Why King Toronto Will Become the Most Important Piece of Real Estate in Toronto
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Riz Dhanji returns to the podcast for another great conversation about the state of the Toronto condo market and why he believes that King Toronto will become the single most important piece of real estate that we will see in Toronto over the next 25 years. Riz has been responsible for selling some of Toronto’s most iconic condo projects over the past 2 decades including College Park, Aura, DNA3, Shangri-La and now King Toronto.
Andrew la FLeur: On today’s episode, we sit down with Riz Dhanji, who tells us why he believes that King Toronto will become the most important piece of real estate in Toronto over the next 25 years. Stay tuned.
Speaker 2: Welcome to the True Condos podcast with Andrew la Fleur. The place to get the truth on the Toronto condo market and condo investing in Toronto.
Andrew la FLeur: Hi. Welcome back to the show once again. Thanks for tuning in. Andrew la Fleur here, as always.
Andrew la FLeur: And I’ve got a very special guest for you on today’s show, Riz Dhanji of RAD Marketing. Riz has been responsible for the sales and marketing of some of the most iconic condo buildings in Toronto and condo projects in Toronto over the last 20 years.
Andrew la FLeur: From College Park 1 and 2 to Aura, which was the tallest building in Toronto at the time, to DNA3 and King West. Of course, DNA1 and 2, as well, before that. And even Shangri-La, but now he is responsible for selling King Toronto by, Westbank. And, of course, big architecture.
Andrew la FLeur: This is one of the most incredible buildings that Toronto has ever seen. There’s certainly nothing like it. If you’re looking for a piece of iconic real estate in your portfolio as an investor, look no further than King Toronto.
Andrew la FLeur: There truly is nothing like it and if you talk to Riz, as we do here, he tells us why he believes there’s gonna be nothing like it to come over the next 25 years. He calls it the most important single piece of real estate in Toronto, so very interesting conversation that we had with Riz.
Andrew la FLeur: Also, want to tell you and just put in a plug here. If you are interested in King Toronto there’s a very interesting exhibit put on by the developer this week, as this podcast is being published, the first week of April.
Andrew la FLeur: It’s a free exhibit where you can learn more about the architecture design, what makes the project so unique and special. And just the level of detail that goes into a project like this is off the charts. You can’t compare any other condo building in Toronto to what is happening here in King Toronto.
Andrew la FLeur: If you’re interested, I highly recommend you come and check out this special exhibit that is happening. More details, we talk about that in the interview here today. Just send me an email, give me a call, if you are interested in checking out this exhibit. Happy to give you a personal tour there. Very interesting stuff.
Andrew la FLeur: You can reach me, Andrew, at truecondos.com or call me, (416) 371-2333. And I’d love to, like I said, take you on a personal tour of this special exhibit for King Toronto. This week only. So if you’re listening to this podcast and it is already past the first week of April 2019, sorry you missed it.
Andrew la FLeur: But anyways here is my conversation with Riz Dhanji of RAD Marketing. Enjoy.
Andrew la FLeur: My pleasure to welcome back to the show, Riz Dhanji. Riz is the president of RAD Marketing.
Andrew la FLeur: Riz, great to have you again on the show.
Riz Dhanji: Thank you for having me on board.
Andrew la FLeur: Yeah, always great to chat with you. Love to hear your take on it, everything that’s going on in the condo market. Specifically, obviously, we’re gonna talk about King Toronto and some other things.
Andrew la FLeur: But yeah, maybe we’ll start with that. Like, what are you seeing in the market right now? What is surprising you about the market where we stand here in end of March 2019?
Riz Dhanji: What’s surprising me is that prices are continuing to going up. You know, I think you and I have talked about this in the past. I’m sure we can go back to a couple of conversations we’ve had on a podcast where I’ve always said the supply’s been an issue in the city of Toronto for years now.
Riz Dhanji: And with the abolishment of the OMB, and with the fact that approval processes are now taking double to triple the time to get on market. And the fact that the Canadian government is now bringing in the highest number of immigrants in history into Canada. There’s just not enough supply to deal with this influx of people.
