condo amenities

Condo Amenities For The New Age


5 minute read

July 20, 2018

You read Wednesday’s blog, and you probably agreed, and disagreed, with an equal amount of what I wrote.

You probably ranked certain amenities higher than others, and vice versa.

I’d like to think that many, if not most of you, agreed that things like virtual golf simulators belong in a fifth-tier of sorts, but having said that, I might be in the minority in that thinking, at least if you speak to developers of new condos who all seem to be one-upping each other these days.

Perhaps I’m missing a major societal trend.

Call it a shift, if you will.

We all know that real estate prices have skyrocketed in Toronto over the past decade, and many young people today are giving up the plan, or dream, of owning a freehold home, and are planting roots in a condo, at least for now.

So perhaps larger, better, and fancier amenities, which may have once seemed outlandish, are actually going to be more functional and useful than in years before.

I’m not suggesting that the “box in the sky” is going to become the sole place to live, sleep, eat, play, and socialize as we move into the future, but having some of these amenities at your fingertips might prove to be a time-saver, and a money-saver as well.

Now before I delve into some of the newer ideas out there, first let me say that if you’re a condo-buyer, you must understand there’s a difference between how amenities are marketed in brochures, and how they look in person.

Take this pool, for example:

condo amenities

Doesn’t the guy look like Sam Swarek from Rookie Blue?

In any event, we’ve got two young, good-looking, physically-fit people romancing in a PG-13 way in an empty pool that looks like it’s about 200-feet long.

There’s nobody sitting at the tables on the right.

There’s nobody inside in the…….lounge(?), on the left.

Don’t even get me started on the moonlight, and the Bob-Ross-esque sky.

In reality, this is what rooftop condo pools look like:

condo amenities

That may as well be a live-shot of the rooftop pool at 38 Stewart Street.

Nobody is in the pool, which happens to be tiny, and the tables are full of people who would otherwise be watching Sam Swarek and Andy McNally kiss on the cheek under the moonlight.

The same can be said of most amenities out there, to be perfectly fair.

How about a yoga studio, for example?

Here’s the yoga studio being profiled at Nautique Lakefront Residences:

condo amenities

If you’re a guy, you’re thinking, “Attractive woman, all alone?  Perfect opportunity for me to display my gentlemanliness and ask her if might write letters to her while I’m away at war.”

If you’re a woman, you’re thinking, “Perfect place for me to get away from guys that only take yoga classes so they can meet women, or at least stare at them.”

But what condo yoga room looks like this?

Did Bob Ross also paint those trees out back?

Here’s what the yoga room looks like at 205 Frederick Street:

condo amenities

And how about the one at 112 George Street:

condo amenities

Nothing to sneeze at, I know.

But it bears mentioning that marketing techniques (or ploys, gimmicks exaggerations, misrepresentations…) require very special attention when looking at amenities for condominiums not yet built.

So while you might be in favour of all the amenities that I outlined in Wednesday’s blog, what about some of these unusual ones?

What about this pool at E-Condos:

condo amenities

A cantilevered red glass box for all the condo amenities, with an infinity pool that gives you an under-water view of downtown.

Incredible?  Amazing?  Groundbreaking?  Or unnecessary?

How about The Wyatt at 500 Dundas Street East?

They have some amenities that you probably didn’t know existed in Toronto condos:

That’s the “bouldering cave,” which isn’t just for kids – it’s for adults too.

Then the “craft room,” which is for kids, but I wonder if I could show up drunk on a Saturday night and ask to make a popcicle-stick-house?

How about a play room?

This is what I meant at the onset about developers catering to the changing needs of today’s condo buyers, as more and more residents of downtown will be having kids, raising families, and putting a huge value on amenities that they never would have thought about years’ prior.

I don’t expect most developers to follow suit, however.

Truth be told, most buyers don’t think this far ahead.

Okay let’s get back to the weird ones, because they’re the most fun.

The second-strangest amenity (because the last one is a doozie) has to be this:

That’s the “Jam Studio” that’s planned for Lighthouse Tower by Daniels Corp.

It’s cool and all, but I just gotta have more cowbell

Who brought the cheese platter?

