Understanding the Big Picture in Regent Park with Jacob Cohen of Daniels Corp
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On this episode Andrew la Fleur sits down with Jacob Cohen of Daniels to get an update on the rapidly changing regent park neighbourhood and they talk about the latest new project in the area – The Bartholomew condos and towns
Jacob Cohen Interview Highlights
0:20 What to Expect in this Interview
4:00 How Jacob Cohen Got Started in Real Estate
6:59 What is Jacb Most Passionate About?
8:50 What Can We Expect Moving Forward in the Toronto Downtown Condo Market?
10:00 Finding Sites Becoming a Challenge
11:20 What’s Happening in Regent Park?
14:30 New Additions to Regent Park
20:00 What to Look Forward to in The Bartholomew
23:57 What Will Be Completed in Regent Park Within the Next 2 Years?
28:51 The Daniels 5% Deposit Program
32:50 Regent Park Isn’t a Safe Area?
34:30 Regent Park is a Bad Investment?
35:13 Subsidized Rental House in Regent Park?
36:50 The Quality in Regent Park
37:55 Regent Park Isn’t Downtown Enough?
38:44 Daniels Amenity Program
Jacob Cohen Interview Transcript
Andrew la Fleur: Hi and welcome back to the show. On today’s show, we have a very special guest, Jacob Cohen. Jacob is a second-generation developer with The Daniels Corporation. We’re going to be talking about Daniels’ latest building which is coming in Regent Park which is the Bartholomew Condominium and Townhomes. Jacob’s been working on the Regent Park project, all the buildings there since the very beginning, so he’s got a great perspective on everything that’s happened there.
When it comes to the Regent Park developments, obviously, it’s no secret that I’m a big proponent, a big fan of what Daniels has been doing there. I purchased actually three units myself at different buildings in Regent Park and those are part of my long-term investment portfolio. I’m a big fan of the neighborhood, I’m a big fan of the overall plan of what they’re doing there and I’m a big believer that the best is yet to come and that the neighborhood, when it’s all said and done is going to be a really, really great neighborhood in the heart of Downtown.
That being said, not everybody agrees with me. Obviously, a lot of people are still stuck in the belief that Regent Park is not a good area, Regent Park is a bad area to invest in, Regent Park is not a safe area, these kinds of stigmas that our associate with the old Regent Park in the way that it used to be. For some people are still sticking around and they’re still a stumbling block for some people. Maybe that’s you listening right now, thinking about investing in Regent Park but you’re still thinking about some of those issues.
I’ve got answers for all those questions and I’ve shared them many times over many articles and podcasts and many, many, many conversations with clients over the years in Regent Park itself. When they come and see it, they see the change, they understand what’s happening there right away when you actually see with your own eyes.
I also wanted to hear what Jacob had to say about it and how he addresses some of these concerns. So I did ask him some of those tough questions in the interview, so you want to definitely listen to that and of course, learn more about the Bartholomew Condos specifically which is a boutique project, only 159 units in that building and only 30 townhomes. A very unique product.
These townhomes are three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhomes with your own private backyard and your own rooftop terrace, underground parking and very reasonable maintenance fees. These are expected to be very popular and to sell very quickly. As well as the Bartholomew itself which is only 159 units and it’s also expected to be selling very, very quickly just on the basis of that alone. There’s not a whole lot of product there.
This project is launching right now. If you’d like more information on it, of course, you can always send me an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For all the show notes on this episode, just head on over to truecondos.com/jacob and you’ll see all the show notes for this episode.
Okay. Without any further delay, let’s get to my interview with Jacob Cohen from Daniels.
Andrew la Fleur: Okay. It’s my pleasure to welcome to the show, Jacob Cohen. Jacob is the Director of Project Implementation at Daniels. Jacob, welcome to the show.
Jacob Cohen: Thanks for having me.
Andrew la Fleur: Jacob, why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about your story, your journey how you got started in real estate? Obviously, it’s a strong family connection, we know but I want you to tell us a little bit how you came to be where you are today.
