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Investing In Yonge and Eglinton With Johnson Cheng and Shab Rajabzadeh

Podcast Featured Image 09

Johnson Cheng and Shab Rajabzadeh are the partners of Cornerstone Marketing which is coming strong out of the gate and will be handling the sales for Menkes upcoming new tower at Yonge and Eglinton which will be called simply “The Eglinton”.

I sat down with Johnson and Shab and talked about their new company and investing in Yonge and Eglinton. They gave me some insight into the behind the scenes sales and marketing of a new condo project, and we talked about the Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood and specifically Menkes new building.

Shab & Johnson Interview Highlights

1:08 Who Are Johnson Cheng and Shab Rajabzadeh?
2:31 How Johnson Got Into Real Estate Marketing & What He’s Worked On
4:30 How Shab Got Into Real Estate Marketing & What He’s Worked On
6:15 How Johnson and Shab Met and Started Cornerstone Marketing
7:10 How Johnson and Shab Describe Their Passion for Real Estate Marketing
9:20 What Cornerstone Marketing Does for Builders
13:03 Why Invest in Yonge and Eglinton?
15:41 Value of Condos vs Value of Houses in Yonge and Eglinton Area
18:13 What Else Do People Need to Know About Yonge and Eglinton?
21:20 Families Moving Into Condos
24:10 Can the Condo Market Really Support Growth in the Yonge and Eglinton Area?
27:30 The Eglinton Condo Project
30:20 Planning Suites & Floor Plans for Yonge & Eglinton vs Downtown
33:10 What’s Next Over the Next Few Years For Cornerstone Marketing?
35:45 How to Reach Shab & Johnson, Cornerstone Marketing

Interview Links

Cornerstone Marketing

The Eglinton Condos by Menkes

Menkes Developments

Johnson Cheng on LinkedIn

Shab Rajabzadeh on LinkedIn

Is Eglinton the New Bloor?

Crosstown LRT (Eglinton subway)

How to Leave a Review for The True Condos Podcast on iTunes

Johnson and Shab Interview Transcript

Andrew la Fleur:
Welcome back to the show. As a condo investor, you might not realize how a new condo is launched and all the behind-the-scenes work that goes on with the developer, the architects, the designers, the city and the local authorities, the sales and marketing team, et cetera. There’s a lot of moving parts that have to come together before a project ever sells a single unit. A huge part of that is the sales and marketing company that the developer hires to sell the building. They usually have a great deal of input into the design of the building, the suite mix, the floor plans, the finishes, the amenities, and the marketing plan, and of course, the prices themselves of the units.

What you also might not realize is that in Toronto, there are two huge companies that have most of the market share of the whole industry. They sell mostly, nearly all the major condo buildings in the whole city. My guests on today’s show come from one of these big companies. Now, they’re branching off and their own, and they’re starting their own boutique sales and marketing company that is going to compete directly with the big boys.
Johnson Cheng and Shab Rajabzadeh are the partners of Cornerstone Marketing, which is coming strong out of the gate with its very first ever project, really. They’re going to be handling the sales and marketing for Menkes’ upcoming new tower at Yonge and Eglinton, which is simply going to be called The Eglinton. Johnson and Shab previously handled sales for several other very successful projects, including Harbour Plaza, 365 Church, 87 Peter Street, and many others.

I sat down with Johnson and Shab, and we talked about their new company. They gave me some insight into the behind-the-scenes of the sales and marketing of a new condo project, and we talked about the Yonge and Eglinton neighborhood and specifically the new Menkes building. For all the show notes on this episode, head on over to Now, here’s my interview with Johnson Cheng and Shab Rajabzadeh.

All right. Great. Thank you very much, guys, for being on the podcast. Really appreciate your time today. Looking forward to chatting with you about the condo market here.

Johnson: Oh, absolutely, Andrew. Thank you.

Shab: Thank you for having us, Andrew.

Andrew la Fleur: Great. Why don’t we just start by you guys can introduce yourself? Johnson, why don’t we start with you? Maybe tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get started in real estate, and what kind of things have you been involved with in your career until now?

Johnson: Okay, perfect. I’ll try to distill that in about 60 seconds. I started in real estate about 20 years ago. Back in ’93, after graduating from Queen’s MBA in finance, I ventured off into Hong Kong. That’s where I got my first taste of real estate. I’d been doing real estate in Hong Kong for about ten years, working for various builders, working with different classes of properties, from commercial, industrial, shopping malls, conversions, estate homes.

