Home » Canada’s condo amenity wars – Macleans.ca

Canada’s condo amenity wars – Macleans.ca

by Marjorie

Vancouver Home (Courtesy of Ema Peter/Westbank)

The advertising materials for Vancouver Home listed 20 causes to purchase a house contained in the residential skyscraper overlooking False Creek. Amongst them: use of a fleet of BMWs; entry to a 25-m heated rooftop pool configured so it’s sheltered from the wind but allows sunshine; and a 24-hour concierge skilled to the identical customary as these on the five-star Fairmont Pacific Rim resort.

However when Allen Oram joined the undertaking as a part of the Westbank Growth gross sales crew in 2014—earlier than the constructing broke floor—he was moved to purchase a unit for himself, partially due to a extra distinctive incentive situated midway around the globe. For every of the items offered on the 370-residence Vancouver Home, one other dwelling can be constructed in Cambodia for poverty-stricken households residing close to a rubbish dump.

READ: Actual property images are distorting actuality, irritating would-be dwelling consumers

It was a part of the developer’s partnership with the non-profit World Housing, and the one-to-one gifting mannequin resonated with Oram. “Within the early 2000s, I lived in and helped handle a low-income housing constructing for the town of Calgary,” he recollects. The place got here with a rent-free suite, so he saved up for the deposit on his first dwelling. Now, over a decade later, this was a chance to provide another person a home. And that wasn’t all.

Inside months of his condominium buy, Oram was on a flight to Cambodia—an invite prolonged to fellow condominium consumers and the gross sales crew (Oram paid for the journey himself)—the place he personally handed over the keys to the household who moved right into a modest dwelling with a plaque that bears Oram’s title. “To stroll by the slums and expertise first-hand the residing circumstances these folks have been residing in,” he says, “it’s one in every of these experiences the place you be ok with giving again.”

Allen Oram in Cambodia at the Cambodia 2014 Gifting ceremony (Courtesy of Dave Hamilton/World Housing)

Allen Oram in Cambodia on the Cambodia 2014 Gifting ceremony (Courtesy of Dave Hamilton/World Housing)

The initiative was a headline-grabber again dwelling, profitable plaudits for each the developer and the non-profit. “It modified the dialog away from counter tops and sq. footage,” says Don McQuaid, managing director of World Housing. However from a cold-eyed market perspective, it was the newest gambit in an more and more high-stakes race. As competitors for younger, high-income consumers heats up, builders are providing menus of facilities, perks and advantages that will have appeared unthinkable throughout the condominium increase of the Nineteen Eighties, when a celebration room and an indoor pool appeared sufficiently luxurious.

Just like the Beemers and concierge, the social-housing enterprise displays the prosperous cosmopolitanism to which many consumers aspire. “It’s not all the time about location, however the way of life,” explains Ute Lehrer, a York College professor and knowledgeable in city planning. “Facilities are entrance and centre because the car to promote condominium life.”

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Greater tasks in ever denser cities result in extra residents needing house outdoors their shrinking sq. footage. Small surprise, then, that the advertising of facilities usually appears focused at somebody in want of a trip. Spas. Therapeutic massage rooms. Swimming swimming pools and operating tracks that jut out from the perimeters of buildings, as if one is floating above the town. Salt-rock meditation partitions. Music studios. Race-car simulators. A concierge whose duties embrace serving to residents make mates within the constructing.

“Sooner or later, we began calling it the amenity wars,” says Tina West, who leads the property administration division for industrial actual property providers big CBRE. “When you may have 10 communities situated inside blocks of one another, it’s not in regards to the handle.”

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Concord Pacific's Calatrava bridge sunset view (Courtesy of Concord Pacific)

Harmony Pacific’s Calatrava bridge sundown view (Courtesy of Harmony Pacific)

A newspaper commercial for Toronto’s Bransfield Home within the early Seventies spoke glowingly about every suite’s soundproof partitions. It additionally talked about the high-quality venting system, and every unit having its personal utility room for wiring or plumbing. Amongst these mundane promoting factors, the indoor pool, fitness center and billiards room have been handled as afterthoughts.

Quick-forward 4 a long time and Vancouver-based Harmony Pacific’s forthcoming multi-tower undertaking in Burnaby, B.C., dubbed Metrotown, highlights its 66,000-sq.-foot “Sky Park” with facilities that embrace poolside barrel saunas, a conservatory, out of doors work pods, a yoga garden, a tea home and a 400-m operating monitor that lights up at night time. For these trying to get some contemporary air outdoors the condominium doorways, there’s a “gear room” on web site the place they’ll repair up their bicycles or tenting tools.

READ: Vancouver actual property is so loopy building employees need to stay below Skytrain tracks

“A lot of folks in homes use their basement or storage as a room to tinker,” says Gabriel Leung, vice-president of improvement with Harmony Adex, a Harmony Pacific subsidiary. “This room is a lounge with tools that may assist them to exit extra.” It’s actually a boon to advertising groups. A few years in the past, a Harmony undertaking in Seattle marketed its gear room as impressed by Tony Stark, the fictional billionaire industrialist behind the masks of Marvel superhero Iron Man.