Jacob Cohen: Absolutely, no problem. Obviously, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to start with The Daniels Corporation right out of university summer school or summer student, I guess you could say. I was teaching tennis at the RCYC and that was my summer job as a 17-year-old. Then I think it donned on me that maybe it would be interesting to get into real estate because there is a good family history there. I was afforded the opportunity which is amazing to be able to work for our low-rise team out in Mississauga with our Vice President of Low-Rise Development, Don Pugh and at the time, our Site Super out there, Jerry Giovannone.
So, I worked with them as basically a shadow, a laborer, a guy who shovel dirt, basically whatever they wanted me to for those first couple of years in the summers. So that would have been when I was 17, 18 and then 19, during my in-between summers from university. I had experience doing that and working wit that low-rise team and seeing that industry, I guess from the ground up, I guess, wood frame construction, very different than what I’m involved in now but it was nice to see how it was constructed back then.
I did a lot of PDIs and Pre-Delivery Inspections and that sort of thing with them. I got to see not only the construction side of things but also the end result and dealing with homeowners and how that works as well. A great exposure right off the bat.
Andrew la Fleur: I’m curious, just growing up in the family, did you always know that you would end up in the company that you end up in real estate development or did you chart your own path for a while or was it something you’re always interested in or you’ve have developed a passion?
Jacob Cohen: I think I definitely did not anticipate to be going into to. Definitely, took English Literature and Political Science in university and not the typical developer, I guess strain. After I got a little bit of taste of it, I said, “This is very cool. This is exciting being on the ground at this development level, visioning what projects can be coming up with how people are going to be living and how communities are going to be built.”
This was something that all of us … It didn’t come to me right away as like a passion but I think now, I’ve been with the company full time for nine years. It’s become a passion and obsession for me that it really is an exciting, awesome business to be in.
Andrew la Fleur: What do you enjoy most about it? What are you most passionate about with what you do?
Jacob Cohen: I think about how different it is every single day. Every single day, I have the ability to come to work. Some days, I’m going to be thinking about unit layouts. Other days, I’m going to be thinking about what’s the great amenity we need to include in our buildings. The next day, I may be thinking about community engagement and what’s the best way to get the community involved with our condos or exposure for condos outside of their front doors as well. I guess, it’s the ability to really touch on a bunch of different components on a regular basis, that excites me.
Andrew la Fleur: How do you say the condo market so far, particularly the Downtown Condo Market? I know obviously, we’re going to talk about the Bartholomew today but you guys also have another very exciting, huge project coming up, Daniels Waterfront. What are you seeing in the Downtown Condo Market this year?
Jacob Cohen: I think we’re very excited about this year and what’s coming down the pipe at least with our own products. It comes down to finding great location and that’s the pillar of all real estate. Everyone knows that but then actually, being able to take that and execute it with the development it’s going to incorporate, many different aspects that are going to be interesting to different people.
So, having the site is one thing but then, having the product, it’s going to speak to your desire, my desire, what people are looking for is a whole other story. I think that’s really what we have coming in the next couple of months specifically with the Bartholomew in Regent Park but then down at the Waterfront likely this fall. Again, it’s going to have a little bit of something for everybody.
Andrew la Fleur: You’re right. I mean, I think it comes down to location. What’s interesting so far this year is there’s been very few, if any, Downtown launches, right? New projects coming on to the market unlike the past couple of years. So, what do you see happening moving forward in the Downtown Condo Market?
Jacob Cohen: I think still, there is strength in the Downtown market. I think you’re absolutely right, it definitely slowed. I think a lot of developers are taking a bit of step back and maybe looking at some other business opportunities whether it be purpose-built rental, whether it be seniors building, whether it be student housing. I think there’s a number of avenues that people are exploring to say, if the Condo Market doesn’t keep going at its pace which it doesn’t look like it is right but should they be exploring other endeavors.
I think that may have led to some of the bit of the slow down this year that people are just taking a little more trepidation in terms of what they’re bringing forward to the market and making sure they’re bringing something that they’re very confident in. We’re very confident in what we’re bringing to the market because we think it’s so very unique but it comes down to where Downtown are you going to be looking to locate.
