Murray Goldman and Larry Blankenstein both know a thing or two about developing and transforming Toronto neighbourhoods. Their respective companies, The Goldman Group and The Lash Group of Companies, have developed several properties throughout their over fifty year existence. The two companies have joined forces in the past to redevelop underutilized sites, including two properties at the corner of St. Clair and Bathurst which are now condominium towers. Teaming up again, their latest project dubbed The Barrington, an 18-storey Richmond Architects-designed condominium, is located just north of that same intersection. We had the opportunity to talk to the duo, who shared some details about the project and their opinions about the neighbourhood's future.
UT: How did you both become involved in land development? Murray, I heard you were inspired by a group called The Humanists. Could you expand on that?
MG: The whole philosophy behind the group is that the reason for a person's existence is to leave the world a better place than they found it. To that end, the redevelopment of brownfield sites within a beautiful city like Toronto is right on. In other words, if you take an obsolete dysfunctional property and you renovate it or put a new building on it than you make the world a better place.
How did you become involved Larry?
LB: I was born into it. I grew up visiting sites so it was in my blood. It just carried on from that, I showed a lot of interest. I liked creating communities, seeing barren farmland turn into subdivisions. That's where I got started, in low-rise housing. Just creating cities out of nothing. Now, Murray and I are recreating that within the city. We're creating a city within the city.
Why did you decide to begin developing high-rises?
LB: Land was getting scarce to buy. It was getting harder and harder to purchase land for a low-rise and it was getting further and further outside the city. I think the general population of the GTA wants to be back in the city. The next generation of people want to live in the city because it's vibrant.
That's an area where Toronto is different from many North American cities. People actually want to live downtown.
MG: Well Toronto has been a prime example of modern planning à la Jane Jacobs simply because it is the only one of the five major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Canada that has never had slums. We have no slums in Toronto simply because people live and work in the same area.
How did the Goldman-Lash relationship come about?
MG: Our families have known each other for many years. When both of us were free to take on new projects, we met and decided that we would do the next ones together. That was ten years ago and we're still doing it. We have a very friendly relationship.
How many buildings have you now done together?
LB: This is the fourth building in this area. We've also done some retail and office buildings together as well.
Why did you decide to develop at Bathurst and St. Clair?
MG: It was an area that was downtrodden at the time, ten years ago, and it was in need of some fix-me-up action which has happened all over Toronto. Leslieville, King West, King East, that's the trend in Toronto. It's close to Forest Hill, which is very residential, so it's perfect for us.
LB: Geographically it's one of the highest points in Toronto where everything here looks down towards Lake Ontario. So it has some of the nicest views.
Can you explain the marketing behind The Barrington? Why the British theme?
MG: Toronto has always been an English city. With names around here like Wychwood, Vaughan, Bathurst, it just fits the demographics of the area.
LB: It's something we feel all Canadians can relate to.
What impact have your projects had on the neighbourhood?
MG: If you recall what was here before, a little old bank branch and a former Loblaw's store that was used for things similar to Goodwill, it was just generally dowdy. We've gentrified it and made the area more elegant. It his one of the best transportation nodes anywhere in Toronto. You have the St. Clair streetcar, subway, Bathurst bus and Vaughan bus. It's very well serviced. It's out of the downtown core so we don't have the gridlock that downtown is experiencing.
LB: We believe in the area. We know what we've done, we've had tremendous success with the previous two buildings and we think this area is still very much in demand.
Could you tell me a bit about the selling features of the building?
LB: Oversized balconies, larger suites. Our smallest suite is one bedroom plus a den. There was a lot of interest from our previous purchasers who wanted to upgrade to a larger suite, so we have one and a half up to three bedroom suites. We're finding that there's a lot of demand for the larger units. Most suites have multiple balconies and the views are spectacular.
So there are family-size units?
LB: Some are.
That's something you don't usually get downtown.
MG: It's a different demographic. More families live here. This used to be called Midtown, it's not anymore. It's not close to the financial area where you have all the smaller units.
When do you expect completion?
MG: I think we're going to start construction in the Spring of 2015. It's an 18-storey building, it will take us probably until the Summer of 2017, so that the children will be able to go to the schools around the area for the Fall of 2017. St. Michael's is across the street, Vaughan Road Academy is just up the road, Upper Canada College is within walking distance. If we finished in the middle of the year, many families wouldn't move in until the end of the school year.
Do you have any future projects together?
MG: We have one more building in this area and we're negotiating to rezone several others throughout the city.
How do you see the area in five years?
MG: We see it as a vibrant, pulsating, youthful area. There's so much recreation here. You can play hockey at St. Michael's Arena, and Wychwood Barns is a beacon for all of Toronto. There's so many good restaurants in the area.
LB: I see more and more restaurants moving in or wanting to move in. We're starting to see some high-profile chefs move into the city. I met one of them who had a restaurant downtown and he opened one up down the street here because the rents are half the price.
MG: I have a great admiration for Councillor Joe Mihevc who has helped us unflaggingly throughout the entire process. Even though some of the neighbours had doubts about it, he was always for this building. He's a visionary. He has, over the years, helped transform the area.
Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
MG: Just that we are proud Toronto builders and we're happy to be part of the patchwork of this great metropolis. Every time I read a survey saying Toronto is one of the great cities of the world I agree with it. It's because we have good architecture, good planning and low crime.
Thank you for your time!
The Barrington contains a variety of unique amenities, including a car elevator, as well as practical spaces like a fitness room, fifth floor multipurpose space, lounge and outdoor terrace. Retail will line the ground floor of the 93-unit building. Transit users on the 512 St. Clair streetcar will also be able to take advantage of its time-based transfer, which allows riders to travel for up to two hours on the route. As usual, the transfer is valid for buses and subways at the connection points until the expiry time elapses. The streetcar will give residents a good opportunity to explore the community services and cultural amenities the area has to offer.
For more information and images on the project, check out our dataBase file for The Barrington, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Visit the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided underneath.