Riz Dhanji: And so what you’re seeing is that between construction costs going up, land costs going up, pricing is continuing to go up. So, when we launched King it was one of the most expensive projects in Toronto, but it was obviously an iconic architect, with Bjarke Ingels.
Riz Dhanji: And now you’re seeing average projects that are launching recently that are similar or higher prices than King. And I think everyone’s like shaking their head going, “What’s going on?” And I kept telling people that not buying at King is gonna be actually a mistake because you’re gonna see pricing going up. And exactly what I said is coming true.
Riz Dhanji: So I think people, who every year decide that they’re not gonna get into real estate are prolonging another year of pain and expensive [inaudible] prices are gonna continue to go up ’cause I can’t see this issue getting resolved with supply any time soon.
Andrew la FLeur: Yeah. Absolutely.
Andrew la FLeur: How do you account for the strength of the condo market? What do you think is the big story that maybe people are missing? Or the key points that you are seeing which is driving the whole thing.
Andrew la FLeur: When you look at the Low-Rise market, the 2016, 2017 days. We saw a huge spike and then the Low-Rise market really came down quickly and just kinda leveled out since.
Andrew la FLeur: In the High-Rise market we also saw a huge spike, in that sort of 2017 period. And everybody sorta thought, “Well it’s gonna kind a follow the same thing as Low-Rise.”
Andrew la FLeur: But, in fact, like you said, prices are actually still going up at a higher than historical average rate. So how do you account for that?
Riz Dhanji: One word, jobs. Toronto is now becoming, unlike people may not think because we’re from Toronto, that we are actually a global city. And people from around the world are now coming to Toronto to work and live. And in the past, you know 10, 15 years ago it was really, “You know I’m not sure about Toronto. I don’t know if I really want to go there.”
Riz Dhanji: With what’s happening down south of the border, with what’s happening in cities around the world where there’s a lot of issues in many countries. Everyone knows that Toronto is now becoming a safe place to work, live, and bring up a family.
Riz Dhanji: And so you’re seeing people from all around the world that are, in particular, coming here because of the tech industry. And the fact that the liberal government has allowed this acceleration of the immigration, especially if you are an engineer or you work in the tech scene, to come to Canada. It’s really brought a ton of people that are coming into the country.
Riz Dhanji: And so in Toronto right now, what’s really driving the market is, if you see the commercial side of the business … you know, commercial vacancy rates are single digits. I don’t think we’ve ever seen that before in Toronto, where you cannot even put up a building quick enough before it’s leased.
Riz Dhanji: One of my friends is one of the heads of MaRS, which is the largest tech incubator in North America. And they said, “There’s a company that launches, they’ve got five people. All the sudden some venture capitalist comes in. They raise 500 million and they’ve got to go from five people to 500 people in three weeks.”
Riz Dhanji: Where do you find that? It’s impossible to get enough space. And how do you hire that many people?
Riz Dhanji: And so we’re seeing this trend is happening in Toronto and not many people are talking about it. But now those people are coming here and they’re all wanting to have housing and there really isn’t that much of a supply. And they want to be downtown. They want to be in the core. They want to be close to work.
Riz Dhanji: And that is the single largest driver of the condo market right now. And I can’t see that that is gonna be stopping anytime soon.
Andrew la FLeur: Absolutely. Yeah. Some great points there.
Andrew la FLeur: Let’s talk about King Toronto. We’re approaching the final release, the final mountain, the final release of units in the building. What are three things that are sort of the key points for you about this project?
Andrew la FLeur: What excites you most? What are the three things that you say, “No. These are the reasons why I’m so excited about this project and why people should invest here”?
Riz Dhanji: Well I have 300, but I’ll try and narrow it down to three.
Andrew la FLeur: Okay.
Riz Dhanji: Number one, I purchased. So, a lot of people that I know all purchased.
Riz Dhanji: And the one biggest reason, I would say, is Bjarke Ingels. I don’t think people really come to appreciate how large this architect is around the world globally.
Riz Dhanji: Bjarke Ingels, the BIG group, is doing some of the most significant projects in the world. Including number Two World Trade Center, Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California which is somewhere around a thousand to two thousand acres. They’re doing luxury resorts for Piaget in France. They’re doing some of the most … they’re doing the largest Belt Line that’s going around all of New York. He’s the most sought after architect today. He’s 43 years old. And they have a capacity of what they can do.