And what type of 80’s sunglasses is the keyboard-player wearing?

I don’t know if this amenity is going ahead.  It’s not listed on the Daniels’ website, but don’t worry – there is an artist’s studio:

There’s also an “appliance sharing kitchen” on site:

I don’t want to be a cynic here, but I remember being on the board of directors at Rezen one year, and one of the other board members was so distraught over the dirty barbecue on the rooftop terrace, that he put forth a motion that we lock the barbecue with a link of chain and a padlock, and require residents to sign out the key.

I lost that vote, as I wrote last month.

But the takeaway is this: if people can’t clean the barbecue properly, how in the world is an “appliance sharing kitchen” going to work?

I know I’m being negative, but I’m also being realistic.

I’m incredibly obsessive-compulsive, I’m neat and tidy, and I work hard – and have respect for people and property.  But I don’t have faith that everybody else out there, especially when it comes to the concept of sharing this space, and being responsible for its cleanliness.

FYI – there’s also a community garden, as well as a designated area to prepare those herbs you’re about to plant in the garden itself.  Imagine that!

So now, I have the absolute pleasure of presenting to you the single most ludicrous and outrageous condo amenity I have seen yet to date: an observatory!

Yes, an observatory.

Something I have never used in my life, not once.  Not on a school trip, not on a weekend-getaway, just never.

And yet one particular Toronto condo was actually going to build an observatory into the building.

Here’s the artist’s rendering from Cosmos Condominium:

Tell me you value a virtual golf simulator.

Tell me you’d use the poker room.

But for the love of God, folks – an observatory?

Recall the 2016 Globe & Mail article: “Are New Condos’ Signature Amenities Worth The Cost?”  This observatory was featured in the 2016 article, which was where I first heard about it.

Well guess what?

The condo was cancelled!

“Vaughan Condo Development Buyers Frustrated Even As Money Refunded”

The video in the article was your typical “woe-is-me, this project was cancelled, it’s so unfair,” that we’ve seen before with every cancellation, and I have to think that not enough was made about the fact that there was a goddam observatory planned for the condo!

Maybe that should have been the first clue that this place was built on, pardon the pun, pie-in-the-sky logic?

In the end, I feel as though I have half a mind to say that amenities like the ones being included in the kid-friendly Wyatt might represent the future of downtown Toronto living, but the other half of me wants to suggest that this is indeed, a fad.

One reader commented on Wednesday’s blog that he had been in a “video game room” but that the systems weren’t functional, and the residents cleary didn’t care enough to upkeep the space.

I just don’t have faith that an “appliance sharing kitchen” works 1/10th as well in practice as it does in theory.  And maybe that’s the same argument for a lot of the new-age amenities being built today.

In fact, I’m willing to wager that at least 80% of the readers would agree.

So what say ye?  Care to substantiate my prediction?

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

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  1. lui

    at 7:28 am

    I remember California Condos was suppose to have a roof top infinity pool and sky lounge bar.That was main selling point.View of the city while relaxing.Low and behold as they sold 80% of the units it changed to a second floor small pool and the sky lounge became a 500 sqft room with some counters,fridge and stools.

  2. Kyle

    at 9:10 am

    I think these amenities are bananas. Personally, i’d much prefer to forego any building amenities and instead find a condo in an established complete community or a well-planned mixed-use development.

    Some of the newer mixed-use developments will contain: schools, parks, community centers, day cares, shops, bars, restaurants, libraries, offices. Which can take the place of craft rooms, kids rooms, dog rooms, yoga rooms, pools, lounges, etc and best of all your condo fees don’t have to pay to maintain them.

  3. Clive

    at 9:35 am

    An observatory… with all the light pollution we have… righhht.

  4. Marina

    at 10:01 am

    The more amenities there are, the more stuff your condo fees will have to pay to maintain.
    I’d rather have a few of the key amenities – concierge, gym, maybe a pool and a party room, maybe a rooftop seating area or some kind of outdoor garden area. But those last ones are not necessary.
    Everything else just seems like a LOT to pay for. I’d rather pay less per month and sign up for a yoga studio, or a cooking class, or get my kids into a crafts class or whatever.

