to the international trend of mixed-use hotel-condo developments, common in places like New York, Hong Kong and London,” adds Mimi Ng, vice-president of marketing with Menkes Developments.

Menkes is building the Four Seasons Private Residences in Yorkville. At $30 million, its penthouse will be the most expensive in Canada.

“In the past you would get only one luxury building come along every five years or so, and that would be the building everyone would buy into,” Ng says. “In recent years we’ve seen a number of projects all come onto the market at the same time.”

Still, the luxury luxury condo market in Toronto remains a “limited niche,” Hayden says. But the city’s high-end properties are proving attractive to international investors.

“We have clients from other parts of the world who think being able to buy luxury property for $1,700 to $2,000 a square foot is very good value,” she says.

Back at MuseumHouse, sales have been good – at last count nearly 80% of the units had been sold – with buyers ranging from a rock drummer (“the last person I thought would buy,” Esbin says) to the former president of one of the world’s largest investment banks.

And while there have been “a few nibbles” for the penthouse, Esbin says there have been no takers thus far.

To sweeten the pot – and add a dash of museum flavour – he’s offering the would-be buyer a lifesize sculpture cast from an original Rodin: Eve, a work worth about $800,000 that sits in the sales office awaiting a suitor.

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MuseumHouse won’t be the only luxury penthouse in town. The recent launch of a host of über-luxurious projects means there’ll be plenty of sky-high opulence available in Toronto. Here’s a sampling of what’s on offer.

FOUR SEASONS PRIVATE RESIDENCES TORONTO

Location: Bay St. and Yorkville Ave.
Developer: Bay-Yorkville Developments Ltd.
Architect: architectsAlliance
Towers height: 55 and 26 floors (204 residential units)
Penthouse size: 9,038 square feet
Price: $30 million – most expensive penthouse in Canada.
Status: For sale
Occupancy: 2011
Highlights: First Four Seasons private residences in Canada. The 55th floor penthouse has four corner terraces offering 360-degree views. Two private elevators open into glass galleria with rotunda. Unit has walk-in wine cellar, theatre room with bar and library. Separate staff residence. Master suite has two walk-in closets and ensuite bathroom with TVs behind vanity mirrors. Buyers get access to all hotel amenities, including 28,000 square-foot spa.

AURA AT COLLEGE PARK

Location: Yonge St. and Gerrard St.
Developer: Canderel Stoneridge Equity Group Inc.
Architect: Graziani + Corazza
Tower height: 75 floors – tallest residential condo in North America (931 units).
Penthouse size: 11,000 square feet
Price: $17.5 million
Status: Available
Occupancy: June 2012
Highlights: Aura is the final phase of the Residences of College Park project, which includes a 51-storey and 45-storey tower. Penthouse and six sub-penthouses make up tower’s top five storeys. The sub-penthouses go for $2.1 million to $3 million. Penthouse comes with 12-foot ceilings, seven-inch crown moulding, floor-to-ceiling windows, and two double-car garages. Interior can be custom designed.

TRUMP INTERNATIONAL HOTEL AND TOWER

Location: Bay St. and Adelaide St.
Developer: Talon International Development Inc.
Architect: Zeidler Partnership Architects
Tower height: 60 floors (118 residential units).
Penthouse size: More than 8,000 square feet
Price: $15 million – could be more after redesign
Status: Not yet for sale.
Occupancy: 2011
Highlights: The “Grand Skyplex” penthouse will take up the tower’s top three floors. Suite will have up to 28-foot ceilings and include a library and gallery. Floor plan is still being tweaked. “They’ve had some redesigns of the building at the top; they keep moving things around,” says spokesman Howard Tikka. Unit could be more than 8,000 square feet, he says. Residents get access to hotel services, including two chauffeured Mercedes-Benz S-class.

SHANGRI-LA TORONTO

Location: University Ave. and Adelaide St.
Developer: Westbank Projects Corp.
Architect: James Cheng
Tower height: 66 storeys (360 units)
Penthouses size: 6,700 square feet each
Price: $13.3 million
Status: Both for sale.
Occupancy: Mid-2012
Highlights: Shangri-La Toronto will have two, two-storey penthouses on floors 65 and 66. Four-bedroom units will have 12-foot ceilings on first floor and 11 feet on second; three fireplaces and 2,900 square feet of terrace. All bedrooms have ensuite bathrooms. Boffi cabinetry in kitchen and Miele and Sub-Zero appliances. Custom closet organization systems. Unit comes with three-car private garage.

77 CHARLES WEST

Location: Charles St. and St. Thomas St.
Developer: Aspen Ridge Homes
Architect: Yann Weymouth – part of team that designed pyramid entrance to Paris’ Louvre.
Building height: 16 storeys (47 units)
Penthouse size: 6,700 square feet
Price: $12 million
Status: For sale
Initial occupancy: Fall 2012
Highlights: Penthouse has been dubbed The Holst, a nod to the composer of The Planets symphony, a work you might want to pop on one clear night as you stare through an all-glass ceiling in the penthouse’s grand room. Suite has 1,000 square feet of outdoor terrace space, 12-foot ceilings, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and two kitchens – a show kitchen and service kitchen accessible via separate elevator.

THE RESIDENCES AT THE RITZ-CARLTON

Location: Wellington St., near Simcoe St.
Developer: Cadillac Fairview Corp., Graywood Developments Ltd., and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.
Architect: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates
Tower height: 52 floors (159 residential units).
Penthouse size: 11,000 square feet
Price: $11 million
Status: Sold
Initial occupancy: June 2010
Highlights: First Ritz-Carlton hotel-residence in Canada. Penthouse is competing with unit at Aura for title of city’s largest. Penthouse wraps around 52nd floor, with 12-foot ceilings and nine-foot doors. Two sub-penthouses take up Ritz’s 51st floor – 6,000 square feet and $9.6 billion each. Owner gets access to all hotel amenities. Purchase includes 10 years’ free accommodation at any Ritz-Carlton worldwide.

THE AVENUE

Location: Avenue Rd. and St. Clair Ave.
Developer: Camrost-Felcorp.
Architect: Page + Steele
Building height: 19 floors (73 units)
Penthouse size: 3,255 square feet (building design means sub-penthouse is 4,250 square feet)
Price: $6 million (penthouse); $7 million (sub-penthouse)
Status: Both sold
Occupancy: Spring 2010
Highlights: Penthouse has 800 square feet of terrace and covered balcony. Sub-penthouse has 2,000 square feet of terrace. Custom cabinetry in kitchens and bathrooms. Master bathroom has marble slab countertops, marble mosaic-patterned flooring, frameless opaque glass shower doors and soaker tub. Master bedroom has his/hers walk-in closets. 24-hour concierge, valet and porter, spa, indoor pool and steam room.

MUSEUMHOUSE

Location: 206 Bloor St. W.
Developer: Yorkville Corp.
Builder: Veisman Consulting
Architect: Page + Steele
Building height: 19 storeys (26 half or full-floor residences).
Penthouse size: Two-storeys, 5,620 square feet, including 1,200 square-foot balcony
Price: $12 million
Status: Available
Occupancy: Spring 2011
Highlights: Ensuite will boast cedar sauna, steam room and heated floors and there will be 24-hour valet.

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

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