Then back in 2003, I had the opportunity to come back to Canada and work for a builder named Concord Adex. That was my first venture into the Canadian real estate market. After four and a half years there, I served in Calgary, working for another builder, and then in 2010 had the good fortune to have come back to Toronto. My first project back here was Chaz Yorkville. From there on, I’ve done multiple projects, notable Peter Street condos. I did 1000 Bay, went into the Shops at Don Mills with Cadillac Fairview, did the Flaire project. Then we went into working on Fabrik.

Then of course, in 2013, we launched 365 Church Condos, and then riding right on that back was Harbour Plaza. Then early this year, we ventured into 87 Peter Street, which was the rebranding and the reshaping of what used to be called Noir Condos. There’s been a lot of excitement in the real estate front for me.

Andrew la Fleur: Great. That’s great. Same thing, Shab. If you could just tell us a little bit about your background, how you got started in real estate, and what kind of things you’ve been working on until now.

Shab: I can’t go 20 years back like Johnson did, but I can tell you …

Andrew la Fleur: Not many of us can. It’s okay.

Shab: I can definitely say that I actually began my journey as a purchaser. I had originally bought a unit back in the day in North York, where Sheppard-Yonge is, where the Sheppard cross-sectional subway line is as well as was at that time …

Andrew la Fleur: When was that?

Shab: Maybe about 10 years ago or so, 11 years ago.

Andrew la Fleur: What building was that?

Shab: 4968 … It was Ultima Towers by Menkes, as a matter of fact, funny enough. I actually bought my first unit there with my OSAP money. A lot of people thought I was crazy to take on the risk to do it. I believed in the market, had a lot of family involved in real estate in the past, so I’ve learned. I was mentored through, so I ended up taking the dive then. Did some homework, learned a lot about it, started building a passion for it at that time. I bought it, did really well with it.

Since then, I ventured off into finance. I did underwriting finance, lending side, for Wells Fargo Financial. It was an American lender when they were in Canada at that time. From there, I got into the broker side of lending, construction financing, homes, and things like that. Soon after I met Johnson in 2010, when I met the gentleman who introduced myself to Johnson at Chaz on Charles, and started my journey from there on. Ever since then, fallen in love with project planning and project marketing. It’s been a great journey since then. Now, things are changing very well towards a good direction.

Andrew la Fleur: That’s great. How did you guys get together? You’ve known each other since 2010, and now you’re starting this new company, Cornerstone Marketing, which is going to be marketing and selling primarily condominium buildings. We’ll get into that in a minute, but maybe tell us a little bit about the story. How did you guys meet, and get together, and start this company together? What was the genesis of that?
Shab: Johnson went back in his history and his CV as to how he got into Toronto, how he came back to Toronto. In 2010, actually, Johnson was the sales and project manager and the VP at Milborne Real Estate, and he had launched that project. When I had come in at that time, I was a sales associate, and actually he started mentoring me through, and that’s when I fell in love with it. Since then, we’ve built a very good synergy together and worked together, and he’s step-by-step … I guess I can say that I’ve been suctioning off all his brain power, all his information from him, and working together.

Johnson: I think it all stems from having the common interest and passion in real estate.

Andrew la Fleur: What is that? What excites you, or how do you describe your passion for real estate? What’s exciting about it for you?

Johnson: I think what we do and our passion is creating a product, shaping a product, and creating a need for that product, and then delivering the product to the end buyers, whether they be investors or end users. Our passion and satisfaction comes in having people bought a unit and then come back and say, “That was a great decision. I love the way this whole plan works. It works into the way I live. I like the thoughts that you guys have put into it and the care into really delivering good, efficient plans.”
I think part of what I’ve done before is always looking for a niche and always going for the perfection. I think we never reach perfection, but in the process of trying to strive for that perfection, we come up with some really good products. That has always been the founding tenets for the way I work.

What I found really interesting working with Shab is he has a lot of passion for real estate. I see a little bit of my younger years in him, and we just click. We just felt that this is something we want to dedicate our lives to. It has so much meaning, because real estate, for a lot of people, is the single most biggest investment in their lives. It is a vehicle for which they could really aspire and fulfill their dreams. We are creating dreams. We’re creating opportunities for people to realize a much higher goal, so they could better themselves, they could provide their families. In the whole holistic scheme of things, it is a very good venture that we’re doing.

Shab: I would definitely agree with that.

