CentreCourt Developments is one of the newest players on the Toronto development scene, with three successful projects launched in the past 16 months. UrbanToronto had the opportunity to sit down with company president Andrew Hoffman and senior associate Shamez Virani to discuss the company, their projects and their strategic outlook going forward.
CentreCourt is a very young company with its first project, Peter St. Condos, launched just over a year ago now. Andrew, what was the inspiration behind CentreCourt?
Andrew Hoffman: First of all, I’d like to mention that I’m very passionate about Toronto, and the potential this city has. We're living in a world class city, able to rival any city in the world, a fact that I’m proud of and I feel fortunate to be a part of it. The inspiration for CentreCourt was to develop a real estate company that was focused on core development and to be a key player in the development and condominium sector within Toronto.
AH: I think the success we’ve seen at Peter Street, Karma and INDX really flow from both our corporate and strategic vision. The first aspect we look at in core developments are sites that possess attributes that take advantage of key elements such as location, amenities and services. The second key aspect is having extremely efficient designs within the suites by focusing on what the consumer needs are; rather than coming up with a development that is setting the dream for the consumer we look to what the consumer really wants and have subsequently made that available.
Shamez Virani: One other very key attribute, especially in a city such as Toronto where you have 20,000 some odd units being released to the market every year, is to make sure that in a sea of projects you know how yours stacks up next to the others on a value proposition basis. One thing we dedicate a lot of time and energy towards is to really understand the competitive landscape that our projects are in, and to subsequently make sure they provide a value proposition in relation to suite design, amenities and all the attributes of a project that a purchaser would look at. We subsequently look at what we can then do in terms of price incentives to attract our target demographic. I think the market has told us over the past 16 months at all three projects that we have a clear understanding what the value proposition is within the Toronto market.
Is there are particular type of consumer you’re appealing to? What's your target demographic?
AH: our target demographic at INDX is the twenty to thirty five year-old young urban professional. We’re catering to those who want to be able to walk to work, have area as well as building amenities, who don't need large amounts of space within their own suite but who want to have quality building amenities that they can use to entertain.
Recent speculation of an overly saturated condominium market in the Entertainment District has led to developers searching out new ways of differentiating their projects from the pack. With Peter St. Condos being 100% sold out, CentreCourt has obviously been succesful in doing that. What is it that makes Peter Street stand out from the neighbouring condominiums in the area?
AH: We are and always have been passionate about that location; Peter Street is a great node today and it will be an even better node four years from now, when not only our development is completed, but Tableau and QRC West are as well. We’re confident in the architecture of Peter Street, designed by architectsAlliance, that both reflects the modern elements of today’s glass towers and brings forward the historical elements of the warehouses that still dot the surrounding neighbourhood.
With Peter Street now 100% sold out, let's shift the focus over to Karma Condos. How has the development progressed since we last sat down with you 6 months ago?
AH: Since our last interview we've seen continued success at Karma, now 95% sold; we still have 5% remaining that we expect to be sold out of in the next 30 to 60 days or so. Construction begins this month, and we’re on pace to begin occupancy in the fall of 2015.
With Karma as the second CentreCourt project, fresh on the heels of Peter Street, were there things you learned at Peter Street that you have subsequently been able to apply to Karma?
SV: The success we saw at Peter Street in terms of reception to suite design, amenity program, value engineering and precision has really reinforced our core philosophy discussed previously, giving us reassurance to come to the market with the program we brought forth at Karma.
AH: One aspect of our corporate vision that we were able to amplify at Karma was our commitment to giving back to the community. We have a number of initiatives that we’ve spent countless hours on, initiatives that we’ve had some fun with while working alongside our marketing group and partner at Karma, Lifetime Developments.
INDX is your third project. The prior condo sales history for the site where INDX Condos will rise has been contentious, dubious and uncertain, to say the least. What approach and methods allowed CentreCourt and Lifetime to pull off a project that so many others failed to realize?