Andrew la Fleur: How much of it is, the lack of new launches this year, how much of it is just the reality of the maturing city? The sites are becoming harder and harder to find. There’s no land to buy, there’s no parking lots left. There’s no cheap … There’s no low-hanging fruit.
Jacob Cohen: That’s a very, very good point. I think it’s being creative though. It’s being creative with the sites that you do have. You’re absolutely right, it’s a challenge. You can’t just stumble upon that beautiful corner lot that’s right on the street car line or right on the subway line. Those just don’t really come up anymore because everyone has tries to tackle those and have done a great job in doing so but I think people need to be creative with infill development and that’s what we’re definitely trying to do as well.
It doesn’t need to be a monster site. It’s doesn’t need to be something the size of the Waterfront but people need to look at infill and people need to be considering module construction where you don’t have a lot of room on either side and maybe concrete doesn’t make a lot of sense and maybe you can do a different type of build.
I think there’s going to be a little bit of an exploration in terms of how people are doing their construction over the next couple of years. It may evolve and may help some of those infill sites start to pop up again.
Andrew la Fleur: Interesting. Let’s shift gears to Regent Park here. I want to talk obviously about the Bartholomew. For those people who aren’t familiar with what’s happening in Regent Park, what has happened, maybe you could give us, if possible, a brief history of Daniels and the revitalization of Regent Park here. When did it begin? Where are we at now in the cycle and when is it all going to be done in terms of the whole neighborhood?
Jacob Cohen: Absolutely. Right now, I would say we are at about the seven and a half to eight year mark of the overall revitalization. It was originally scheduled to be approximately 15 years. That was the original outset of what I want to talk about. It was going to be a six-phase, 15-year program that involves taking down all of the existing Toronto Community Housing buildings, replacing those with new Toronto Community Housing rental buildings. Then also, putting in an influx of regular market-driven condo buildings as well.
So, we are now seven and a half to eight years into that program. We’ve successfully launched five condo buildings in Regent Park. The Bartholomew will be, I guess, the … sorry, will be the fifth. I guess, it’s an exciting time for Regent Park because the amenities around the neighborhood here are really starting to flourish.
For those of you who are not familiar with the neighborhood, it used to be a very challenging, highly-stigmatized ghetto area where not a lot of people would come in, not a lot of through traffic happened in this neighborhood. The streets were cut off from the rest of the city and it really was an isolated pocket in its own right.
Part of the revitalization has taken all of those, I guess, challenges and removed them, adding in new streets, adding in new open park space, adding in local community amenities such as an aquatic center, such as a new arts and cultural center, such as brand new community centers as well. All these things are helping to bring from Regent Park was to bringing it to something where it would be a very highly sought after destination to live in the city because of its proximity to Downtown, literally a 10-minute, maybe a seven-minute drive from the Eaton Center and very close to all local amenities in the Downtown core.
It’s definitely a neighborhood that’s up and coming. It’s on the rise and we think that our next project, which is called the Bartholomew, it’s really going to speak to people who are looking to be very close to Downtown, have a Downtown mentality but also, don’t necessarily want to live in a stretching, high-rise condo 50 storeys up in the air. It’s much more of a boutique-style building. It will speak to those characteristics that I think people may be a little bit more attract to now.
Andrew la Fleur: Speaking of amenities, I don’t know if you can comment, I think it’s all public knowledge now about the two big additions to the neighborhood recently in the One Park Place building itself, which is the most recently completed building, One Park Place. Can you tell everybody what those two things are? Hopefully, you know what I’m talking about.
Jacob Cohen: Of course.
Andrew la Fleur: We’re on the same page.
Jacob Cohen: We are.
Andrew la Fleur: It’s a very exciting addition to the neighborhood.