Andrew la Fleur: Maybe for people who don’t [inaudible 00:09:22], take us a little bit inside the process of … from the marketing and sales side of it, your side of it, representing the builders. Take us behind the scenes a little bit. What do you guys actually do? What are the key things that you do?

Johnson: What we actually do.

Andrew la Fleur: Before you bring a project to market. You mentioned talking about floor plans and making really efficient floor plans as being a major thing that you strive to do. Some people may not realize, some of the people listening may not realize, that as the marketing and sales team, that you’re actually involved with that. It’s not just the architects who come up with something like that. Tell us more about that. What do you do before you launch a new project?

Johnson: I think it all goes back to the name of Cornerstone. When we first envisioned this, what we do is we bring down to the fundamentals as to what makes a great product. We go back to the fundamentals of the pillars of marketing, being, the product has to be a good product, it has to be properly priced, and you have to have adequate promotion and the placement how you deliver that product to the end buyers, investors, or users. We..

Andrew la Fleur: The four P’s.

Johnson: The four P’s of marketing.

Shab: The four marketing P’s.

Andrew la Fleur: For those of us who did marketing courses or whatever, the four …

Johnson: Marketing 101.

Shab: That’s right.

Andrew la Fleur: It’s real life.

Johnson: It’s real life. It’s going back to my marketing books from my bachelor’s degree in marketing and just bringing in the fundamentals. We thought what better name to call it, Cornerstone, because that is the major tenet that any project should be built upon. That is the founding principle. You got to have a great product.

Andrew la Fleur: You sit down, what do you do? Months before a project is on the market, you sit down with the developer, the architects. What kind of discussions do you have? What do you talk about?

Shab: Initially, we look at the area, I think. We try to understand the area, develop a passion for the area, and really see what that area’s end result will be.

Andrew la Fleur: You start with the location, first and foremost.

Shab: Absolutely.

Andrew la Fleur: The old “location, location, location.” From a marketing side, it all starts there.

Shab: It’s the same parallel as you would be as an end user or investor looking at buying a project or at buying a home. We look at a location, try to understand what the offering are there. Then you would probably try to emphasize and focus on those things when it comes to actual planning aspect of it. Our next step would be going more deeper into the planning and design aspect of it, and going from there and going to the four P’s that Johnson pointed out. I think those would be the fundamental steps into our process [crosstalk 00:12:04].

Andrew la Fleur: Do you get involved working with the city in terms of approvals, and zoning, and density, and heights, and all that? Or, do you just come in after that’s all been established?

Shab: At our initial stage, those are pretty much predefined for us.

Johnson: Yeah. For any builder-developer, they would actually have the parameters of the density, the height restrictions, the setback, all those things that pigeonhole what could be built on it. Then based on our market analysis, we interpolate and say, “What will the future hold for that particular location? What will be the driving demand factors? What are the type of products that will be needed in couple of years down the road?” Again, Andrew, we’re talking about pre-construction, which takes a cycle of about five years. We have to look in the crystal ball and look at what today is, what was it before, and where the future holds. We try to get a product that is in line with what the buyers wants and needs.

Andrew la Fleur: Okay. Let’s take it from the theoretical now, and let’s bring it to the practical. Let’s talk about a real example. Obviously, [inaudible 00:13:13] share with everyone that Cornerstone, your company, has the contract to do the marketing and sales for Menkes’ new upcoming project called The Eglinton …

Shab: Correct.

Andrew la Fleur: At Yonge and Eglinton. Tell us about that. Let’s start with the location, Yonge and Eglinton. Somebody’s thinking about and making a condo investment this year, why Yonge and Eglinton as a location?

Shab: Yonge and Eglinton itself has a lot of history to it. When I look at Yonge and Eglinton, first thing when we were reviewing all this and we were blessed by getting this project, we looked at Bloor and Yonge. You got to dig in 60 years ago what happened in Bloor and Yonge, the cross-section of the subway line and the development process involved there, and the number of people that buy into it. Now, you look at it from years ago, where it was charging about 200 dollars a square foot and now is trading around 900 dollars a square foot in the market. You realize the growth potential.

For me personally, I step back again, and I look at Sheppard and Yonge. You only have one subway line going from the Sheppard station all the way east to where Bayview Village is. You’re going from Yonge Street to Bayview. You see even a lot of development go into that extension of the subway line. Then you step back, and you look at Eglinton and Yonge. What we have is the LRT there, the subway LRT system, which is a great thing to have because a majority, I think, is actually underground and is [crosstalk 00:14:38] …

Johnson: Nineteen kilometers.