The concept, says Jim Ritchie, govt vice-president of gross sales and advertising at Tridel, one in every of Canada’s main condominium builders, is to “create a reminiscence level” that may set a undertaking aside: “A few of it’s advertising, and infrequently it’s understanding the wants of the buyer.” For Tridel, meaning embracing know-how, because it did with its first “good condominium” unveiled just a few years in the past in downtown Toronto. It contains keyless suite entry, an automatic locker system for bundle deliveries and licence-plate recognition for entry to the parking storage.

Metrotown’s ‘Sky Park’ in Burnaby, B.C., will feature poolside saunas (Courtesy of Concord Pacific)

Metrotown’s ‘Sky Park’ in Burnaby, B.C., will function poolside saunas (Courtesy of Harmony Pacific)

Within the post-COVID world, Ritchie says, there will likely be a premium on decreasing touchpoints as folks transfer round their buildings. Amongst different issues, Tridel is wanting into programs that will enable residents to make use of their elevators with out pushing buttons.

One other Toronto-based developer, Fitzrovia Actual Property, lately introduced it’s including on-site digital well being care at one in every of its upcoming rental buildings; residents would have entry to a non-public house with diagnostic tools the place they’ll chat with an on-call physician.

Numerous these tasks have been conceived pre-pandemic—earlier than renters unwilling to pay for downtown residing when retailers have been shuttered started fleeing city cores. Rental costs in Toronto slipped by a proportion level within the ultimate quarter of 2020 after years of regular good points. But gross sales have been up greater than 20 per cent throughout that interval, based on information from the Toronto Regional Actual Property Board. In Vancouver, common condominium costs on the finish of January had risen by 5 per cent over the earlier 12 months, to $896,000, whereas Ottawa’s common condominium sale worth in 2020 rose 19 per cent. “In a hyper-competitive market, that’s the place advertising and facilities come into play,” says Jeanhy Shim, founding father of Housing Lab Toronto, an unbiased housing analysis and consulting firm. “You’re making an attempt to get their consideration.”

For smaller tasks, designing from a special perspective may help. The all-female crew behind Reina Condos in Toronto’s west finish, for instance, hopes to draw consumers from all phases of life—particularly ladies whose wants are sometimes missed in design. The Reina undertaking could have a devoted space for stroller parking on nearly each flooring. As children grow old, they’ll have entry to a playroom that’s seen from the fitness center by “an enormous, glass type of bubble,” says Taya Cook dinner, director of improvement at City Capital Property Group and one of many undertaking’s lead builders.

Concord Metrotown Gear Room (Courtesy of Concord Pacific)

Harmony Metrotown Gear Room (Courtesy of Harmony Pacific)

When CBRE put out a report on facilities to count on within the 2020s (revealed months earlier than the pandemic), it identified that, with a rising variety of folks working from dwelling, there will likely be demand for co-working areas that function each quiet rooms and tech-filled assembly areas. Commonplace gyms of yesteryear will give approach to expansive health centres with devoted areas for barre or Pilates—or tools like Peloton and Mirror, a wise mirror that streams health lessons on demand, says CBRE’s West. A rising gaming tradition will carry again full-sized retro arcade video games of the ’80s—suppose Pac-Man. Rooms for a DIY era would possibly cater to these into welding, bike restore, gardening and even knitting.

READ: Why everybody can purchase actual property in…Brantford?

However the report additionally emphasizes how “neighborhood is the brand new amenity.” In Calgary, the condominium undertaking Nude advertises itself not as a construction with 177 properties, however slightly “an ecosystem” that’s “curated by a neighborhood coordinator” who organizes occasions for residents, from Ping-Pong tournaments to rooftop backyard gatherings. Two kilometres east on 14th Avenue SW, in one in every of Calgary’s latest downtown rental residences, the Underwood has a “way of life concierge,” who helps introduce residents to neighbourhood cocktail bars, eating places and retailers.

“We all the time say you probably have one pal at a property, your possibilities of transferring out on the finish of the lease go down 25 per cent,” says Mike Brescia, vice-president of the Calgary-based actual property firm Western Securities, which developed the Underwood. “When you’ve got two mates, it’s 50 per cent. When you’ve got three mates, your possibilities of transferring out are very low.”

The Concord’s garden features a pond that turns into a private skating rink (Courtesy of Concord Pacific)

The Harmony’s backyard includes a pond that turns into a non-public skating rink (Courtesy of Harmony Pacific)

Many new condominium and residence towers have sufficient items to populate a complete village—although the age demographic gained’t be almost as numerous. “The market is essentially nonetheless folks of their 20s, 30s, 40s; prosperous, able-bodied folks,” says Shim. “The facilities are inclined to mirror their wants.”