Jacob Cohen: I can speak to one of the two or else, if I speak to the second one, I will have a gag order come get me. Until they’re ready to open, we cannot speak about it but it makes it that much more exciting. The one I can speak about is on the ground floor of One Park Place North. Brand new Shoppers Drug Mart national brand will be going into the base of One Park Place North. Very exciting, long time in the making, a lot of discussions and negotiations to get them here, bring them to Regent Park.
Daniels has always felt that having great commercial brand recognition and brand involvement is crucial to the revitalization. It’s one thing to have condos, it’s one thing to have rental. You need good retails partners to be part of the neighborhood to really see it flourish and become something. Having Shoppers sign on be part of that and be opening, called this fall is what we’re targeting is extremely exciting. I think a lot of the people who have bought into the neighborhood in the previous couple of phases and condo buildings are really thrilled to see this happen as well.
The second one component will be a health center, to be discussed, I guess, at a later date. We’ll get you next time but it’s a very exciting amenity that will be added in the health services sector with a great brand name as well. Again, we’ll bring more people, more interests, more involvement to the Regent Park neighborhood, specifically to the Mews where it’s going to have its direct access which is the central heart and the central Argory in the Regent Park neighborhood.
Andrew la Fleur: I think it’s important for people to understand too, when they come to Regent Park today and they see it as it is, the changes are happening so rapidly and just the addition of those two things alone in that one building alone and right in the center of the community are just like you said, going to bring so much traffic, foot traffic, people working here, people spending money here, as well as just making One Park Place certainly a very attractive building to own, to invest in, to rent in, to live in.
When you’ve got those amenities, especially a Shoppers Drug Mart, I think it’s about 5,000 square feet, is that correct, 5,000 square feet?
Jacob Cohen: Slightly larger but yes.
Andrew la Fleur: Right in your building, that’s just a huge win for everybody who’s already bought here and it’s a great thing to look forward to for the people who are thinking about buying here as well.
Jacob Cohen: It’s wonderful. I think we heard a lot of feedback from people who’ve bought into the neighborhood so far, who have said and are looking for more animation. They’re looking for the next wave of commercial to be coming in as well. We’re now going to rest on our laurels here and yes, we landed the Shoppers, that’s wonderful.
We have a couple of other retail spaces still to lease out. We’re not just leasing them out to any average retailer. We’re being very specific about who we want to find, who we want to put in here. It takes more time as a result. It means there’s not instant gratification for the people who are living in the building but we want to find the right mix of tenants that will really animate the spaces and it become something very special.
Andrew la Fleur: It’s also a great point like as a developer, you’ve been here for five, six buildings already, six, seven years already and your plan is to be here through to the end, another five, 10 years at least, you see the big picture. When you pick a retailer to go in, you’re not just like most developers, you just do one building and you’re in and you’re out and you don’t really care. You throw a dry cleaner in there and wash your hands a bit.
You understand that the retail partners you choose to go in those, specially those prime spaces right on the street is so important to the overall health and well-being and growth of the whole neighborhood as a whole and how one thing fits into the whole picture.
Jacob Cohen: It’s crucial. It’s absolutely crucial to have that and have that connection for people that they have a multitude of amenities, not only in their buildings but then also in the retail components as well. It’s been a major focus for us and a major challenge as well because it’s a learning experience. We are not commercial developers by any stretch. We started including commercial spaces at the bases of our buildings a number of years ago starting out in Mississauga and a function of because of the way the buildings were designed. You have this extra space that couldn’t be converted into residential and what were you going to do with it.
You didn’t want to just make an amenity because kind of a waste when it comes to it, not the best type of amenity for a ground floor. So, we really turn to these mix used buildings and I guess, the commercial and retail components have really become part of our brand and part of what we do now in all of our high-rise construction.
Andrew la Fleur: Very interesting. Let’s talk about the Bartholomew. You mentioned a little bit but what’s unique about this project, what are you excited about, what can people look forward to in this building compared to …? How does it compare to everything else?
Jacob Cohen: I’m so excited about this building.
Andrew la Fleur: I know this is your baby.
