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.
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.
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.
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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