AH: We approached this project with a lot of excitement, being able to take on a site such as the one at Temperance. When you’re someone new you often see things differently than previous developers. You can't get anymore centrally located than INDX; we’re right in the core at Bay and Adelaide, and the opportunity to develop a site like this was once in a lifetime. What we did differently than our competition was to look at it in a much more pure-play fashion; previous developments tried to bite off more than they could chew, proposing a 90-storey tower with complex programming for example. We focused on a purely residential building that contained great site attributes as well as a design that was efficient and could bring value-orientated product to our target demographic, those who want to be able to walk outside and be at the doorstep of their work, right in the heart of the financial core.
I know sales have been brisk. Is there remaining inventory?
SV: At this point in 2012, INDX is the fastest selling project, that has sold the most number of units. We've reached over 90% sold in less that 6 months time, with the remaining 10% selling faster than expected. In line with the pace of sales we saw at both Peter Street and Karma, we expect INDX to be fully sold out this fall. Our target demographic – those who work hard and play hard – has responded to the product we've put forward, with the market telling us that there is demand for this sort of housing in this area. We never would have thought that we would be saying that we would be sold out of a project of this size in less than 9 months. All three projects will have started construction within 12 months of launching, a direct result of our precision execution in marketing, sales and construction financing.
INDX is situated on a unique plot, directly next to the historic Graphic Arts Building from which the podium clearly draws its massing and lines. How did your experience dealing with a historic property at Karma inform your approach towards reconciling INDX with its heritage neighbour?
AH: That’s another area that we're passionate about, and we embraced the opportunity to develop a site that has heritage aspects. What we learnt from Karma and other situations was how to engage heritage by bringing on professional heritage consultants, connecting with the city and the heritage department and really viewing the challenge as an opportunity. We have, along with project architects Page + Steele / IBI Group, come up with a design for the podium of INDX that ties in and is fully respectful of the incredible architecture of the graphic arts building next door.
We've seen a number of attention-grabbing marketing manoeuvres coming from CentreCourt, most notably the food truck VIP Event held earlier this year for INDX and your commitment to donate $5 to charity for every new registrant at Karma. As the condominium market becomes more competitive, how does CentreCourt plan to attract and entice Toronto's increasingly discerning condominium purchaser?
SV: First and foremost, we work with an incredible team of professionals from PR to marketing, brokers to agents; people whose opinions we really value and respect. When we get together to do our sales and marketing meetings it's open dialogue; we all arrive at the meeting with the spirit that there's no such thing as a bad idea. One of our key philosophies at CentreCourt is to be respectful of that, and encourage new ideas and debate. As you've mentioned the market is very sophisticated, with hundreds of projects vying for the same group of people, raising the question as to how you can be different and stand out from the crowd. The food truck at INDX was a huge success with over 500 people in attendance in one afternoon. Similarly, we had 1500 registrants within the first month at Karma, which is unheard of for a project of that size. Throwing out one hundred new ideas for every one that sticks is really how we do it. We look to create an atmosphere of dialogue and debate, and that's something that we will continue to do going forward. Another key focus of ours is social media, and that includes engaging places such as UrbanToronto, which we see as being an integral part of the ongoing discussion in the Toronto market. In all areas it really comes down to being open and adaptable, aspects that new companies such as CentreCourt thrive on.
What does the future of development in Toronto (in the next year or next couple of years) look like to you? Where do you think CentreCourt will fit into this picture?
AH: It's a very bright future, and there will continue to be huge opportunities for both developers and consumers. Whether we build or sell 30,000 units or 15,000 units per year we're going to be developing a large amount of product into the future. You look at demographic trends and it's very positive relative to the demand for condominium living, as well as the outlook for low-rise housing and all the implications of urban sprawl. We want to be focused on the downtown core, projects that we can have a hands-on approach to, while treating all aspects of the development process as something that we can be very focused and act on with a precision-like fashion. We're currently working on a few additional opportunities at the moment, ones that are unique and where we can differentiate ourselves from the competition. I look forward to having another great launch in 2013 and hopefully keep up this trend of having successful projects going forward.
For lots more info on any of CentreCourt's projects, you can visit any of the dataBase listings below, or join in on the discussion of the projects in UrbanToronto's associated Forum threads.