"By this point, your mind is usually on the next project," CentreCourt Developments President Shamez Virani explains. We're at INDX Condos, where the residents are now moving in as the finishing touches are applied to CentreCourt and Lifetime Developments' 54-storey Financial District tower. Near Yonge and College, a similar scene of move-ins and final construction details greets us at Karma Condos, with the 50-storey tower—another collaboration between the two developers—also recently completed.
Both towers are new to Toronto, but they're old news to the development industry. "By the time residents move in, most of the work as a developer is done," Virani explains, and CentreCourt is no exception. Yet, although much of the company's time and energy is turning towards upcoming projects, Virani stresses that the completed towers are now more than just entries in CentreCourt's growing portfolio.
While careful attention is being paid to make sure that move-ins go smoothly and the buildings settle well post-construction, Virani also notes that understanding how amenity spaces are actually being utilized will be vital in shaping future projects. "We're going to be tracking how frequently these spaces are used," says Virani at INDX, explaining that the data will help guide the company's approach to conceptualizing shared spaces in upcoming developments.
INDX and Karma both feature interiors by Cecconi Simone, a multi-disciplinary practice considered to be one of Canada's top interior design firms. Both buildings also boast a wide range of inviting amenity spaces, knitting together a cohesive identity for each building.
At INDX, the sleek interiors are characterized by a glossy interplay of dark tones, complementing the Page + Steele / IBI Group design, and creating a declaratively luxurious—and almost aggressive—aesthetic designed that reflects the Financial District.
The tower's central amenities include a fully-equipped gym, and a a lounge/party space overlooking an expansive terrace. Alongside these spaces, the tower's smaller amenities include a dedicated poker room, a pair of lounge-like seating/work spaces, and a games room equipped with billiards and foosball tables. There's also an electronic games room, which features a range of sports simulators alongside a putting green.
For residents, INDX's coming Temperance Street retailer is also likely to prove an important communal amenity. With the Boxcar Social café targeting a January opening, the local chain's fourth location is poised to inject some 24-hour vibrancy to a part of the city that needs it. Operating as a café by day and gradually transitioning into a bar in the evening hours, the space is designed to appeal to both the laptop and the after-work crowds. (They also make one of the better espressos in town!)
Around the corner on Sheppard Street, the residential lobby is designed to be another gathering point. Beyond the customary couches and concierge, Virani points out the luxe shoe-shine chair installed in a corner. "One Saturday a month, we'll be bringing in a professional shoe-shine service," he explains, describing the rather 'Bay Street' amenity as a fun and inexpensive way to animate the space and bring neighbours together.
Up Yonge Street, meanwhile, the communal spaces at-designed Karma offer a different ambiance. Here, Cecconi Simone's interiors elegantly correspond with the clean lines and ample natural lighting of the architectsAlliance design. The tower's somewhat minimalistic aesthetic is met by lighter spaces, allowing for a softer and more subtle ambiance compared to INDX.
An open-concept gym is accessible directly from the elevators, with a short hallway just past the machines leading to saunas and change rooms. Karma's other third-floor amenities include a theatre space, as well as an outdoor terrace—accented by a showpiece water feature—accessible from the party room and lounge.
"We also decided to include a sound-proofed karaoke room," Virani tells us, "and kind of surprisingly, it's been an extremely popular space that immediately started getting booked." Each of Karma and INDX also feature a pair of guest suites, allowing residents to accommodate overnight visitors right in the building, typically for a slightly lower price than a mid-range hotel. "Guest suites are a unique amenity," Virani notes, "since they actually generate revenue for the condominium."
Since the revenue generated from guest suites is clearly logged, it's also easy to track how frequently the amenity is used. The same is not true for other amenities, where for the most part, "we really don't know how frequently these spaces are active," says Virani, and anecdotally at least, "there are a lot of underutilized condo amenities in Toronto."
For CentreCourt, howver, an increasingly targeted approach to communal spaces is already taking shape. Two of the company's upcoming projects—both designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group—are planned with more specifically focused amenity programs, prioritizing the spaces that will (hopefully) be most frequently used. At Dundas and Jarvis, the 50-storey Grid Condos (now under construction) will feature a student-friendly amenity program. At Grid, the ample study spaces were included in anticipation of a large student population from nearby Ryerson University.
Closer to Karma, meanwhile, the 38-storey Axis Condos is set to bring another residential tower to the popular Church and Carlton area. As Virani outlined in a previous interview with UrbanToronto, the project's 10,500 ft² of amenity space are practically entirely given over to a 6,500 ft² gym and a 4,000 ft² co-working space.
"We started off with a clean slate, thinking about what people—specifically younger people—are looking for in a condo," Virani explained. CentreCourt's thought process led to a highly streamlined approach, with figure3 Interior Design's spaces strongly prioritizing just two uses. "We know people are very health-conscious, said Virani, adding that secondary work spaces are becoming more desirable as the economy evolves. Instead of hunting for a table at the local Starbucks, the idea is to give residents a dedicated shared space.
Touring through INDX and Karma, we already saw many of the spaces already being put to use. In particular, the well-appointed gyms at both buildings were bustling with activity, while some smaller amenities—like Karma's karaoke room—are quickly proving to be vital community spaces. With the amenities now open to residents, Virani stresses that there's plenty left to learn about how—and why—these spaces come to life.
All the same, there's still a lot of guess-work that typically goes into programming condo amenities, particularly since City regulations do much more to govern the size of communal spaces than the programming. Without the kind of hard data that CentreCourt is now collecting, it's hard to know whether all the catering kitchens and theatres filling out Toronto condos are really worth it.
More information about the projects mentioned is available via our dataBase files, linked below. Want to share your thoughts about CentreCourt's evolving approach? Leave a comment in the space below, or join in one of the ongoing conversations in our associated Forum threads.