"When I graduated from university a decade ago, the top students wanted to work in law, finance, or business. Now, they want to work in tech." For CentreCourt Developments President Shamez Virani, a drive to understand the changing needs and priorities of urban residents was the first step in programming the 38-storey Church Street condo tower now marketed as Axis Condos.

Axis Condos, image courtesy of CentreCourt Developments

"The location [at Church and Wood] has close proximity to both Ryerson and U of T—which are big sources of innovation—as well as a lot of new employers," Virani explains. Meanwhile, Toronto's growing prominence "as a tech and start-up city shows that our economy is changing," he adds. But how does a condo development take these factors into account? 

"We started off with a clean slate, thinking about what people—specifically younger people—are looking for in a condo," Virani begins. In terms of amenities and programming, CentreCourt's process led to doing away with some of the received wisdom about condo development. "Condos typically include a lot of amenities that aren't really widely used," Virani argues. "There's almost always a theatre room and a party room, and sure, they're selling points, but how often are these spaces active?"

The lobby, image courtesy of CentreCourt Developments

In Toronto development, Virani argues, there is something of a paint-by-numbers approach to programming and amenities. To Virani, the existence of some amenity spaces seems driven more by market orthodoxy than utility. "Does it make sense for some buildings to have pools? Absolutely, but that doesn't mean that all of them should," he notes. Instead of relying on the precedents set in Toronto's condo market, CentreCourt is banking on a more targeted approach. 

"There's about 10,500 ft² of amenity space, and almost all of it is divided between two amenities," Virani explains. "We know that people are very health-conscious, so we're investing in a 6,500 ft² gym. The gym space is sometimes an afterthought in condos, but it's something people always want, so we've made it a priority. It's going to be fully equipped and comfortable, and nobody is going to need a gym membership."

A closer look at the lower levels, where much of the amenity space will be housed, image courtesy of CentreCourt Developments

The remainder of the amenity space is given over to a flexible co-working area. "The 4,000 ft² area is going to have a variety of work spaces, as well as a number of private boardrooms, which can be booked out by residents," Virani tells us. "As the nature of work changes, people aren't always in the office anymore," he adds, "so having secondary places to work is becoming more appealing, and more important."

In the co-working space, the hope is that the interactions will also furnish a sense of community between residents, providing an ancillary benefit. "When we have all of these creative people living in close proximity, we have to take advantage of the opportunities which this type of talent clustering allows, and I think that this is a simple way of trying to do that," says Virani. 

"One other priority for us was to invest in a really high-end, attractive lobby. We know that residents here aren't going to be driving much; they'll be coming in from the street," Virani explains. "We want to make it a real front door, since it's a space that's going to get a lot of activity." For the occasional car trips, however—"to the grocery store or Prince Edward County"—two Tesla vehicles have been purchased, allowing residents greater flexibility in transportation. Like the conference rooms, the cars will be available to reserve in advance. Meanwhile, only 104 vehicle parking spots are planned for the 541 suites. 

A night-time aerial view highlighting the tower, image courtesy of CentreCourt Developments

Thinking about how people live extends beyond the amenity program, with the unit mix reconsidered to take advantage of changing lifestyles. "On the one hand, more young people are open to living with roommates," Virani notes, "but there's also an acute shortage of housing for young families." Taking these factors into account, some 45% of the suites are two-bedroom units. "Proportionally, it's more two-bedrooms than we've ever done," says Virani, "but these suites can be a lot more flexible than one-bedroom units. Depending on how the market evolves, they can house young professional roommates, couples, or families, and the mix can change over time."

Designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects, with interiors by figure3 Interior Design, and landscaping by Strybos Barron King, the off-white exterior is characterized by a honeycomb pattern, which is intended to lend the tower a subtly distinctive presence. Between the architectural expression, the amenity programming, and the unit mix, the project steps slightly outside of the Toronto condo market's established orthodoxy. It's not exactly a revolutionary or radical approach, but for CentreCourt, the consequences of tweaking the parameters could prove significant. 


More information about the project's massing, architectural expression, and street-level programming is available in our previous story, linked here. In addition, make sure to check out our associated dataBase file, linked below, to learn more. Want to share your thoughts about CentreCourt's approach? Leave a comment in the space below, or join the conversation in our Forum.  

Related Companies:  CentreCourt, figure3 Interior Design, IBI Group, L.A. Inc., McIntosh Perry, Strybos Barron King