Jacob Cohen: I can’t even contain myself. No, it’s thrilling because it’s a 13-storey building. It’s a boutique-style building, 159 units in it. It’s a kin to … We had a building a couple of years ago called One Park West, sorry I get my parks mixed up, One Park West, which is a similar-sized building. Again, there’s something to be said about the smaller, mid-rise style buildings. It just have a different level of sophistication, of architecture, of design, of just overall look.
I really just find that it lens itself to higher resale values, it lens itself to just more of an exclusive feeling. One hundred and fifty-nine units in a building of this size, it’s fantastic. There’s a great mix of units. There’s no question in this building. Small studios up to mid-range, two bedrooms in the 850 to 900 range but I think it is the scale of it that makes it so exciting.
Over and above that, there are 30 townhomes that are part of the overall Bartholomew package which sit on a shared garage, on one level of underground garage and they’re part of the overall 13-storey condo. These townhouses, I think are so unique and so special. I really think they’re going to be very desirable. They are 1360 square feet, plus or minus, three through bedrooms and a backyard, backyard space.
Where can you get that 10 minutes from Downtown in a new built scenario? It’s such a unique offering that we’re thrilled about what they’re going to be doing.
Andrew la Fleur: Very exciting. I know, not part of this release but a very soon after release, you have a small collection of even bigger townhomes that I think will be called the Sutton Towns or Sutton Collection. Can you tell us about those and when? I know it’s coming up later but when? Is that this year or when are those going to be launched?
Jacob Cohen: Yeah, we do hope that those will be later this fall. They are called the Sutton Collection, you’re absolutely right. The number of them that we’re going to have is still to be determined. We’re working through the site plan as we speak but those again, are going to be a very unique offering and that they will be larger, closer to 2400 square foot units, real true family style homes. Again, I’ll have more details on that as we flush them out in the next couple of months.
The Bartholomew tows are a nice, I think, I would call it a more starter townhome product for people that are maybe first-time … could be first-time buyer for a young family, young professionals. I’ve had a ton interests and talked to a ton of people who really they’re thinking about a family. They’re thinking about kids. They’re maybe in their late 20s or early 30s. They’ve been living with mom and dad or they’ve been renting for a while. They’re ready to make that move. They don’t necessarily want to live in a condo and they like the idea of having a little bit of extra space but not having to spend the dollars of having to buy a house in Riverside or Leslieville, enter into those bidding or situations and …
Andrew la Fleur: … or Cabbagetown, 100 meters away.
Jacob Cohen: … or Cabbagetown, absolutely right. Exactly, where those homes are upwards of over a million. It’s very exciting in terms of what the type of demographic that I think is going to be attracted to the townhomes but also, the mid-rise as well because of its unique characteristics.
Andrew la Fleur: Bartholomew is going to be completed I guess, in about two years occupancy?
Jacob Cohen: That’s right.
Andrew la Fleur: About two years time?
Jacob Cohen: Yes.
Andrew la Fleur: Can you paint us a picture like all the things that are happening? Between now and when the Bartholomew is going to be finished and people start moving in, what are the additions, what are the changes that you’re expecting to be completed in the neighborhood between now and two years from now?
Jacob Cohen: Probably, the most exciting thing will be the new Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment Athletic Grounds which is from the Bartholomew, you could throw stone almost and hit it, just down the street. It’s at the corner of River and Shuter and that will be … It’s starting to be under construction this spring. Looking to be completed actually by the … We’re calling it winter of 2015.
It may take all the way until the end of the year but then opening up next spring will be this brand new athletic fields which will consists of soccer and cricket pitch, convertible cricket pitch. It will consists of a refurbished hockey rink and change facility which has already been completed. Then also, an addition of a new brand new basketball court, a running track, some outdoor workout equipment, a nice landscaped area.
This is going to be a great hangout and a great amenity for I would say not just people who are buying in Regent Park but the people looking to engage in Toronto sports and social scenes, looking to engage in intramural sporting. People from Ryerson and George Brown have reached out about use of the facility, use of the space.
