We recently had the privilege of having an exclusive interview with Jim Ritchie, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and Samson Fung, Director of Strategic Marketing at Tridel. Jim and Samson discuss Via Bloor, which is sure to be one of the hottest new pre-construction condo projects of 2017. We sat down with these two key Tridel executives and spoke about their vision for Toronto’s newest Bloor Street address! We also asked their feedback on the current state of the pre-construction condo real estate market in Toronto.
“Your newest project for 2017 is Via Bloor, quite a prestigious new Bloor Street location; you must be excited about starting off the year with such an exciting new project?”
Samson: This new community is located at the corner of Bloor and Parliament, part of a four city block revitalization. It’s a site that Tridel is very excited about, with fantastic view lines over the city, as well as to the north into the Rosedale Valley and Rosedale Ravine.
Via Bloor is a two tower project. Phase One is a 38-storey tower, comprising of 372 suites, and Phase Two is a 46-storey tower, with just under 400 suites. Right now we’re launching Phase One which we’re very excited about and looking forward to.
Jim: I think this project, and what makes it exciting for us, has everything to with what it is, and where it is. The what, Samson has articulated. As for the where, today anything in downtown Toronto particularly, goes to the front of the line simply because of its downtown location. But this site specifically is exciting because of its advantage being right in the middle of two subway stations on Bloor and those view lines that Samson talked about.
“Has the address of Via Bloor actually being on Bloor Street created an opportunity for Tridel to really impact this key downtown community in a positive way?”
Jim: Definitely. Living on Bloor Street holds a coveted address that excites people. This site has the advantage of being a short walking distance to Yorkville, but without Yorkville prices, which I think is a big benefit.
But I like where Samson was going in terms of the revitalization of that part of the city, starting at Parliament Street. We were attracted to the fantastic location; we really love the fact that it’s situated between two subway stops, and next to the ravine. Our Via Bloor development will dramatically change this corner – the two towers will sit atop an expansive retail base, and we are redeveloping the streetscape with pedestrian-friendly, widened sidewalks and parks to extend Yorkville to the east. That together with an outstanding architectural design from architectsAlliance, we think we have a winner.
“Would you say there is a specific real estate investor or first time condo buyer that Via Bloor will appeal to?”
Jim: As with the majority of Tridel projects, we design a building that will appeal to a large demographic group. The building is not designed for a specific segment of the marketplace, but we try to touch all of the bases. So of course we have one, two, and three bedroom suites. We think there’s something in this product mix that would appeal to a wide range of buyers, whether they’re buying specifically for investment or they’re looking for a quality built home downtown Toronto. That’s the common denominator with a Tridel home.
“Are there any special amenities for Via Bloor that stand out?”
Jim: You take it for granted that in a building of this size and scope, there is going to be a wide range of amenities, which there is. The amenities take up almost the entire fourth floor, together with an outdoor amenity that pops out on the fifth level. So really, it’s the full gamut of amenities here, including an outdoor pool and large party rooms.
Samson: At Via Bloor we used the internationally-renowned interior design firm II BY IV to design the amenity spaces as well as the lobbies. There are two separate lobbies for each of the two buildings. The fourth floor amenity space is approximately 17,000 square feet of interior amenities – which is a generous amount of space for a downtown project these days- but on top of that, part of our redevelopment process will involve us creating two outdoor parks. One directly on the corner of Bloor and Parliament and a second on the south side of Howard Street. So that’s all part of the master planned community, as well as retail on the base.
Jim: I think the amenity offering on its own is a big attribute to the community. In addition, there will be just over 16,000 square feet of ground floor retail that will front on to Bloor on the north side of the project, and onto Howard Street to the south, including an additional independent retail pod directly on Bloor.
Via Bloor’s Amenities and Retail Space. North Side of the two towers on Bloor Street.
“Is there anything that you have done new or differently with Via Bloor, compared to what you have done in the past?”
Jim: The nice thing about buying in a Tridel community is that we’ve been doing this for a long, long time. Having an organization that has built over 80,000 homes over the last 80-plus years, gives you broader breadth of experience. So what we like to do is take lessons learned and improve. In this particular application, all this knowledge got rolled into this new building with the latest technologies, state of the art finishes, and we are using very, very accomplished consultants. We think the overall package is outstanding. It’s done to a very high level of finish.
Samson: There are a few things that are relatively new, even for us, being done on the technology side. One thing that we’re doing is “future proofing” for the smart home technology going into condominiums. For example, we have an internet package deal with Rogers where we can get 100 megabit service with unlimited usage to each and every individual condo, with the cost included in the maintenance fees.
Jim: We treat the Internet as a utility in our buildings. Everybody understands the importance of Internet access, so that’s why it’s done in that manner. It’s a big benefit to the residents there, plus it fits together with the wide ranging smart home technology we are incorporating into the building
Samson: There will be at least one Tridel Smart Home wall pad in each of the suites that help enhance security in terms of video and access controls. As well, there will be a licence plate recognition system that provides access to the garage. If the resident’s vehicle is registered in the system, it will automatically read your licence plate and open the door for you, similarly to how the 407 works. It also has a system in place for visitors so that residents can register their guests.
Jim: Couple that with state of the art energy efficiency. The building itself is designed to achieve a LEED® Gold status.
“Parking is becoming more and more of an issue for condo owners, is there a sufficient amount of parking available for Via Bloor?”
Samson: We will have an approximate 60 percent parking unit to suite ratio, which is reasonably high for a downtown project. That will allow us to provide parking to all of the two and three bedroom suites, as well as to the vast majority of the one-plus-den suites, and potentially an opportunity for the smaller suites.
“Are there timelines in place yet for Via Bloor?”
Jim: We are going to release all of the sales information on the weekend of January 21, and we’ll be in a position mid-February to commence contracts. The scheduled completion date for Phase One is early 2021.
“What are your views on the current state of the condo real estate market?”
Jim: We just ended our best year ever at Tridel, so I guess we’d agree with you that the market is good. Clearly the real estate market is robust and that in combination with the very high cost of single family homes in Toronto in particular, makes condo living a more compelling and affordable alternative for home ownership in the city. I think there’s a direct correlation between the cost of housing, the more typical detached housing, and what’s affordable today in a condo. Also, the low interest rate environment is a big factor. I don’t think that this year we’re going to see much difference from what we experienced in 2016.
“Quality has always been a key pillar for Tridel. We heard there was a bit of an issue over the holidays with a water leak at one of your new buildings. Are you proud of the way Tridel handled this situation?”
Jim: That’s absolutely true. Sometimes these things happen, but it is how you deal with them that makes a difference. Our teams spent an incredible amount of time and effort over the Christmas holidays to make sure that we could help the residents in that particular building. We have very experienced and supportive Construction and Customer Care teams, and our commitment to customers doesn’t stop at the original point of sale.
“Any advice for a Toronto pre-construction real estate investor or a first time condo purchaser?”
Jim: Well I think we always tell people to have due diligence and to do their homework. I think it’s important that with such an expensive undertaking on behalf of the individual, that they’re working with a development partner or a reputable builder who has experience and can deliver a quality product. You know that the market is hot, I understand, but I don’t think people should rush into decisions unless everything has been checked very carefully, including their own financial affairs and of course again, their builder.
Thank you Jim Ritchie and Samson Fung for your insider details! Wishing you the very best for Via Bloor; a condo development we’re sure will be a key contribution to Bloor St.