Riz Dhanji: And the fact that they’ve worked with Westbank before and Westbank’s already completing Vancouver House is the only reason that he’s coming to Toronto. Because I think he [inaudible] here and says, “I’m too busy. I don’t have enough time. But because of Westbank I’m here and I want to do something really amazing to change the city of Toronto.”
Riz Dhanji: And I think King Toronto will be the single most important piece of real estate that we will see in the next 25 to 30 years in this city. I think it’s gonna be so significant that people just don’t understand.
Riz Dhanji: And the fact that he is coming here and doing something is extraordinary for the city of Toronto and just makes us on a whole new level globally. Because people around the world are just buying into this building because of Bjarke Ingels. So that’s one reason.
Riz Dhanji: Number two is, the fact that Allied and Westbank are collaborating on this makes it even more amazing. The architecture, of course, is significant and nothing that we’ve seen before.
Riz Dhanji: But not as much is talked about of the retail. And there’s close to 200 thousand, if not more … it’s closer to 300 thousand square feet of unique retail and heritage buildings. And what Westbank and Allied want to do is make King Toronto the sort of center of downtown.
Riz Dhanji: [inaudible] Soho in New York. You’ve got some of the most expensive retail in the Soho area. You know, when people go shopping they don’t really go shopping in Manhattan. They go to Soho. And that is what they’re gonna be craving here at King.
Riz Dhanji: And so they’re working with some of the most existing brands that are outstanding, and I can’t really say anything about, to be able to be part of King Toronto. And so I think residents are gonna have this amazing shopping and dining mecca just below them that they can’t find anywhere else in Toronto. Because this is 600 feet of frontage on King Street. It’s like next to impossible to get that kind of frontage.
Riz Dhanji: And it took Allied almost 11 years [inaudible] that kind of land. Today we’re seeing point towers that are coming up, but the retail is really like three thousand or four thousand square feet. Here to have close to 300 thousand square feet is, to me, absolutely amazing.
Riz Dhanji: And the third thing is the holistic design of the interior and the exterior, with the landscaping of the building, is an integral portion of the project. There’s 200 different species of plants that will be … trees that we’ll have planted on top of the building. There’s gonna be vinery that’s gonna be going up to give that green effect. And so this building, between its architecture, its interiors with its work with B&B Italia, is never been done before in Toronto.
Riz Dhanji: And I think those three major points coupled with the courtyard and many other things that we can talk about is making it one of the most significant pieces of real estate … if I, as an investor, and I have to buy here because I know that in the next four to five years this will be trophy real estate, what I call, where you really can’t get anything like this again. It’ll just be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Andrew la FLeur: And yeah, and you make a great point. Obviously, this is an iconic building. This is the world’s greatest architect. This design and architecture and the finishes are like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
Andrew la FLeur: So obviously this is not a cheap building, right, to buy in. But, like you said, what’s interesting now is how you’re seeing the pricing all around King Toronto and other buildings and how it compares.
Andrew la FLeur: How would you describe the value proposition at this moment?
Riz Dhanji: Well, the funny thing is, just a few days ago a new project that launched in the downtown core … you know, no significant architect … nothing what King Toronto offers is similar or higher priced than what King is offering.
Riz Dhanji: And I’m looking at new buildings that are coming. New luxury buildings that I’ve been, RAD has been approached by where it doesn’t have that cachet that the King has that are coming out at higher pricing than King and I shake my head going, “I just can’t believe it.” We thought that people were thinking that King was expensive that have no clue what’s gonna happen in the next year when they see new projects coming out at higher pricing.
Riz Dhanji: So I think the value proposition … I think this is the last opportunity to own the best piece of real estate and me, in my opinion, they’re undervalued in the next four to five years when people have time to move in.
Andrew la FLeur: So, the King building is divided into four sections, four mountains as they’re called. So, three of them have been released and now you guys are just about to release the final one.
Andrew la FLeur: What’s the response been like so far? And what would be your message to somebody on the fence who’s thinking, “Should I get into this final building?”