Then also, the space will be used for the community specifically and they’ll be hours dedicated just to the community where they can use it on the key times that they’re going to want to need it. That is an incredible amenity that’s being added as we speak. That’s not there yet.
Andrew la Fleur: Not too many soccer fields being built Downtown Toronto these days.
Jacob Cohen: It’s a lot of land.
Andrew la Fleur: Yeah, not too many people can say, “Yeah, right beside my new condo is a brand new soccer field going in and basketball and [inaudible 00:26:00].” Again, I think when you stop and think about the uniqueness of Regent Park and what it has to offer in terms of getting into a master planned community like this where you thought out all these details, you’re not just buying into one building, you’re buying into a whole community that’s really being thought out over 15, 20-year period. Very exciting for buyers.
Jacob Cohen: We had to have a very willing and understanding and cooperative partner. We had that in Toronto Community Housing as well. Where the athletic grounds were previously, that was not what they were supposed to be. This was a vision that we had very early on in the master planning and we had to move density around. We had to heighten that location, move it to other locations. We had to move some buildings that would be going up in that location to other locations in later in the phases.
We felt that it was so important to have this type of sporting activity and sporting athletic facility in Regent Park, that it had to be but our partners, willing partners in Toronto Community Housing bought into that notion, have been behind the supporting and supporting MLSE on the design and on the programming of that space. They’ve really done a great job. So, I got to hand it to them for being with us all the way along on that planning.
Andrew la Fleur: That’s great. Other than the athletic grounds, what else is coming up over the next couple of years?
Jacob Cohen: It’s exciting also, there will be a new facility which is the new community center which is being built as we speak which is at the corner of Sackville and Shuter. That is under construction right now. This new community center will replace an older community center that was built I think in the mid ’70s.
This new one is going to have again, indoor basketball facilities, indoor workout, indoor climbing space. It’s going to have multi-use recreational facilities. It’s going to really have a lot of different community-related amenities that people I think are looking for and it’s right there and it’s brand new and it’s going to look beautiful as well. From an architectural standpoint too, it fits in nicely with the rest of the design of the neighborhood. So, that’s coming which is great.
Then we have phase three coming down the pipe which is still in its design development phase but phase three is fast approaching now and we’re thinking about the next wave of condo buildings. We’re thinking about the next wave of rental buildings that we want to be adding. We’re thinking about introducing seniors buildings and adding that to the mix of the dynamic in this neighborhood as well because I think again, there’s a lot of opportunity here. There’s a lot of existing amenities here that can really be tapped into that I think people will be attracted to in a lot of the different demographics.
Andrew la Fleur: One of the things that you become famous for here in Regent Park and big reason for the success has been your legendary deposit program, your gradual deposit program. You tell us what that is and will it be available on the Bartholomew?
Jacob Cohen: It absolutely will be. It’s a 5% deposit program which is, I don’t know, legendary, that’s very nice of you but no, it’s a great program where you can buy one of the Bartholomew townhouses or one of the mid-rises for 5% down only. You can do it either one of two ways. You could do it with a gradual $1,000 a month until you reached your 5% which is almost like paying, call it your monthly rent on a regular basis until you get to your 5%. Then that’s it until occupancy or you could pay it after 30 days, you put your deposit down when you sign and then you can pay your 5% in one shot, if that works for you as well.
It provides, I think, flexibility to these first-time buyers, to people who maybe have not put away the big stash of cash and …
Andrew la Fleur: People who don’t have 100 grand just lying around.
Jacob Cohen: I guess, that’s what it is. Exactly, correct. I think it speaks to a lot of people and I think a lot of people really do want to utilize it.
Andrew la Fleur: Everyone asks me the same thing and I’ll ask you, there’s got to be a catch, seems too good to be true. Is that really it? You just have to pay $1,000 a month as you said until you hit 5% and that’s it, there’s nothing more required, there’s no conditions, you have to be a first-time buyer? What’s the catch?