Shab: Nineteen kilometers. It’s a great thing to have, an extension going to the east and to the west. The Midtown Eglinton will no longer be Midtown to those listening in it. It will be part of the Downtown Core. The Midtown is moving up to Sheppard and Yonge now. You see the emerging condominium developments. There is a reason why developers are all flocking towards that area. Transportation, transportation, transportation plays into your location. It’s important mainly because I look at Yonge not only just transportation but the lifestyle in the area.

You have a lot of stores in the area. You have a lot of shopping, access subway north, south, east, and west. What you also have very important is the housing in the area. When you’re purchasing condominiums, also pay attention to the housing. If you look in that area, you have the Mount Pleasant area, nice home, very expensive, very well established. Eglinton, Chaplin Estates, Forest Hill. Yonge and Eglinton actually is surrounded by some of the best, most-valued real estate in Toronto.

Andrew la Fleur: Okay. The freehold homes, you’re talking about the low-rise homes, hundred-year-old homes, most of them, in the area, are selling average price of somewhere around a million, probably.

Shab: Absolutely.

Andrew la Fleur: Expand on that a little bit. Why do you think about that as a condo investor, looking at an area, because a condo is different from a house, right?

Johnson: Absolutely, absolutely. That’s where the pricing gap comes in. What a lot of people will see in the press is that for single detached homes, average price is about 680,000 dollars, and the average price for a condominium is around in the low-400s.

Andrew la Fleur: For the entire GTA.

Johnson: Exactly. That was the most recent report by RealNet. You’re looking at around 250,000-dollar price gap between my affordable single detach around that price versus a condominium. It’s because of that pricing gap that has forced a lot of developers to go into condominium developments, because we are delivering … and “we” meaning all these developers as a aggregate … a solution for a lot of people who want to create their own homes, and build their own families, and have their own lives, but they cannot afford the 600-some-odd-thousand-dollar single detach. In our particular area here, the gap is even more, because it’s around north of a million dollars. That price gap will persist and keep driving the need for condominiums.

Andrew la Fleur: Okay. Basically, you’re talking about the fact that if people want to get into particular areas, Yonge and Eglinton for example, if they want to purchase a home there, they’re either looking at a million-dollar home, or if they can’t afford that, which is most people, then now you’re saying the condominium market is …

Johnson: A 400,000-dollar condominium will [crosstalk 00:17:44] a solution.

Shab: Alternative.

Andrew la Fleur: Right.

Shab: Good alternative to have, and the lifestyle as well is very attracting for the Yonge and Eglinton …

Johnson: What is interesting is when you look at this price gap is that if you roll back times for about four years ago, the price gap between the single detach and the condominium average price in GTA, it was only 100,000 dollars. Within the last couple of years, that pricing gap have outpaced to 250,000 now, and that is significant.

Andrew la Fleur: The price gap between the condos and the houses is growing. In one of my previous podcasts, we talked about how the price for homes is setting the floor price for condos, really. That’s a great point to think about. Anything else you want to hit on in terms of Yonge and Eglinton location? Okay, so the LRT’s coming in there. It’s like Yonge and Bloor, Yonge and Sheppard. It’s that new transit hub. What else do people need to know about Yonge and Eglinton?

Johnson: When you look at the entire transit line as to how that has transformed Toronto, we got to look back into history as to where we were to know where we’re going. You look at the Bloor line. It has linked up the entire GTA from east to west in phenomenal impact. It has transformed how people live. It have transformed how business sectors have grown and sprawled out. In the same manner, Eglinton, it runs very linear. It is one of the few streets that will cross from east to west in its entirety. You look through the maps in Toronto. That is astounding.

What you will find within this 19-kilometer stretch of the subway LRT will be various pockets of growth areas of commerce, business centers, medical centers. Around these small pockets will be an uprising of new condos where people will say that, “I can live here. I can still be accessible.” All the while, when you’re looking at the intersection of these two major arteries … and we call this a new hub now … this is where the entire province of Ontario is directing the growth directions.

It’s not just the city of Toronto, but the entire province of Ontario have this growth strategy … it’s a smart move … to push a lot of developments, a lot of infrastructure, and that is all part of … Because what we find in the Yonge and Eglinton is a very well-served school network. It is an established community. It’s nestled in with an enclave of a lot of really good, good subdivisions, good, good communities. This is just poised for growth, because you have all these alignments. Everything is just right for a lot of growth potential.

