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Unique Toronto Homes

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Condos in Toronto

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Toronto Real Estate

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One Bloor finally breaks ground

Tony Wong – Yourhome.ca

David Gerofsky points his finger and is transported into the futuristic outdoor patio of One Bloor, the condominium project he is building.

Another wave of his hand, and he is in a near life-sized kitchen.

“My kids love coming here,” grins the developer. “It’s like a huge video game.”

A massive interactive screen dominates one side of the futuristic showroom, showing immersive illustrations of what is to come in arguably Toronto’s most important developable site. And starting Friday, that day is a lot closer.

After much anticipation, Gerofsky will break ground on the once controversial $450 million project at the intersection of Yonge and Bloor streets. The buildings had been razed years ago by the original developer, leaving an empty block surrounded by a metal fence. While millions have been spent on improvements on the Bloor St. corridor which is often compared to Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, the vacant lot was a reminder of failed potential, of things to come that were never realized, on what is Canada’s most expensive retail street.

“I guess there’s been this interest because there really is only one Yonge and Bloor. It’s such a unique location,” Gerofsky, president of developer Great Gulf Group of Companies said in an exclusive interview ahead of the ground breaking.

The intersection at the southeast corner at Yonge and Bloor has long caught the imagination of the public. It is the site where two major subway lines meet along the city’s “Mink Mile.”

While the lot has lain dormant for the last few years, Gerofsky promises bigger things to come. For one thing, the development is getting taller.

The project at the intersection of Yonge and Bloor streets will now soar 70 stories, with the addition of five more floors as it anchors the corridor.

“I think it was indicative of the success of the project that we decided to add more floors,” said Gerofsky. “We were being conservative when we launched, but certainly the possibility of going higher was always in the back of our minds.”

The day cannot come soon enough for realtor Anna Cass. She was one of the first in line to buy a unit. She also represented dozens of investors in the building who had purchased from her.

“I still have a rock that I kept from the first time they demolished the original buildings,” said Cass. “I can’t believe I’m going through this a second time. But I’m glad they’re finally building something. It’s been an eyesore. We have a lot of people who have been waiting a long time.”

After 15 months on the market, the project is now 85% sold.

With the additional five floors, there are now about 732 units in the building, up from nearly 700. The new penthouse is up for grabs and can be as large as 8,000 square feet depending on market demand.

The original builder, Bazis International said the penthouse had been sold in 2008 to a Hong Kong entrepreneur for a then-Canadian record of $25 million.

While the market has been buoyant for the first half of the year, questions remain as to whether the condo market is on the cusp of a bubble. On Monday, the Toronto Dominion Bank was the second bank to call for a housing correction in less than a week.

The condo markets in Toronto and Vancouver seem particularly vulnerable, with many new projects competing for buyers, said the bank.

“We can’t control economic conditions, but most of our units have already sold, and we have buyers who have put down substantial down payments for 85% of the units,” says Gerofsky. “We’re in good shape.”

Comment: Condo projects do not move forward unless there are more than 70% of units sold. With 85% sold, 623 condos, they are in fine shape. There have been a few failed projects, but the vast majority of the 280+ GTA condo projects have sold 70% or more and are moving forward. That sounds like a tremendously healthy market to me. And those are all sold with 15-25% down, remember, not just 5%. That makes for incredibly solid financial footing.

There are 100 units remaining, but the builder says he expects to sell them all before the building is complete by December of 2014.

At the base of the building there is also 100,000 square feet of retail space. Bloor St. remains Canada’s most exclusive retail strip, and the 37th most expensive in the world, according to Colliers International.

Sources say major corporations and retailers such as Apple Canada, have been eyeing the space in a bid to get on the same street as Prada and Hermes.

“We are getting interest from major Canadian and international companies who want to set up shop,” said Gerofsky. “But it’s still a while out.”

When units of the original project, then called 1 Bloor (instead of One Bloor) went on sale in 2007 at the peak of the market, people had lined up for days to get inside the sales office.

Prices famously kept changing on a billboard as people waited in line.

But it all came crashing down. Gerofksy’s company bought the land from the Kazakhstan based developer after their banker, Lehman Bros., became insolvent during the global financial crunch in 2008. The project became the poster child for developer hubris and the economic meltdown.

Comment: Not it did not. People were not quite sure what happened, but it was nothing remotely like a poster child for the failed economy to the south.

The project was scaled back when Great Gulf relaunched the centre. There is no longer a 15-storey hotel that made the building soar 80 stories.

The original buyers got their money back, but about a third decided they still liked the project enough to reinvest it into the development, says Gerofsky.

Buyers have had to be content with images of the swooping building filled with piano-like curves designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects. The ground breaking Friday is also expected to feature a large video wall with “virtual” dirt as part of the ceremonies. But buyers and city planners will likely be relieved to know that with the start of construction, the building will no longer be virtual as it finally and dramatically connects the east side of Yonge St. to the rest of the city’s Mink Mile.

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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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