For luxurious builders, based on a 2018 report from worldwide actual property agency Engel & Völkers Americas, the goal consumer is HENRY—an acronym for “excessive earner, not wealthy but,” who’s born within the ’80s or ’90s and has a family earnings exceeding US$100,000. How does one appeal to this particular person? Whereas a survey of HENRYs discovered that condominium finishes and site are most necessary, a majority confirmed that facilities are what outline luxurious. “We’re such a good distance away from after we talked about making a constructing the place the supplies are sturdy and it doesn’t require a lot upkeep, and it has wonderful gentle and air flow,” says Matthew Soules, an affiliate professor on the College of British Columbia’s faculty of structure. “It’s a shift to the pool, the BMW fleet and this obsession with loopy kitchen home equipment. They’ll speak in regards to the fridge, however not about what it’s prefer to stay within the unit.”

To Lehrer, the York professor, there’s irony in metropolis dwellers embracing a life-style surrounded by facilities. “It’s introduced as city, whereas on the similar time it destroys the city within the metropolis,” she says. Lehrer factors to swimming swimming pools: as a rising variety of condominium developments provide their very own swimming pools, there’s much less assist for funding public ones and, progressively, these with out the means to afford condominium residing get pleasure from much less entry to swimming; in consequence, everybody mixes much less, and the neighborhood as a complete suffers for it.

The identical goes for the libraries or canine parks now turning up in condominium complexes, she says. “There’s a downward spiral for supporting public facilities when we now have them proper at our doorsteps or inside our buildings. By going out, you take part in and create city life. You may have likelihood encounters with others, which you don’t have in an residence constructing since you’re kind of the identical neighborhood.”

Over time, Lehrer says, this drift “homogenizes” the town. “It’s a Buyers Drug Mart on the backside of your condominium, not a second-hand ebook retailer.”

The Saint's salt meditation room (Courtesy of Minto)

The Saint’s salt meditation wall in Toronto (Courtesy of Minto)

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Sabine Grimes retains a photograph album of defunct amenity areas. As founding father of the inside design group Unison, she ceaselessly visits residential towers years after residents have moved in, to assist reimagine underutilized areas. “Digital golf is one,” she says. “There’s often just one resident in 3,000 that performs—and the partitions are completely broken with golf balls hitting them.” The identical applies to the compulsory large bar within the condominium get together room: “The truth is you by no means have a bartender, so that you by no means use the bar.”

In the meantime, in lots of complexes, there’s not sufficient house to accommodate traits just like the explosion of on-line purchasing—together with meals supply—which requires cupboard space for parcels and fridges for groceries.

In a way, then, Grimes measures the space between the lives condominium dwellers imagined and those they really lead. “There are facilities and bells and whistles that need to be added to the advertising materials for it to be interesting,” she says. “However the reality is, that phrase—‘interesting’—has no direct correlation with the happiness and satisfaction of residents.”

That may hit dwelling when residents begin scrutinizing the charges related to their extras. When Shim was president of her condominium board in Toronto, she developed a pet peeve about sizzling tubs: the one in her advanced sat principally empty, she says, whereas the neighborhood paid ongoing prices to maintain it in compliance with Toronto Public Well being guidelines. And when builders began placing in mountain climbing partitions on new tasks, Shim notes, condominium boards have been fast to take them down due to the exorbitant insurance coverage prices.

Tridel's MRKT Alexandra Park Condos in Toronto. The Kids Zone and Youth Zone are where children and teens can go to meet, exchange ideas and let their creativity run free—all while being just steps from home. (Courtesy of Tridel)

MRKT’s Youngsters Zone in Toronto (Courtesy of Tridel)

Grimes has realized in the middle of her work that generally the best of facilities work greatest. “Crops are one thing appreciated on a regular basis,” she says. “Oddly, they don’t seem to be integrated within the typical condominium.”

All of which makes the feel-good initiative between Vancouver Home and World Housing look comparatively helpful—extra so, maybe, than the fleet of German-engineered vehicles. Cynics would possibly dismiss it as signalling aimed to please planning authorities, or a jaundiced public watching its cities rework for the advantage of the prosperous.

However inside months of Oram shopping for his condominium in 2014, a Cambodian household had moved into the house linked to his buy. It will be one other 5 years earlier than he moved into his personal place at Vancouver Home, by which era a few of the authentic consumers had already offered off their items as funding flips. However he stayed, conserving a plaque very like the one contained in the Cambodian dwelling in his personal suite “to really feel related” to the neighborhood he’d helped on the opposite facet of the planet. “Their properties have been primary,” he says, “however there have been facilities for the brand new villages, like swings and a koi pond. You possibly can see the distinction it will make to be in a secure, sheltered surroundings.”


This text seems in print within the March 2021 subject of Maclean’s journal with the headline, “The amenity wars.” Subscribe to the month-to-month print journal right here.

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