The president of Cityzen Development Group tells us which Toronto neighbourhoods will be the next to explode onto the condo market.
How do you choose a site to build on?
The same way a consumer shops: It’s about the neighbourhood first. If I’m looking for a site, it has to be in a neighbourhood that I would want to live in. That’s important to me.
Have developers gotten a bad reputation?
They have in the past. And some deserved it, obviously. You can’t just be motivated by profit. I enjoy my work; I love what I do. I’m not here out of the goodness of my heart, but I’m rewarded when someone says I’ve done an amazing project that people enjoy living in.
There’s a criticism of condo development in Toronto that tiny, 400-square-foot units don’t give people any room to grow. What would it take to build larger units downtown?
I don’t disagree that some units are too small. It’s because buildings are targeting investors. An end-user who lives there will want something bigger. It’s difficult to have one person in 400 square feet, let alone two, especially when a child comes along. Cityzen has resisted these small units. Right now, we’re building Backstage, on The Esplanade, and the smallest unit is 670 square feet.
You evolve into a home. You can’t think, “This is the permanent home I’m going to live in for 20 or 30 years.” My wife and I, our first home was an entry-level condo. Then we moved to a single-family home in Richmond Hill. Now we’re back downtown, in one of our buildings.
My experience in Mississauga has been interesting. The demographic spectrum is mainly South Asian, and I found that different family members would buy units in the same building. So to some degree a family can do that with a condo— buy different units.
What are Toronto’s next big neighbourhoods?
Toronto’s east end is on fire. From Yonge to the Don Valley, almost every piece of property has been purchased by a major developer. South of King is going to be an amazing place; we’ve been there a long, long time. The Athlete’s Village for the 2015 Pan Am Games has a lot to do with it, obviously, and the St. Lawrence Market. There are trees and green space. It’s a true neighbourhood with fantastic amenities. As you move south down to the waterfront, from Yonge to Cherry, great things are going to happen there in the next five years.