New Development of The Week: Huntington

Oh the irony!

As I sit here typing this post on my blog, my back is absolutely throbbing!

The ironic part?  The project I’m writing about, Huntington, is going to be built on the site where the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College was just recently demolished…

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Dictionary.com defines “luxury” as a free or habitual indulgence in or enjoyment of comforts and pleasures in addition to those necessary for a reasonable standard of well being.

I’m not a linguistics major, but that definition hardly reeks of what most of us consider luxury.  When I think “luxury,” I sure don’t think of the word “reasonable.”

Huntington is definitely a “luxury” condominium, but it is also quite rare and quite unique.  There are a lot of expensive condominiums in the city, but that doesn’t necessarily deem these places to be worth the price of admission.  I have gone on and on about Yorkville and the obscene prices people pay to live there, and to this day I still don’t understand it.

But despite the high price of Huntington, I still see value in this project.

First off, look at where the building will be situated: half-way in between Leaside & Lawrence Park.  While both are considered “family neighborhoods,” I think very few people in the city have the luxury of living in an area as nice as either Leaside or Lawrence Park.

As the baby-boomers move towards retirement, a noticeable trend has already begun with respect to their houses and their futures.  While these people might not have the need for a million-dollar home and the space that it provides, they also don’t want to move out of the area.

Kilgour Estates was built behind the northern-most boundary of Leaside, just off Bayview Avenue near the CNIB.  I personally know 4-5 parents of people I grew up with who sold their houses in Leaside and moved into condominiums in Kilgour Estates.  They want to continue living nearby, but don’t need the space the house used to provide, and don’t want the upkeep that comes with home ownership.

But Kilgour Estates is quite large and houses several different towers in addition to the townhouses which are ample.

This brings us to Huntington.  Literally across the street from Kilgour Estates, Huntington is a smaller project (only one building) and is of the highest quality imaginable.

The land where the condominium will be built is located on a hillside that slopes down into a natural ravine.  The architect for the project asks the potential buyer to picture “a European manor set in the woods that overlooks the water below.”

The developers said they looked at the homes in New York in the area around Madison & Fifth Avenues for inspiration, and while I only have the artists renderings for comparison, I can say that the quality and style are somewhat comparable.

There are many “luxury” condominiums being built in downtown Toronto but I was rather amazed just by the package alone that Huntington sent out to promote their development.  Usually, a marketing team puts together a 30-page booklet on paper and sticks it in an envelope.  But Huntington went above and beyond anything I’ve seen before – they used a flip-book similar to what you’d find wedding photos in, and put it inside a thick, slick box with embossed lettering.  Check out this picture:

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Hmmm….when I see this package for Huntington, I immediately associate it with this:

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I’m never going to be woo’ed by flashy marketing, but when you open this package from Huntington, you just feel like the project is something special – and take this from the most cynical critic you’ve ever met!

Bottom line: this is a building for rich people who want to be pampered.  Keep in mind that there are a lot of those buildings in Toronto already, the only difference is that Huntington is a fraction of the cost!

You want bells & whistles?  The Huntington has them all: large indoor lap pool, hot tub, sauna, fully-stocked exercise room with personal trainers, and all the other stuff that most people take for granted (party room, library, guest suites, courtyard, etc.)  But all these amenities are of the highest quality, and you know that the 24-hour concierge isn’t some outsourced “security guard,” but rather a staff that will pamper and adore you and cater to your every need like the finest hotel.

I’m not in the market for a “luxury condo,” nor do I see myself living in one.  I see no value in Four Seasons or Shangri-La, but I see a ton of value in Huntington.

Why?

The price!

Keep in mind that there are no small units at The Huntington; the suites start at $1,000,000 for a 1690-sqft unit.

I talk about the “price per square foot” quite a bit when I delve into pre-construction, and you have to keep in mind that more often than not, you’re comparing apples to oranges.  So if I review a typical new development by Freed Developments in King West or one being promoted by Brad Lamb in King East, this is a completely different animal from something of a luxury status like Huntington.

This is why I’m absolutely dumbfounded by the price of the entry level unit: $591 per square foot.

I’ve seen crummy 1-bedroom condos approach the $600/sqft figure like at Market Wharf or King East, and the quality of the construction, design, features & finishes, and amenities pails in comparison to that of Huntington.

You have to remember that these units are not just 1-bedroom or 2-bedroom condos, but rather a home within a condominium building.  The unit might have 2-bedrooms like something we see downtown, but it will have a living room, family room, a realdining room (ie. one that isn’t combined with the living room), a library, a den, a study, and an eat-in kitchen.

The largest units at Huntington are priced upwards of $932 per square foot, but they come with an asterisk since the $5,600,000 price tag includes not only the 6005 square feet of living space, but also 4110 square feet in private terrace overlooking the ravine and green space.

Just think about that for a moment: four-thousand square feet of terrace!  And this isn’t included in the price per square foot calculation!

When you look at the Four Seasonsin Yorkville, and consider that suites are selling for upwards of $1600/sqft, you may get to live in “trendy” “upscale” Yorkville, but you sure as hell aren’t getting a 4000-sqft private terrace thrown into the deal!

Apples to apples, peaches, pears and plums…

We’re looking at different locations, different spaces, and different lifestyles, but surely we can draw some comparisons on the price.

Do I understand the “luxury condo buyer?”  No, I don’t.

But when I think “luxury,” I definitely think of a 4000 sqft terrace overlooking a ravine from the 9th floor before I think of a concrete & glass tomb on the 65th floor overlooking smaller, less luxurious buildings…

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