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Real Estate Bisnow (Toronto)
Timbercreek (White-Karen) L-TO

Are Office Condos The Next Big Thing?

Office condos have been slow to catch on in Toronto. (It's ok, Van Gogh wasn't embraced at first either.) Despite its residential condo boom, the city lags places like New York, London, and Hong Kong in embracing the idea of owning offices. But 7 St. Thomas St, the first new purely office-condo building downtown, could help warm TO to the concept.

Designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects, 7 St. Thomas will have a nine-storey fritted glass tower with 93k SF of office space, plus six three-storey Victorian townhomes housing retail. The project, targeting LEED Gold, is under construction and slated to open in 2016. We snapped St. Thomas Developments president Patrick Quigley on site this morning. He tells us the building is 60% leased, with tenants including consultants, investment advisors, and dentists. Prices range from $535k to $8.8M, with full- and half-floor configurations. It will share the Yorkville site, southwest of Bay and Bloor streets, with One St. Thomas, a 29-storey residential condo tower by the same developer.

Bisnow (RawSpace-Crowd) REC

It's been a challenge for Patrick and his team to sell Toronto on the virtues of owning office space; it's more commonplace in Asia and Europe but just hasn't taken hold here. “It's a niche market,” Patrick says. His Yorkville project is for tenants who “don't need to be at King and Bay but still want to be in a prestigious location.” He notes there's been nearly no commercial office space built on the Bloor Street strip or around it in 25 years, reason to believe there could be growing demand for office-condos like 7 St. Thomas.

There are office-condo projects elsewhere in the GTA, most notably Hullmark Corporate Centre at Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue (rendered above) with 225k SF of office-condo space across more than 230 units. The spaces have been taken by smaller-scale professionals and entrepreneurs who want to own their office “but don't need more than 2,000 SF,” says project developer Tridel SVP Jim Ritchie. Patrick says 7 St. Thomas is the first of its kind downtown, but he anticipates others will follow. He doesn't foresee huge towers of office condos, but he does think more residential condo builders will get in on the market.

Colliers (Northwest) TO
Metro Commercial (9Nicholas)
ULI (CriticalKnowledge2) TO

Finance Minister Talks Jobs with Lenders

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa keynoted the inaugural roundtable of the newly formed Commercial Real Estate Lenders Association Tuesday afternoon (above, we snapped him with JLL's Amar Nijjar and Chad Gemmell, both part of CRELA's organizing committee). Amar tells us he was encouraged by Minister Sousa's pledge to balance the budget and to bring job growth to Southwestern Ontario's manufacturing industry. “It means commercial lenders will be more comfortable lending to those parts of the province where things have traditionally been tough.” The event, which was held at JLL's Commerce Court office, saw representation from 50 different financial institutions; Amar says CRELA is looking to be the voice of the commercial real estate lender industry.

Bisnow (Niche-White)

First Gulf Breaks Dirt for FMC3

First Gulf broke ground yesterday on First Meadowvale Centre Phase 3 (FMC3), a four-storey, 100k SF building with space for over 700 workers. The project, a JV with Sun Life Financial, is seeking LEED Gold. Taking part in the dirt-turning festivities (from left): Sun Life Financial managing director Wayne Walton, First Gulf CEO David Gerofsky, Peel Region chair Emil Kolb, Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca; Mississauga-Streetsville MPP Bob Delaney; and Mississauga Ward 9 Councillor Pat Saito.

The FMC3 office campus (rendered above) will have direct link via a walkway—developed by First Gulf in partnership with Metrolinx—to the Meadowvale GO Transit station (just south of Derry Road). First Gulf chief David Gerofsky notes that developing new office and commercial projects around transit hubs has been a successful strategy for his firm across the GTA. Access to employment via transit is critical, he says, because it “enhances the efficiency of labour markets for both workers and employers.”

Will Smith was born this day in 1968, making him 46 years old. How old does that make you feel? ryan.starr@bisnow.com



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