  5. jeff316

    at 10:14 am

    Play room? Great idea, if it is large enough
    Otherwise, meh

  6. JL

    at 10:48 am

    I think what’s missing in the “is it needed/not needed” debate is some sort of cost benefit analysis. I imagine some of these amenities like seating areas, yoga studios, etc do not attract high maintenance fees – as there is very little to maintain. Electronics and equipment that tends to wear out or age quickly will be at the opposite end of the spectrum. So while the average person may not need a meeting room or yoga studio, it’s hardly a big deal if a building has them, as the maintenance of these types of amenities should be immaterial relative to the overall condo budget. And you never know, at some point in your life you may actually find them convenient to have available to you.

  7. Housing Bear

    at 11:01 am

    What about an on site marriage counselor?

    As more and more families get trapped in 500sqft of construction materials in the sky, I’m sure these services could be in huge demand. Never being more than 10ft away from your significant other can take its toll! Even when your investment is still working out.

    Free business idea to anyone feeling entrepreneurial

    1. Daniel

      at 9:54 am

      interestingly, i think the research supports the precise opposite of your thesis. Namely that smaller homes, by virtue of their lower maintenance and carrying costs, are actually conducive to happier living.

      1. Kyle

        at 11:02 am

        I agree Daniel. One would only be “trapped” in their 500 sq ft, if their condo was in the middle of nowhere. I imagine people who get out of their homes and enjoy the community and amenities outside their doorstep tend to be happier.

        Tonnes of happy people, living in cities all over the world where apartment or condo living is the norm.

    2. Natrx

      at 11:49 am

      Not just your spouse.. more and more couples having kids in their 1 bedroom condo. That can definitely lead to distress.

  8. Joel

    at 5:57 pm

    These amenities are ridiculous. Since the city looks to be progressing towards families living in condos and not using them as a stepping stone, developers need to include practical amenities.

    Day care would be a huge benefit in this city. Co share office space and a a lounge would be much more appealing to families that plan to live in a condo long term.

    It seams that developers don’t have specific demographics in mind, but try to put in as many unrelated amenities to attract to as large of a group. I would think a family centered and a 55+ centric condo would sell better then a jumble of everything.

    City place actually caters to their demographic well and has consistent and relatable amenities for the under 30 crowd.

  9. GinaTO

    at 9:45 pm

    So many questions…:
    – So you just do yoga on your own in the studio? Are there classes? Do you have to pay an instructor, otherwise the studio sits empty? How does it work in reality?
    – That wall of speakers in the “jam studio”… will there be discounts on the suites right next to and above it??
    – Does anyone but exhibitionists with perfect bodies use those rooftop pools, with the setup of tables around? Talk about being the centre of attention…

    People being people, I expect most amenities will not be taken care of and will fall into some sort of disrepair. So sharing kitchen appliances, yikes, no thanks. (Just think of the office microwave and how gross it gets…) And I agree with Kyle – something that benefits the entire community would make more sense: library, community centre, etc.

  10. Condodweller

    at 5:13 pm

    In terms of advertising, developers are obviously trying to differentiate themselves from one another. Hopefully, they do some research to make their unique amenity relevant to the neighbourhood. One thing I have learned over the years is that even if the advertised amenity is realized, it is a day and night difference from the artist’s renderings in their promotional material.

    Most amenities whose name ends with a “room” will just be a basic room with minor decoration to suggest it’s intended purpose. I agree that anything involving electronics will be a challenge to maintain.

    If condos are going to become longer term solution for families I would fully expect the amenities to reflect that fact and include more family friendly “rooms”.

    Also, to make them more cost effective, larger planned communities could explore “common” amenity spaces almost like a community centre. I think city place has one along those lines but I think access is limited to a few buildings.

  11. SP

    at 5:02 pm

    Just saw a “Spice Library” being advertised for a “culinary-themed” new/proposed condo building in Barrie. I can think of all kinds of reasons why I wouldn’t be dipping my measuring cup/spoon into the communal spice jars.

  12. Bunny

    at 1:07 am

    An answer from an expert! Thanks for corninbutitg.

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