A condo with industrial cachet
Leslieville loft makes the most of 25-foot height
The listing: 326 Carlaw Ave., Unit 124, Toronto
Asking price: $1,279,007
Taxes: $8,681 (2017)
Unit size: 1,750 sq. ft.
Listing agent: Arty Basinski, Real Estate By Bike
It's easy to walk past the entrance to the i-Zone Lofts at 326 Carlaw Ave. They're situated in an old industrial part of Toronto's east end near Carlaw and Dundas Street East, made up of multiple long, low-rise, brick buildings – old factories and warehouses that date back to beginning of the 20th century.
Once inside the i-Zone Lofts, there isn't much to see. The labyrinth of hallways are dimly lit and not overly wide. At some point, you might pass a freight elevator or a sign pointing to the loading dock. Individual units are marked with simple signs. Nothing really prepares you for when you step into Unit 124.
"If you want a cookie-cutter condo, there are hundreds of thousands in the city," real estate agent Arty Basinski said. "If you want something special and unique, this is the place to be."
In its former life, 326 Carlaw Ave. was used by many companies, starting off with Phillips Manufacturing Co. Ltd. around 1906, which made products such as glass, frames and cabinets. Later, the building was occupied by Crown Cork & Seal Co., a bottling company that was famous for inventing the "crown cork," the first iteration of a bottle cap.
But in the 1960s, Gyan Jain came to Canada and soon after started buying up properties, including several of the old, worn-down warehouses along Carlaw Avenue. First he bought 276 Carlaw Ave. in 1986 and about a decade later, he and his sons bought 326 Carlaw for $1.25-million.
"Back then, there were giant tarps in the middle of it and leaky roofs," said Vipin Jain, one of Gyan's sons who now runs the family company, Atria Development, along with his brother Hans. "In hindsight, it was a great buy."
After a year of "demos and renos," the building became rentals units for people who used them to live and work out of. In 2003, the Jains converted the rentals into condominiums but kept ownership of a few of the purely commercial units for another seven years. At that point, they started to develop these remaining units one or two at time, turning them into luxurious hard lofts.
Unit 124 has recently undergone its own transformation, leaving only two more commercial units to be converted. And prior to it being placed on the market, Unit 124 was an "big, white empty box with an old concrete floor," Mr. Basinski said.
"It was essentially a windowless unit," Mr. Jain said.
But there was one aspect that gave the space potential to become something more than a 1,200 square foot windowless box: its soaring ceilings.
The ceiling in Unit 124 is actually slightly gabled at one spot, allowing for a maximum height of 25 feet. This provided Mr. Jain and his team – who included interior designer Peter Lunney of Fleur-de-lis Interior Design Inc., construction manager Jonathon Chapple from WeBuild Inc. and Mr. Basinski – to dream upward.
The key to reinventing the unit became adding in levels. The main floor has been divided up into many functional spaces including a bedroom, a full bathroom, a laundry closet and a large kitchen, dining and living room area.
Above that, there is the "mezzanine" floor, which is an open-air master bedroom that features an exposed bathtub and vanity unit and a wet room (meaning the shower and the toilet occupy the same spot) under the stairs.
"[That wet room] was a bit of a risky gamble," Mr. Jain said. "It's a contemporary look. But we know it's not everybody's cup of tea."
Following the waterfall oak stairs up, you come to a 205-square-foot landing that leads out to a 250-square-foot deck with southern and eastern views of the city.
The loft also features some very swanky finishes including diamond-polished concrete floors, quartz countertops in the kitchen and concave tiling in the wet room. The over all vibe is sleek, unique and European, said Mr. Basinski, which is part of the reason why he calls it the "Bond Loft" and the listing price happens to end in 007.
As Mr. Jain and his team have been redeveloping the building's last units, he has learned new lessons with each one.
"With every iteration, we started upping our game," he said. "What we have now has a big 'wow' factor."
For example, in a previous unit they had to box in the big metal beams that run throughout the building, which was a challenge to do because none of the old beams were straight and the end product wasn't all that visually appealing.
Now, the lofts, including unit 124, feature the original steel beams but they have been coated in intumescent paint for fire safety.
One of new elements that Mr. Jain incorporated in unit 124 was the way they created the mezzanine platform. Originally, the unit featured several six-inch steel posts running straight up to the ceiling.
"As you walk in from the south side, there was one of these six-inch steel posts and another one about 15 feet away,"Mr. Jain said . "And we thought "Ugh, that is God-awful ugly.'"
So with the help of his engineer, they managed to remove the lower part of the two posts (at a cost of $6,000 each.) Now, the bedroom appears to float above the kitchen. That, in turn, creates a seamless transition between the kitchen and the dining room space.
"All of a sudden, getting rid of those two little posts completely changed how that unit looked," Mr. Jain said. "I felt it was a night-and-day change."
Another one of Mr. Jain's favourite elements is the lighting in the unit, which is everywhere – under handrails, tucked-in along beams, spotlighting shelves.
"Now it's a LED fiesta," Mr. Jain said with a laugh. "There's stair lighting, there's mood lighting, there's trim lighting, there's lighting going all over the place."
When it came to figuring out a listing price for the space, Mr. Basinski started off by looking at the price per square foot in the building, as there weren't any direct comparables.
"It's hard to find comparables," he said, "'cause the ones that sold recently in the building were smaller."
The other factors that entered into his equation included the finishes and appliances as well as the fact that there is no parking spot – though, Mr. Basinski says renting a spot nearby is feasible.
Maintenance fees are $555 a month.
"The building doesn't have any amenities," Mr. Basinski explained. "And [the fee level is] based on [the square footage] when it originally became a condo, which in this case is 1,200 square feet."
Mr. Basinski said earlier this week that he's already seen quite a bit of interest in the space, and has one offer in hand. But he also recognizes that with its modern look and the open, upstairs bathroom, it's not for everyone.
"It's a bit too exotic for certain people," he said. "But people know if this space is going to work for them as soon as they walk in."
Mr. Basinki said Wednesday that the property had sold "for 99.6 per cent of asking."
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