CityPlace has been a much maligned development in recent years. In many ways it has become a symbolic whipping boy for sentiments that people hold about the condo market as a whole – greedy overdevelopment, cookie-cutter product, shoddy construction, high vacancy rates and the evisceration of the city skyline. And to one degree or another CityPlace is guilty of all of those things.
But you know what? The mighty chicken wing was long maligned too, shamefully neglected and cast off into watery soups and stews. Then one night in 1969, a trailblazer in Buffalo named Louise Duffney figured out that the wing is actually the best part of the chicken, and when she deep fried them to a crispy golden brown and tossed them in buttery hot sauce a calorie laden sensation was born. Duff’s was put on the map, and for that I am eternally grateful.
So am I saying CityPlace is the next chicken wing, and bound for belated glory? Hell no, but I recently did a deal there, and I came away with a different perspective.
Chris and I started talking in September of 2014. He was born and raised in Halifax, and was going to be relocating to Toronto in early January of 2015 to start a new job as an engineer. Chris was smart and on the ball, and after talking on the phone for about 15 minutes I was surprised to hear he was only 23 years old. Over the course of a few conversations we laid the groundwork for our search – when he would be in town and for how long, and the type of condo he hoped to find. Since Chris would have a roommate to help with the costs he needed a unit with 2 legitimate sized bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, and a minimum of 900 square feet. He also wanted a balcony and good amenities (he mentioned a squash court), parking, and to be as close to King and Spadina as possible. Max budget was $500k.
At Chris’ budget there were not as many options available as I would have liked. Imagine walking into Morton’s and opening the menu with only 70 bucks in your pocket – you can find something to eat, yes, but it sure ain’t the filet mignon with lobster tail. I kept an open mind, however, and sent Chris periodic listings leading up to his visit (which was now lasting only a few days). On the eve of Chris being in town we had narrowed down to 2 different options – north and south. North was two buildings on Wellington St and one on Front St, and south was the hub of CityPlace – 151 Dan Leckie Way, 10 Capreol Court and 15 Iceboat Terrace.
We started in the late morning with the north buildings. I picked Chris up from the train station, threw his bags in the trunk, and we got right to it. Chris and I chatted in the car and I liked him instantly – he was big into hockey and football and was an unpretentious dude. With some clients you always have to “be business”, but with others you can relax a bit and be yourself. Chris was the latter, and I had to keep reminding myself he was only 23. When I was 23 I was still sleeping on the couch in my parents’ basement and praying my illegal satellite card didn’t get scrambled, not out shopping for a $500k condo! We met his future roommate Robbie – a skinny bean pole in an ill-fitting suit who liked like he was all of 18 years old – outside the first building and started our tour.
As we went through the north buildings we quickly established a rhythm – if Chris and Robbie weren’t into the unit or building they fell into rapid fire conversations about their mutual friends, and I distinctly remember one story about their buddy who had passed out in a nightclub bathroom and been left there overnight. It turned out that the north tour was all about conversation ultimately – Chris and Robbie weren’t feeling “it”. A buyer can intellectualize the process all they want, but in the end it all comes down to that unmistakeable feeling deep in the gut when you see the perfect property. You know it’s “the one”, and you will stop at nothing to get it. That wasn’t happening for us yet.
After a quick burrito we headed south into the heart of CityPlace, and I could sense Chris and Robbie becoming more engaged. They were stopped by a group of young ladies who wanted a picture taken, and Hunter’s Landing was already busy with people going to the Leaf game that night. It’s worth pointing out again that they are both 23 years old. After this initial rush we saw a handful of units that still weren’t right, however, and the stream of consciousness conversation picked up again. I was starting to get the sense that we were heading back to the drawing board, but then finally on the second to last unit we hit paydirt.
The unit in question was in 15 Iceboat Terrace. It had the best layout we had seen all day, and boasted generous sized bedrooms. Even with all the hideous furniture Chris and Robbie could see the potential, and had grown quiet for the first time all day. Best of all it was on the ground level and had an absolutely massive private outdoor space that opened onto the courtyard. Now in some buildings the courtyard is a joke, a glorified mud pit that fits a few lounge chairs and a hibachi grill. The courtyard at Iceboat Terrace is most certainly not that. It is a sprawling space with four BBQ’s, fountains, and an outdoor bar, and it affords a view of the Hunter’s Landing patio so you can keep tabs on the activity. The Iceboat Terrace unit would put Chris and Robbie right in the heart of the action, and it was now clear they had that feeling. And still we hadn’t seen the amenities…
Condo buyers fall into 2 categories – either pro or anti-amenities. The anti-amenity buyer takes a no frills approach and is skeptical of rising maintenance fees. For them a good balcony and a gas BBQ hook up is plenty. But the pro-amenity buyer is a different breed. They tend to be younger, and already have their 3 year plan in place to get into a house. They want to enjoy their condo time to the fullest. This was Chris and Robbie.
The Iceboat amenities look like something Donald Trump might have conceived during his most over the top capitalist period. Three full levels offer everything you would ever want, and also a bunch of stuff you probably never will want. Chris and Robbie laughed at the pet spa and hot yoga room, and looked bewildered by the kid’s playroom, but their eyes widened when I showed them the billiards and poker room, the gym packed with beautiful bodies, the lap pool and hot tub, and last but not least the freakin’ squash court. When he discovered the squash court Chris gazed longingly at it (so close yet so far), and after a conference call with his mom it was time to make an offer.
We met the next day at Hunter’s Landing and put together our offer, and I made the short walk over to 15 Iceboat Terrace to present to the listing agent and seller. When I presented our offer the seller barely disguised her contempt, and for the next week three hours we ground out a surprisingly difficult deal. Despite being on the market for over a month the seller was extremely stubborn, and things only came together when the other agent cut her commission drastically. That’s not what I wanted to see happen but at the end of the day Chris bought the unit for the price he wanted, and for that I was ecstatic.
A lot of people talk smack about CityPlace. Some even say it will be a ghetto in 15 years. To me that’s an asinine statement – good luck predicting what will happen next year in the Toronto real estate market, much less 15 years from now. In the course of doing this deal I spoke to concierges in several buildings, and I found them to be knowledgeable, friendly and dare I say proud to be employed there. I spoke to residents of all ages and heard nothing but glowing reviews. The Status Certificate was clean as a whistle. And I will never forget when I told Chris we had finally got the deal done – he had purchased the thing he wanted more than anything, and he was the happiest guy in the world. What’s so bad about that?