$900 Per Square Foot At Festival Tower?


6 minute read

April 8, 2011


Insulting.  Pathetic.

I can’t believe that this worked.  I can’t believe that labelling units with “DiCaprio” and “Jolie” has resulted in $900 per square foot for slightly-better-than-average condos in an overbought building in the downtown core.

Is our society really that celebrity obsessed?

From time to time, I’ve been known to go back and read some of my own blog posts.  I have my “favourites,” and on a lonely Friday night, I like to curl up by the fire and read my own thoughts while patting myself on my own back.

It’s no different than watching my old karate videos, or basking in the glory of my high school diploma…..which I do every third Thursday of the month.

But of all the posts I’ve ever written, my favourite, if I do say so myself, has to be the one about Festival Tower.

You can read it, in all its glory, HERE.

I laughed at the idea of this project when it first came out, and I absolutely PITY the people who pay $900/sqft to live here so that they can claim they live in the “Bardot” unit, as if they have ever seen one of her black and white movies…

The marketing for this project was nothing more than sex, sex, yuppie needs, and more sex.

Don’t believe me?  Do me a favour and click on that link above so that I don’t have to repeat myself.

I’ll be the first to admit that sex sells, and I’ll be the first to admit that our city is full of yuppies who need dog walkers, cooks, dry-cleaning, valets, and slaves to pick up after them, but don’t they all live in Yorkville?

And there is the rub, as Festival Tower is essentially the Yorkville of downtown.

And with Trump Tower and Shangri-La going up just around the corner, I’m wondering if perhaps this is the future of condominium living in Toronto.

A few months back, a client of mine expressed interest in a unit over on Blue Jays Way that had been listed, unsuccessfully, about 18 months back.  We re-visited the unit and it showed just as nicely as it did back in 2009 when it didn’t sell.

So we took the next step and inquired about the price, thinking that if they couldn’t sell it back in 2009 for $1.5 Million, then perhaps they’d come to their senses now and lop off a hundred-grand or so.  But to our shock and amazement, the listing agent said that his client wanted $1.8 Million!  I almost dropped my filet mignon right there on the floor!

The listing agent surmised that “Festival Tower is going for over eight-hundred a square!  That’s gonna drive up the prices of everything in the area!”

Agree to disagree.

Sure, Festival Tower might bring more notoriety to the area.

But just because your ugly ass stands next to a super-model doesn’t mean you’re equally as pretty…

I just don’t understand today’s consumer.

Wait, back up.  I guess I don’t understand today’s society.

Having written a very right-wing, self-entitled post the other day about the future of TTC in Toronto, perhaps this might seem like incongruity, but I don’t understand this Jersey-Shore-watching, Prada-bag-carrying, Star-magazine-reading culture that is obsessed with celebrities, or more to the point – people who play them on TV.

I heard that that awful human being known as Snooki wrote a book, or rather, a book was written for her (and likely read to her) and put on bookshelves everywhere.  Who the hell wants to read the moronic ramblings of a girl with a IQ of 85 who is slightly smarter than Forest Gump although with half the common sense?

What could Snooki possibly have to say that is worth reading?  Do I care about where she grew up, what she thinks about America, or how much mayonaise she can eat right out of the jar without throwing up?

I’d rather take a homeless person out for a coffee and hear his life story.  I can guarantee it would be more interesting.

These “TV personalities” aren’t celebrities!  But when you watch their stupid shows, all you do as add value to the crap they are pitching.  I fear that the next generation of teenagers will watch this and aspire to also do nothing with their lives, but they’ll promptly complain when they realize that they can’t work 20 hours per week at a bookstore and spend $100,000 on consumer goods each year.

So, at the risk of getting (far) off topic here, I suppose the point I’m trying to make is this: I firmly believe that part of the success of Festival Tower has to do with the fact that it’s marketed around famous movie stars and with the promise that there will be Toronto International Film Festival screenings in the building once per year.  And if you’re lucky, you might hob-nob at some after-parties in the building as well.

So is that really worth over-paying for?  If you pay $900/sqft for your condo, when you could live around the corner at 270 Wellington for $450/sqft, or even in prime King West (Freed-ville) for $600/sqft, are you going to get your fill by attending a party with one of those kids who plays a vampire on TV?

And this is exactly what I’m talking about!  One successful vampire television show gave birth to two or three others!

Is there no originality left in the world?

Are we only buying condos because they’re named after people with greater lives than us?

How much more would the “Sheen” model condo sell for today than three months ago?

Can investors parlay “winning” and “tiger blood” into $950/sqft?  $1000?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m insanely jealous that I didn’t purchase the “Keaton” unit for $355,900 back in June of 2007, since it’s now listed on MLS for $579,000 – a mere $200,000 profit inside of four years with only 20% down.

