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Communities ideally suited to the condo market Add to ...

There are two features - both related to location - that are essential to creating a popular condominium community in Greater Toronto. It just so happens that Oakville and Burlington, the major urban centres of Halton Region, have both of them in spades.

The first is good access to rapid transit. While neither Burlington nor Oakville are communities that rely significantly on mass transit, they both have excellent commuter train service through GO Transit.

The second feature is an attractive natural environment along Lake Ontario. As the redevelopment of the Etobicoke lakeshore just west of the Humber River has shown us, a picturesque setting for high-rise development is often a slam dunk with buyers, even in an area lacking in good commercial services.

Both Oakville and Burlington are tailor-made condo markets for empty-nesters who want to stay in the community where they've raised their families. These markets go up a notch or two in value when you consider that they are already quite affluent - especially Oakville.

But many current Oakville residents and conservation groups have strongly opposed condominium development, often taking developers all the way to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Another unique attraction of both these communities that can't be discounted is that they have established downtown areas that are self-sustaining, and even pedestrian friendly. Elsewhere in Greater Toronto's 905 suburban belt, great heaps of money have been spent trying to establish "city centre" communities with recreational, commercial and high-density housing components. It must be nice to be a Burlington planning official and be able to skip that expensive, time-consuming and often failure-prone step.

In Oakville, One Eleven Forsythe by Daniels Corp., on Lakeshore Road in the west end of town, is a perfect example of what many affluent, downsizing empty-nesters are looking for. The 12-storey building, which encountered some opposition from local residents, is now under construction.

With prices ranging from $949,000 for 1,202 square feet to more than $2.6-million for 2,796 square feet, the 88 suites at One Eleven Forsythe are out of reach for most first-time buyers. The lobby and the common recreational areas are designed to reflect the marble-and-wood-panelled glory of the finest hotels.

The suites themselves have oversized terraces, with the bigger units featuring family rooms off the kitchen, separate studies, two gas fireplaces and curved windows in the living room.

Also offering luxury, but in a low-rise, is the Harbour Club, next to Trafalgar Park, south of Marine Drive. It consists of two- and three-storey townhouses, four semi-detached homes and four detached residences, all operated as condominiums.

With prices between $700,000 for 2,347 square feet and $1.15-million for a massive 3,640-square-foot home, these are niche housing products, but sales have been brisk. The first phase is already complete and the second phase is under construction.

In Burlington, there is a lot more choice in terms of price, with a good selection of new condominiums in the $250,000 to $400,000 range.

One niche condo product that seems to have attracted builder and buyer interest is the live/work unit. Usually, municipalities place a lot of restrictions on these types of residences in order to ensure zoning efficiencies, but Burlington has taken a less stringent approach.

DeSantis Developments' Silvan Forest Place, between Walker's and Appleby lines, features three-storey townhouses with an average of 450 square feet of commercial space, as well as street-level entrances.

The 16 units have been built, and a few are still for sale, ranging from $295,000 for 1,735 square feet to $315,000 for 2,050 square feet.

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