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Tag Archives: urban fabric

The Un-Condo

Ryan Starr – Toronto Star

Developer Neil Spiegel has long felt that Toronto needs more flat-style condominiums, the sorts of residences you’d find in cities like London, New York or Chicago.

“In New York they have brownstones with one person per floor, and in Chicago there are tons of purpose-built rental buildings that have been turned into condominiums,” says Spiegel, the co-founder of Oxygen, a company that is setting out to transform Toronto’s old lowrise multi-unit rental buildings into modern and energy-efficient condos.

“Toronto has been completely lacking in that (kind of flat-style condo offering),” Spiegel says. “I think it’s a nice part of the urban fabric in those other places, and it can be here, especially as Toronto intensifies and runs out of land.”

Oxygen’s maiden development, Lytton Park Suites, is a refurbished older building at the corner of Lytton Blvd. and Avenue Rd. that includes six two-bedroom homes.

Oxygen is marketing Lytton Park Suites as the “un-condo.”

For starters, Spiegel says, it’s an existing lowrise building that’s located in an established urban area, not a “perpetual construction zone.”

And at a minimum size of 1,000 square feet, the suites are larger than similarly priced condos located elsewhere in the 416. “They feel like homes,” he says, “not little boxes.”

The condo fees – 20 cents per square foot – are lower than average. Best of all, the developer notes, “no elevator waits, no long hallway trudges and no scary parking garages.”

Four of the suites have been built and two are under construction. The first unit sold for $639,000 and two other units were available at press time: a 1,053-square-foot lower-level suite for $449,000, and a 1,287-square-foot upper level unit for $594,000.

Lytton Park Suites is aimed at wealthier young professionals or downsizing older couples. “These aren’t entry level,” says Spiegel.

But the prices are low enough to enable more modestly endowed buyers to get into a neighbourhood they otherwise would’ve been priced out of had they been seeking a detached home. “For a teeny bungalow in this area, it would cost you $950,000,” Spiegel says, “and it would cost you $2.5 million for a fancy-pants house.”

The Lytton Park homes are being put on the market one by one as they are finished.

“Because it’s an existing building we can’t do the showroom game,” Spiegel says. “You come and see what you’re going to get.”

The suites have open-concept living and dining rooms, balconies, storage and parking.

Kitchens come with a gas stove, quartz countertop and walnut-veneer cabinetry. Bathrooms have dual-flush toilets and glass-framed showers.

Given Spiegel’s past Green Party allegiances, it’s no surprise this project is an eco-friendly one.

Lytton Park Suites has a geothermal heating and cooling system and solar electric photovoltaic panels to generate energy. The building’s walls are lined with spray foam insulation and the suites are equipped with water-saving fixtures, energy-efficient lighting and radiant floor heating.

“I make buildings that I’d want to live in,” says Spiegel, who actually does own a home in one of his previous developments.

Spiegel, who graduated from Harvard with a bachelor of arts, describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur.”

Before he worked in development he was an Internet software architect. “I got involved in the dot-com world with a startup that went through a lot of investor money between 1999 and 2001,” he says.

Spiegel was also a Green Party candidate for Parkdale-High Park, running in the 2003 provincial election and in the federal election the following year. “In the Green Party, if you had a presence in an area you would just kind of hold the banner during any of the elections you could,” he says.

Around the same time he began dabbling in development, purchasing dilapidated buildings and turning them into rental properties. He also started building custom homes.

In 2006, Spiegel shifted his focus to converting multi-unit rental buildings into condos.

His first development, Urban Green Living, is located on High Park Blvd. The project includes four luxury condos in a reconstructed older building. All the units are over 2,000 square feet, each with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms.

Urban Green Living was completed in 2009. That same year Spiegel joined forces with Evan Johnsen, a fellow entrepreneur with a background in marketing and construction, to form Oxygen.

From the outset the mission of their company was clear, Spiegel says. “We wanted to take older buildings and do good things to them, to make them into better buildings.

“You know, caring about the building a little bit.

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.