But is that Michael Keaton of Batman and Multiplicity fame?  Or is that Diane Keaton from The Godfather and a host of crappy chick-flicks for middle-aged women?

Wait a minute!  Maybe it’s Buster Keaton of 1920’s silent-film fame!  “The Great Stone Face,” as he was known, was one of the best actors of his generation – a generation that didn’t need to talk in movies, thus leaves the “evaluation” of acting talents somewhat up in the air, but I digress.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties!  Who wouldn’t want a condo named after Michael J. Fox?

“Doc, you’d better back the Delorian up a bit if we’re gonna reach 88 miles per hour.”

So what are consumers really buying here?

Are they buying the “SCENE ONE” as featured in the original marketing material for Festival Tower:

“Handsome, 30ish, investment banker awakes in his king-sized bed at Festival Tower to the sound of his alarm clock.  he bolts upright and punches his speed dial to the Resident Services Director.  “Dana?  Can you have the restaurant send up coffee, eggs over easy, and a multi-grain roll?”  He hangs up and dials the doorman.  “Hello, Sylvio.  I’m running a bit late this morning.  Can you have my car in front by 8:30?  Great.  Thank you.”  One more number, “Hey, George.  My double-breasted blue suit, is it ready?”  I need it tonight.  Perfect.  You can leave it with the concierge and I’ll get it later.  Thanks.”

I supose they are.

I suppose there are some people that are lazy and/or rich enough to lead the hotel lifestyle while living in a condominium.

As I wrote in my blog post last year, the original marketing for Festival Tower was aimed at the most obnoxious and self-absorbed demographic of our society.  They pitched the idea of the good-looking, stylish woman calling the concierge and arranging for a dog-walker to take her stupid purse-sized-dog out for a piss twice per day, and all I could think was, “God, I never want to be that much of a yuppie.”

Don’t get me wrong – I aspire to the finer things in life.  But the marketing for Festival Tower took this to a whole new level.

And with 55 active listings for units at Festival Tower as of Friday morning, I’m wondering how this is all going to play out.

Units are priced from the high $700’s per square foot to the low $900’s.

I would say that the ‘average’ for downtown Toronto condos in C01 & C08 is likely somewhere around $550/sqft.   You do have some older buildings in the mid $300’s (think of Indigo on Lombard where the $0.90/sqft maintenance fees), and you’ve got new, sexy, hot, and hip projects that have topped $600/sqft like what we’ve seen in recent years in Freed-Ville, but I ca’nt wrap my head around the pricing at Festival Tower!

Let’s say that you do get to smoke a cigar with Sylvester Stallone after a TIFF screening this September – is it really worth the price of admission?

Yes, you have valet parking, room service, and a “screening theatre” that you would likely never use, but does all this add up to paying DOUBLE what it costs to live at The Icon on Wellington?

It makes no sense.

Exactly like that.

It makes no sense.

I feel like I repeat myself a lot on this blog – “It makes no sense.  Why do people do A, B, or C?  Why do people buy here, here, or here?”  It almost gets rhetorical at some point.  We know that consumers don’t always make the most sensible purchases, but the real estate market combines a consumer purchase with both an investment and a life decision.

That life decision stems from a person’s lifestyle, and I think the people who pay $800 – $900 per square foot to live in a condo with unnecessary bells & whistles might also be misguided by the thought of running into Billy Ray Cyrus in the lobby of the place they call “home.”

So who benefits the most out of all this?

Likely the residents of Yorkville.

All of a sudden – the prices they pay don’t seem so bad!

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

Find Out More About David Read More Posts

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  1. moonbeam!

    at 7:27 pm

    Wouldn’t these expensive condos be purchased by jet setters who have homes in several cities/countries and don’t worry about price? A developer’s dream purchaser…
    Hopefully regular mortgage-holding folks question will these prices….

  2. moonbeam!

    at 7:31 pm

    oops…will question

  3. Clifford

    at 6:09 am

    do you here it bursting?

  4. Clifford

    at 6:10 am

    Oops, I meant “hear”. It’s early.

  5. yoda

    at 8:23 am

    Moonbeam- yourself correct you did.

  6. B

    at 12:58 pm

    What are these units actually selling for psf?

  7. Mang

    at 5:34 pm

    Great post. We just rented a unit here after taking profits on our place in “Freed-ville”. Yes, I work at a bank and although I don’t want to admit it, I guess I’m old enough to be a yuppy now. We chose here because the rental rates are on par with Freed product, but the quality of construction and amenities are next level. The rent decision was easy….not sure who is buying these units at the levels listed on MLS though.

    I’m just going to sit back this year and enjoy my pool full of hot babes and celebrities while I watch this crazy condo market finally implode.

Pick5 is a weekly series comparing and analyzing five residential properties based on price, style, location, and neighbourhood.

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