Shab: The school aspect is a big point on that area. Some of the top schools in Toronto exist within that domain.

Andrew la Fleur: All right. If someone purchases a condo at The Eglinton, are they going to be able to access those schools that we’re talking about?

Johnson: Yes.

Shab: They’re within the region, right?

Johnson: Yeah, it is within the school board system. There is also private schools, Catholic schools. It’s the intersection of a lot of good education systems that we have and we pride ourselves in in Toronto. That’s something that is in some way lacking in the Downtown Core …

Andrew la Fleur: Yeah. Talking about affordability, talking about condos in traditional areas with great schools. Do you see families moving into condos? Do you see high-rise living as eventually the new way of life in Toronto?

Johnson: Absolutely. Take my case, for example. I grew up and I was born in Hong Kong. It wasn’t until nine years old that I came to Canada. That’s when I really saw a soccer field that’s made of grass. In Hong Kong, unfortunately, I was playing soccer on cement fields. That is something that is part of my culture, part of my heritage, that I grew up in apartments. For a lot of people in Hong Kong, that’s how they live. They live in apartments.

Shab: Yeah. That market’s ever-changing. Condominium lifestyle, people are liking, people are adopting to it. If you’re within my age group, you are living in a condominium, or you’re enjoying it at least until you decide to have a family. If and when you do so, you tend to just look for larger space. Touching on that, Eglinton is that building for that area that will allow for that change. You can evolve in that building and that location, which gives you access to the parks, to the schools, and the right designs, that Johnson touched on, to accommodate growth.

Andrew la Fleur: Right. The right plan for a family’s got to have size, it’s got to have space, but it’s also got to be the right price.

Shab: Right. Think very practical in this sense. The Eglinton is definitely more of a practical touch on that project.

Andrew la Fleur: Obviously, nothing’s been finalized yet, but are you going to have larger affordable units in the building, like family-sized units? Is that something that …

Johnson: [Inaudible 00:23:10] what do you mean by family-size? I think the fallacy is that larger is better. I particularly don’t really subscribe to that, because that only creates a lot of lazy architects and just cram a lot of space without a lot of thought and care into the functionality.
I actually look at smart plans. I actually want to make sure and we drive the plans in terms of functionality, that you could do more with less space. Where you look at your living environment, you look at the things that you do, you always look at it from a functional point of view. What can I achieve in that space? Storage opportunities. Space that could be multipurpose where you can accomplish a lot of things in a confined space. I think that is where the market is heading. I think that’s good for the market as a whole and great for consumers, because they’re getting more and more bang for their buck.

Andrew la Fleur: More back for the buck, right, right. Talk about efficient floor plan. Let me ask you this. Again, put on my skeptical investor hat and say, “Guys, it sounds like an interesting project. Menkes is a great builder. Yonge and Eglinton’s a great location, but there’s so many projects that are happening at Yonge and Eglinton right now. Can the market really support growth in this area?”

Johnson: Absolutely.

Andrew la Fleur: What do you say to that?

Johnson: I think of other markets within that particular sector. Of all the projects that have been released as currently available for sale, 82 percent of them have been sold already. In terms of availability of inventory, there’s only 18 percent. That is a large, large difference from a lot of [crosstalk 00:24:55] markets.

Andrew la Fleur: It’s a bit of a fallacy to some people who think that there’s tons of projects and condos available at Yonge and Eglinton. What you’re saying is actually, 82 percent of those projects are sold out already.

Johnson: [Crosstalk 00:25:05], exactly.

Shab: Some of the ones you may see right now that have the cranes up and going, right, so those were pre-sold four years ago. If you look at The Eglinton, you’re looking to purchase in this project, you’re looking four years, five years down the [inaudible 00:25:18], so 2019, essentially, you’d be looking at that time. In 2020, you have the subway LRT finished. Sometimes I feel like this strategically planned by Menkes sometimes to make sure they hit these dates, so that the right group of investors or end users get the opportunity to have access to these sort of amenities.