Jacob Cohen: No, there’s no catch which is the great part about it. Obviously, you’ll need to go get mortgage pre-approval which is something that you can do with one of our partner banks that we work with and they’re very familiar with this program. We recommend that the people who are coming to look at the Bartholomew or any of the projects in Regent Park that we’re going to be selling that they work with our banks that we have great relationships with because they understand the programs we’re bringing to the table. They understand the 5% offer that we’re providing and they can help people get there and show them that there’s no loopholes, that this is actually how it really works. We recommend people to do that ahead of time, get pre-approved and then come in and choose what makes the most sense for you.
Andrew la Fleur: Just a technical question that people also ask me quite a bit is how has Daniels able to do the 5% just from a financing perspective when every other builder in town requires the usual 15% or 20% on a pre-construction project? Maybe you can take us behind the scenes, behind the curtain a little bit and without giving away any secrets but how has Daniels able to pull it off?
Jacob Cohen: I can’t give away all our trade secrets because I’d get in a lot of trouble for that but what I can say is I think we have a very well-proven track record. We have great relationships with our financing partners, with our bank partners. They trust what we’re bringing to the table. They believe in Regent Park, in the neighborhood and the people who are buying here. They believe in what we’re going to be delivering in the end.
So, I guess all those factors contribute to us being able to leverage that experience and what we’ve done in the past to being able to offer what maybe others can’t. Any further details, I’d be giving away too much. I apologize.
Andrew la Fleur: No, but it’s really hard to overemphasize how unique it is and how amazing of an opportunity it is for purchasers, for investors as well to be able to purchase into a pre-construction project with only 5% deposit. Very exciting. I think that’s one of the reasons why the Regent Park has been such a huge success. I’m sure why Bartholomew and the townhomes will sell out very, very quickly.
Maybe if you don’t mind, I’ll put you in the hot seat a little bit. Again, Regent Park, obviously as you mentioned, it has a long history, it has a lot of stigma attached to it in the eyes of some people still. I’m going to ask you, if you don’t mind, some of the tough questions that buyers and investors ask me all the time. I just love to hear your take on the common objections that you might say to people who are maybe still on the fence about Regent Park or about investing here.
I always say, “Come on down and just take a look at it and you’ll be convinced right away but a lot of people, they just haven’t been here yet. They haven’t seen what’s happening. They don’t have a sense of the scale of the change. I’ll just ask you the first one and see what you have to say, “Regent Park is not a safe area.”
Jacob Cohen: I think that there are many challenging areas in the city no matter where you are. Regent Park has had its challenges, there’s no question. I think with the demolition of the existing rental buildings that are happening in the revitalization, those buildings are coming down. The lack of eyes on the street is completely changing now with the new architectural design and a focus on making sure there’s lot of people out and lots of people looking out on the streets and not these pockets anymore platform quiet areas that no one can get into or get out of.
Does it still have its challenges? Absolutely does. There’s no question. Is that changing every single day and getting better? It absolutely is.
Andrew la Fleur: “Regent Park is a bad area for investment,” or “I don’t want to invest in Regent Park; I should invest somewhere else. Regent Park is not a good investment.”
Jacob Cohen: You’re crazy. No, no, no. Really, I hear that one a lot. There’s no question but I ask them to look at price per square foot anywhere else in the city and stack that up against what we have here and the amenities that we have here, community amenities, local amenities, building amenities in terms of what you’re going to be getting, in terms of a quality of product and look at that price per square foot and stack that against anywhere else and tell me it’s not a good investment.
Andrew la Fleur: I feel like I’m looking into the mirror here. “I don’t want to live where there’s subsidized rental housing.”
Jacob Cohen: That’s also a great one and it’s one that fit … I think we hear less of now. I think we heard that a lot more in phase one, maybe the latter part of phase one or early phase two. I think now, the way we’re looking at the design of the buildings, the way we are really I guess, holding Toronto Community Housing’s feet to the fire in terms of how they maintain their buildings, knowing that these things are going to be existing and co-existing with regular market condos for years to come.
