Do you care what your condominium’s exterior is made up of?
There are a LOT of items on the average condo buyer’s checklist, and while buyers will tell me about location, building style, age, and the layout of the unit they desire, rarely does somebody tell me, “I want a building made of red brick.”
Buyers give thought to the condominium unit itself, and not so much consideration goes to the building as a whole, and its construction.
But what’s that old nursery rhyme – about the house made from straw, the one made from sticks, and the one made of bricks?
Perhaps my analogy isn’t wholly accurate here, since there are no condos made from straw in Toronto. I think a couple of the more infamous Toronto condo developers might have come close to pulling that off a few times, but what few building regulations we still have in this province likely stopped that from happening…
I also don’t want the “Three Little Pigs” analogy to lead you to believe that brick is the most superior, or most sought-after building material for condominiums, but unfortunately none of the three pigs had tempered glass with which to construct a home.
If you look around downtown Toronto these days, you’ll notice that most new condominiums are being built from glass.
Part of this is due to a trend, but I have to think part of this has to do with cost as well.
I’m not a condo developer, nor is this my forte, but from what I’ve been told – red brick is more expensive than panes of glass, and it’s far more labour intensive to construct a condo from brick, than glass.
As I said – I think part of the reason we’ve seen the shift to glass construction is due to the lower cost, but I also think that trends change over time, and you can clearly trace the history of the condominium construction in Toronto and see what developers were building with during different periods.
In the 1980’s, it was all red brick and concrete.
Consider something like 86 Gloucester Street, built in 1977:
This is what we were accustomed to seeing when condominiums were first being built in Toronto, and the same can be said for apartment buildings. We know how poorly some concrete buildings age, however. Some of the ugliest buildings in Toronto are made of concrete – and the photo below is a classic example:
When you think about some of the original buildings in Toronto’s waterfront area, the following comes to mind:
That’s Harbour Square, which is an extremely popular complex. But it certainly doesn’t have the cool, sexy, sleek look that so many of today’s buyers covet in a condo, whether warranted, or not.
Many of the late-70’s and early-80’s buildings were also made of red brick, and “The Summit” complex at 705, 715, and 725 King Street West comes to mind:
The trend continued well into the 1990’s, and while we saw a lot of buildings still made of concrete, brick was quite prevalent as well. In fact, the brick/concrete combo was probably the most common.
In my neighbourhood down in the St. Lawrence Market, all the original buildings were of this construction. The condo boom took off in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s in this area, and the first buildings constructed were the following:
39 Jarvis Street – The Saint James – 1999
313-323 Richmond Street – The Richmond – 1999
168 King Street – King George Square – 2000
Note that all three of these buildings were constructed from the brick and concrete combination that was so prevalent during that time.
So when did the change occur?
We see so many glass towers in the downtown core, and you might think that most condominiums are made of glass panels, since just about every one under construction is glass.
It’s tough to pinpoint, but I’d say it was the early-to-mid 2000’s when we really saw glass construction take off.
There was a lot more competition among developers for the dollar of the average condo buyer, speculator, or investor, and the way buildings were marketed changed, and so too did the way they were constructed.
Condo names became far more important, as did all other facets of their marketing.
Consider how successful “X Condo” was because of its sharp name – the “X,” as well as the sleek, dark black glass that Toronto had never seen before:
This project did X-ceptionally well in pre-sales, and I think it really helped shape the way condos were constructed through the following years.
In the mid-2000’s, glass was all the rage.
Consider buildings like Murano on Grosvenor & Grenville:
That “style” was what defined a half-decade of condo construction, and we all know from countless articles and news reports that glass panes have been known to fall and smash on the street below. It’s happened probably a half-dozen times that have been well documented, and who knows how many more that have gone unnoticed.
Glass construction was (and still may be…) considered sleek, cool, sexy, modern, and a host of other adjectives that basically serve to say it’s “new” and nothing like old buildings in Toronto that buyers don’t want anything to do with.
I can tell you as an agent that works with a lot of downtown buyers – most people don’t want “old.” Some value the larger spaces for a much lower price-per-square-foot, but as condo buyers are averaging about 4-years in their spaces before selling, many buyers worry about buying an “older” condo and reselling it in 3-5 years.
The trend towards “new” continues, as it began a decade ago.
The trend towards “glass,” however, seems to have ceased, after being dominant for so long.
Builders are still primarily using glass, however the boutique projects that are gaining attention are often a throwback to the old days of red brick.
Consider “The Berczy” on Front Street, which I think has to be one of the most successful new projects in the last few years. This project sold quicker than anything I know of, and very few units have been available on the resale market:
It’s absolutely beautiful.
It’s a classic red-brick podium that blends in with the Flat Iron building across the street, and you would barely notice where the condominium ends and the 1880’s red brick building next door (to the west) begins.
It’s funny how some fashions go out, and come back.
Look no further than bathroom floor mosaic tiles for a current example:
This style was very “out” in the 90’s, as I think it dated back to the 70’s (forgive me as I wasn’t alive, nor am I a fashionista), and it was considered brutally ugly for a time.
But now, the hexagonal black-and-white mosaic is making a huge comeback:
I’m sure you have a friend who just put this in their new bathroom, and it’s nothing more than a new spin on an old style.
It’s like when “big sunglasses” made a comeback in 2005-06, after being out of style since the 1980’s.
So the question remains: do you care what your condominium’s exterior is made up of?
And if so, do you value that? Would you add weight to a certain type of construction as you search prospective condos and look at the differences between them?
I have two clients right now, one in his late-20’s, and one set of retired downsizers, who unequivocally want red-brick construction.
Perhaps it reminds them of a house, or perhaps it’s just less sterile than the sleek, glass buildings that so many other condo buyers seek.
Or maybe they’re just after the “charm” that some condos lack. Consider the black gated entranceway of King George Square:
That’s charming, and quaint, and as a result, it’s quite private.
So aside from the doomsayers who will say, “All those glass panels are going to implode in twenty years,” I would very much like to know – do any of you consider what the condo’s exterior is made up of?
Or is it all about your living space inside?Back To Top Back To Comments