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Murray Menkes took a gamble and won

Pat Bren­nan – Toronto Star

It was a gam­ble to erect the Proc­ter & Gam­ble Tower.

Nearly 30 years ago, North York’s city cen­tre wasn’t the vibrant, hap­pen­ing place it is today, but Mur­ray Menkes decided to go ahead and build the first com­mer­cial high­rise tower on Yonge Street North — with­out a lead tenant.

Menkes had four good rea­sons to take the gamble.

First, he had a vision he shared with then North York mayor Mel Last­man, that Yonge between Shep­pard Ave. and Finch Ave. could become an excit­ing core for a city of half a mil­lion souls that had no soul. Plus, he had the cush­ion of three ambi­tious sons who wouldn’t let him starve if it didn’t work out.

But it did work out. Menkes had the 15-storey tower well under­way when P&G decided to move from down­town Toronto to the GTA’s geo­graphic heart at Yonge and Shep­pard. The P&G Tower became the first new high­rise in an urban core where Menkes and his three sons would even­tu­ally build more than 1.5 mil­lion square feet of com­mer­cial, retail and enter­tain­ment space, plus 7,000 high­rise homes in 20 buildings.

North York Condos

Although the family’s name is an inte­gral part of North York’s City Cen­tre, it can also be found through­out the GTA on some of the area’s most impres­sive res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial tow­ers — plus on hun­dreds of single-family homes.

And the Menkes name is about to reach new heights in Toronto’s hous­ing history.

Recently, Alan Menkes, the son in charge of the family’s con­do­minium projects, sold the most expen­sive con­do­minium suite in Canada.

The $28 mil­lion pent­house will occupy 9,038 square feet on the top of the 55-storey Four Sea­sons Hotel and Pri­vate Res­i­dences on the north­east cor­ner of Bay St. and Yorkville Ave. A con­sor­tium from Page + Steele IBI Archi­tects and archi­tect­sAl­liance designed the immense project.

The pent­house includes a sep­a­rate 1,000-square-foot suite in the 26-storey east tower of the project to house the owner’s staff.

In a Toronto Star inter­view, Menkes said the new owner is a res­i­dent of Ger­many, but plans to move here and live in Toronto. “He loves our city,” Menkes says of the unnamed pur­chaser. “He’s not buy­ing at Four Sea­sons as a vaca­tion spot. The pent­house will be his prin­ci­pal residence.”

He’ll have 12-foot ceil­ings, bal­conies fac­ing in four dif­fer­ent direc­tions and floor-to-ceiling walls of glass. He should eas­ily see Menkes’ two lat­est condo projects — Pears on the Avenue, at the cor­ner of Avenue Rd. and Pears Rd., and Fab­rik, a 16-storey condo pro­posed for the fash­ion dis­trict at Rich­mond St. and Spad­ina Ave.

And on a clear day, he can watch more Menkes condo high­rises being added to the North York’s City Cen­tre sky­line with con­struc­tion under­way on another tower at Gib­son Square and Savvy Con­dos at Yonge and Shep­pard, where Mur­ray Menkes and his boys first reached to the sky.

The Four Sea­sons pent­house sold for $3,100 a square foot; the first high­rise con­dos Menkes sold in North York went for $175 a square foot. Today, those same units are sell­ing on the resale mar­ket at $650 a square foot.

Alan Menkes has taken his pent­house pur­chaser up to the top floor of the Four Sea­sons Tower to give him a taste of the view he’ll wake up to after mov­ing in later this year. His father, Mur­ray, couldn’t do the same with his first pent­house occupant.

Last­man and Menkes rode a con­struc­tion ele­va­tor to the top of the Proc­tor & Gam­ble build­ing for the tra­di­tional top­ping off cer­e­mony in 1986, while P&G pres­i­dent Robert Kendall waited on the ground.

Kendall told this writer that he wasn’t going up to his pent­house office “until it has four solid walls and there’s an ele­va­tor up the mid­dle of the build­ing. Heights and I just don’t agree when it comes to stand­ing on an open roof.”

Iron­i­cally, Kendall had been a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force and was one of the first RAF pilots to fly a jet fighter when they replaced the Spitfires.

Alan Menkes says he sees no letup to Toronto’s hot condo mar­ket. “We are see­ing 100,000 new immi­grants a year mov­ing to Toronto and home own­er­ship is a very high pri­or­ity with them. Urban sprawl is not the answer, so we’ll need more and more high­rise condo homes.

Low inter­est rates and job cre­ation are also impor­tant to keep Toronto’s hous­ing mar­ket strong,” says Menkes.

Mur­ray Menkes and his off­spring are not only pro­fi­cient at pro­duc­ing high­rise con­dos; they’re pro­fi­cient, too, at pro­duc­ing more Menkes. Two of Murray’s grand­sons now hold exec­u­tive posi­tions at Menkes Devel­op­ments Ltd. — Jared, 30, is Alan’s son and works with him cre­at­ing high­rise con­dos, and Steve’s son, Jason, works in the com­mer­cial wing of the fam­ily firm.

But we have more young Menkes than we have lead­er­ship posi­tions at the firm. They’ll all be own­ers, but some won’t work in the firm,” says Menkes.

He’s going to go see the movie The Descen­dants to see how George Clooney’s char­ac­ter han­dled that same situation.

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Con­tact Lau­rin Jef­frey for more infor­ma­tion – 416−388−1960

Lau­rin Jef­frey is a Toronto Real­tor with Cen­tury 21 Regal Realty. He did not
write these arti­cles, he just repro­duces them here for peo­ple who are
inter­ested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.

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