We are really pushing to have these buildings co-exist and be maintained to a higher level of satisfaction than what they were in the past. I got to say, Toronto Community Housing has stepped up in their ability to respond to keep garbage off the streets. If they don’t, then we tell them we’re picking it up and we’re all going to pay for it.
I think it has come a long way in terms of people not being comfortable living next to rental housing but there’s rental housing everywhere in the city and now, you’re living next to brand new rental housing. It is architecturally stunning in a lot of cases. Our partners, they spend a lot of time thinking about the architects they select and the design of those buildings. They make them normally meet their needs from a unit in a layout standpoint but then outside visually, they want them to stand the test of time as well.
Andrew la Fleur: When people see the prices, they often say, “Well, the quality must be low here because the prices are just too good.”
Jacob Cohen: We will not and I mean, we, Daniels will not jeopardize our quality. It’s what we hang our hat on, it’s what we have repeat clients, it’s how we have repeat clients, it’s how we have repeat platinum agents who continue to sell for us time and time again because they know that the quality that they’re going to be getting when they buy a Daniels home is going to be at the top of the market. If it’s not at the top of the market, they’re going to tell us and we’re going to do something about it.
We are never a company to not take feedback and not get better and not learn. I think people who have bought from us or have heard, our reputation is everything to us and maintaining that is extremely important. When you’re buying in Daniels and you’re buying in Regent Park, you’re getting as good quality as if you’d be buying a two-million dollar home in Oakville.
Andrew la Fleur: Last one here, “Regent Park is not Downtown enough. It’s too far away from Downtown.”
Jacob Cohen: I guess, where you’re trying to go Downtown, I’m not too sure. If you’re going to Liberty Village or if you work in Queen West, yeah, maybe it’s a little far. If you’re going to Young and Queen, Bay and Queen, the Financial District, you are a street car away. Dundas Street, Queen Street, King Street, you can walk those within two minutes from Regent Park or you can take a bike along Shuter and you can be Downtown in absolutely no time flat. Yes, you’re not living at King and John but you are 10 minutes away from King and John.
Andrew la Fleur: That’s great. Jacob, anything else you want to add about Regent Park or about the Bartholomew, anything we haven’t covered that you want to make sure people know about?
Jacob Cohen: I think with the Bartholomew specifically, I did mention about the aesthetic features in terms of the building itself. The amenity program were very proud of as well. One thing we hang our hat on there is we have garden plots, which has been a major feature for us in our buildings in Regent Park because we know that people like to get their hands dirty and they like to live in condos with the nail, so like to have access outdoor space and get involved in garden committees and get involved in growing groups.
We find that that’s a great community building initiative. We’ve brought that into the central courtyard that’s found in between the townhouse units and the mid-rise building in this development. I think it’s going to be a great feature that I think people are really going to be attracted to. If they’re thinking about buying, thinking about the amenity space, it’s just a very unique one that I think is special at the Regent Park into this building for sure.
Andrew la Fleur: That’s great. Thanks a lot, Jacob for your time. Really appreciate it and hopefully, we can have you again on the show soon.
Jacob Cohen: Thanks for having me.
Andrew la Fleur: Okay. There you have it. That was my interview with Jacob Cohen of The Daniels Corporation. I hope you enjoyed that, especially if you are just catching on the Regent Park wave, you’re just figuring out what’s happening in that neighborhood, you’re just learning about it. I hope that you got a lot out of that and I hope that you understand a little bit better of what is happening there.
Of course, I’d like to invite you for a tour of the neighborhood. So, whether you’re listening to this now, spring of 2015 or maybe you’re listening to this some time else in the future or whenever, then happy to take you on a tour of the neighborhood, show you around and show you firsthand what’s happening there. I’m a big fan of the neighborhood. As I mentioned, I’ve got several units there myself. I always find that the best way for people to understand the change and the revitalization and the scale of everything that’s happening is to come down and see it for themselves.
Okay. That’s it for this episode. Once again, for the show notes on this episode, links to download the investor package for the Bartholomew Condos, just head on over to truecondos.com/jacob and you will find everything you need to have there. Thank you very much and until next time. Have a great week.
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