Johnson: I think part of the selling feature is the subway LRT. For us to bring a solution to the buyers where you have to wait a couple of years before you can enjoy that, that’s not really in the contemplation for Menkes. They really want to deliver good products that people can use. Some of the points that we’ve touched on so far really speaks to Yonge and Eglinton as an established community. There’s no shortage of projects around town, but when you look at it sometimes, buyers, investors, or end users are called to sacrifice. They have to wait for the infrastructure. They have to wait for the parks system. They have to wait for the schools to be built. They have to wait for all these stuff. At Yonge and Eglinton, you don’t have to wait, because everything’s already done for you.

Andrew la Fleur: Right. It’s not really an up-and-coming area.

Johnson: No. No, it’s not up-and-coming.

Andrew la Fleur: In a sense, you’re really buying into …

Shab: Established neighborhood.

Andrew la Fleur: A very established neighborhood. All the infrastructure is great today. It’s only going to get that much better once the LRT … It’s that missing piece of the puzzle to make it that major GTA hub.

Shab: Yeah. It’s a two-phased project for the subway LRT, extending far to the east and west. The second phase, I think, is supposed to go to Pearson, I think. It’s supposed to touch to Pearson.

Johnson: That’s the second phase, linking up to the airport.

Shab: Right. They have thought this through, and [crosstalk 00:26:58].

Andrew la Fleur: You’re going to be able to go from Yonge and Eglinton by transit to Pearson Airport directly.

Johnson: Yeah. The forecast is it would take about 40 minutes in total, 30 to 40 minutes, which is a great proposition, because it will really tie in the entire city together with the airports. That’s one of the things that Toronto’s been lacking for the longest time, is having a good transportation system that links it to the international airport.

Andrew la Fleur: Yeah. I know, again, it’s early, no details are officially out there yet, but just to give people listening a little bit of sneak peek, what can you share with us about The Eglinton, this new building by Menkes at Yonge and Eglinton? What else can you share with us? What details can you give us? Anything?

Johnson: I think it’s important, when we venture into this particular project, to try to dream and see what will be the state of the world in 2020. We’re looking about six years down the road. Where will we be? I think what the future holds for us is that there will be a lot more savvy and discriminating users. Let’s not differentiate whether you’re investor or end user. At the end of the day, it will be users who will be using that space. What they’ll be looking at is we are offering a wide assortment of different product types. I often use the analogy of having, for example, their car, a Mercedes. You see that happening in the car industry, where a major manufacturer would have a different line. They would have the A series, B series, C series, E series, S series, and it’s the product line proliferation that a lot of industries are going into. I think in 2020, it will be similar to that, where the savvy user will really fine-tune what their needs are.

Andrew la Fleur: You’re talking about the condo buyer. Yeah, the condo buyer [crosstalk 00:29:01] …

Johnson: Buy the condo, use the condo, renter. They’ll be going to marketplace and say …

Andrew la Fleur: Very specific …

Johnson: “I want a one-bedroom where I can put a decent-sized bed, and I need a walk-in closet.”

Shab: Closet.

Johnson: That’s something that we’re working into the plans. “I need something where my den could use as my home office, and also for my out-of-town guests. The convertibility of my den is important, and the den having three walls as opposed to just lying along the hallway.” We want to create these type of functionalities in the space for our users.

Shab: Absolutely. Living in a condominium, when you’re entertaining, you have friends over, at times, you don’t want them to use your bathroom that’s on your on-suite, at times. A second bathroom option is always a good thing to have. Going back to Johnson’s point, in 2020, I don’t think you have to wait until 2020. I think it’s happening right now. People are going, buying condominiums, and asking for this second bathroom, powder room, convertible dens. “I might want to have someone stay over in the den. Is it large enough space?” I think functionality is important. We look at practicality when we look at working with certain projects to make sure that it’s suitable for the area and it’s practical for the people in that area or that are moving to that area.

Andrew la Fleur: Let me ask you that. Compared to a typical downtown tower, do you look at things differently at Yonge and Eglinton in terms of how you plan the suites and the suite types, the size of the units, versus being downtown? Or, do you say, “You know what? We’re on the subway line. We’re going to basically use the same criteria as we would downtown”?

Johnson: It’s very much similar in one respect. We are not as confined in terms of the sizing. Having said that, we haven’t ignored what the future really demands are. I think affordability will always be paramount, and also functionality always be paramount, whether you’re in downtown or at Yonge and Eglinton. We don’t want to dismiss anything just because we are not in on Yonge Street. We want to blow up the sizes. No, but rather, we look at the space critically as to how to offer more functionality in that space.
Something that we have done at The Eglinton is to create very interesting amenities. We’ve looked at amenities for quite some time now and saying, “Is the basketball court the way to go? Is the tennis court the way to go?” How do you create more in the amenities space for the people to enjoy it even more? One sneak peek is that at The Eglinton, we will and we have contemplated for younger families, so there will be special zones, active, creative zones for the kids. We are seeing more and more, because we work in downtown, we’re seeing more of these young families with kids. What better location than Yonge and Eglinton, where there’s such a great infrastructure of education systems, for the young families to start bringing up their younger children? That’s something that we’ve contemplated and work into the program.

Andrew la Fleur: Okay.

Shab: Sorry. One final note on that is that, looking at Eglinton and Yonge, it’s also a tech area. Not a lot of people know about it, but I think LinkedIn and Facebook are actually located there. Another sneak preview or sneak peek to Eglinton, the [cord 00:32:39] building is fiber optic. A lot of people look for those things to have good Wi-Fi

Andrew la Fleur: What does that mean, fiber optic …

Shab: That the service provider that comes in later on will have better transfer rates for connectivity.

Johnson: They will get broadband connectivity.

Andrew la Fleur: Better speed.

Shab: Which should be very important for a lot of people that are … Everybody’s on their laptops and phones, and things like that. Personally, I know that is important to a lot of end users, because I am one.

Andrew la Fleur: Great. That’s another feature to distinguish it from other buildings around. That’s great, guys. Thanks for sharing all this great information with us on the building. Just to wrap things up, is there maybe a question … something I like to ask people … is there a question that no one has ever asked you about with respect to the condo market or with respect to your company that you wish someone would? What would be your answer to that?

Johnson: I think I’ve fielded a lot of questions about our company so far. One of the more interesting ones is they have asked, “You being a new entrant to this marketplace, where do you see yourself in the next five years?”

Andrew la Fleur: Tell us. That’s a great question. As a new player in the high-rise condo game, on the sales and marketing side, where do you see yourself over the next few years?

Shab: Both Johnson and I come from a humble background, and we want to maintain that culture in the company and grow. Similar to how Johnson has mentored me through my tough times and learning through this whole process, I would be doing the same, which I’ve already started mentoring others to grow, and make sure that whatever they do, they have the right interest in mind.

When it comes to developments, product, location, working with builders, we really take on a hands-on approach, very different from other companies that may be in our industry that don’t take the hands-on approach or take that academic background, apply the four P’s to the project marketing. I think that’s something that I think that really changes us and that we want to continue that into the future, staying lean and mean, I think, is the way I like it.

Johnson: I think it’s staying real. I think what is really lacking is the ability to have a sensibility of doing the reality check against yourself, knowing that growth, you can’t earn all the money in the world. If you don’t really love what you do, having all the money in the world won’t mean a thing. We want to instill the passion, want to find like-minded individuals to join our organization that will grow and also see the same vision of helping developers deliver good products so that it’s a betterment for the entire industry.

Andrew la Fleur: That’s great. I wish you all the best of luck, guys.

Johnson: Thank you.

Andrew la Fleur: Congratulations again on starting the new company, Cornerstone … Sorry, what’s the official name again? Cornerstone …

Johnson: Cornerstone Marketing Realty.

Andrew la Fleur: Cornerstone Marketing Realty.

Johnson: We’re a full-service brokerage.

Andrew la Fleur: Great, and full-service brokerage. If people want to find you guys online, what’s the best way to get a hold of the company or yourselves personally?

Shab: I think best way would be LinkedIn.

Johnson: We have a LinkedIn webpage. I myself have my LinkedIn profile. We’re on Twitter. All the social media platforms, we are there.

Andrew la Fleur: Okay. Great.

Shab: Absolutely.

Andrew la Fleur: Okay. Thanks again, guys. Appreciate your time.

Johnson: All right. Thank you. Thank you, Andrew.

Shab: Thank you, Andrew.

Andrew la Fleur: Okay, there was my interview with Johnson and Shab. I hope you enjoyed that, the guys from Cornerstone Marketing. If you’d like to learn more about The Eglinton, the project that we talked a lot about in this interview, make sure you go to and subscribe for updates on that. To check out the show notes for this episode, once again, head over to, and there you’re going to find links to everything that we talked about on this show, a transcript of our interview, and more details there.

Okay, that’s enough from me. If you like this show, I would really appreciate it if you leave me a review on iTunes. Just go to iTunes on your computer and leave me a review there. They’re greatly appreciated. Okay. Bye for now.

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