Riz Dhanji: Yeah, I think when we launched the three mountains starting last year there was obviously naysayers and people that didn’t believe what could happen. While out of the three mountains, two are sold out and one is a majority sold out. So the project is virtually on a sell-out. Construction will be starting soon, as well.
Riz Dhanji: And so Westbank and Allied are launching the last mountain, the west mountain, which is gonna be coming up in the next few weeks. And they’re doing something that’s so significant that no other developer would do.
Riz Dhanji: What they’re doing is they’re actually renting out the entire bottom floor space of 134 Peter Street, which is at Peter and Adelaide. And they’re then showcasing King West and what King Toronto and how it’s gonna transform the skyline.
Riz Dhanji: But, you know, most people would just do pop-ups or something that’s average. They actually brought Bjarke Ingels to curate this exhibition, to show the city of Toronto and every resident that’s in Toronto, how this is gonna be the most unique project in Canadian history.
Riz Dhanji: And so when you come to this exhibition, you’re not gonna just see anything. You’re gonna see portions of the terrace actually being built on site to show you what the landscape designers thought.
Riz Dhanji: There’s gonna be the building models, sections of the building, that will actually be on site for you to touch and feel to see exactly what’s going to be going into the building. You’re gonna be able to do a virtual reality tour through the street scape of King Toronto to see what the retail will be like.
Riz Dhanji: You’re gonna have speeches from Francesca, who is the lead interior designer of BIG, coming down here from New York to talk about how this will be transforming the city and what BIG has brought into it. You’re gonna have B&B Italia furniture, that will be included in the one bedroom units, actually showcased there.
Riz Dhanji: So this is a city building exercise like no other. And so I highly recommend, who are listening today, to definitely go out and speak to you. And come see the exhibition. It’s open from April the first, which is Monday, up until Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Riz Dhanji: And you really understand what this building is about. And I think that once people see it then they actually can understand what that vision is. I just can’t see people not buying it. I think it’s just an incredible part of the city that we’re really excited for.
Andrew la FLeur: Yeah, so just to be clear, this special exhibit about King Toronto and about everything that’s gone into … behind the scenes, to build, and the philosophies and designs and everything.
Andrew la FLeur: This exhibit is open to the public, right? Anybody can go to this exhibit. Is that right?
Riz Dhanji: [inaudible] can go to the public. Yeah, anyone from the public. It’s completely free. I tell you, their spending a ton of money to build this exhibit for five days. I mean, nobody would do this if you knew what the amount of money that they’re spending on it.
Andrew la FLeur: So this is, and sorry, the five days are from when to when?
Riz Dhanji: April the first, which is Monday, is when the exhibit opens from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. And it goes until April the fifth, which is Friday. Again, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Riz Dhanji: During that time period there will be presentations. There will be speeches from the architects. There’ll be speeches from [inaudible] builders. Ken Greenberg is gonna be there for the mayor of Toronto.
Riz Dhanji: So they’re really gonna be talking about how this change and transformation of King West, and what King Toronto is gonna do to really transform the city of Toronto and we’re really excited for it.
Andrew la FLeur: And again, the location is.
Riz Dhanji: 134 Peter Street, which is at the corner of Peter and Adelaide. And, of course, they can contact you as your direct link to [crosstalk 00:19:32].
Andrew la FLeur: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely encourage anybody listening who’s interested in that. Send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Or give me a call, (416) 371-2333. And we’ll set that up for you.
Andrew la FLeur: Riz, I know you have another interesting project coming up. I don’t know how much you can say about it. Maybe you can give us a bit of a teaser on what people can expect coming up for St. Clair Village. What can we know about that so far?
Riz Dhanji: Yeah. And I think that Andrew, you and I have worked together for many years. And when you and I had started working on the King West neighborhood, when Canderel started with the DNA condo project back in 2002, we saw an area that mostly industrial, really nothing residential about it.
Riz Dhanji: Canderel came in and did their phase one, two, and three and really transformed that neighborhood into that real King West Village that we see today. With Massey Harris Lofts, as well, on top of that and all the retail that’s gone in there.
Riz Dhanji: And purchasers who have bought and saw the vision of that gentrification, we’re rewarded handsomely. I know that a number of your clients that bought in DNA3 have more than doubled their value in just a few years.
Riz Dhanji: The interesting thing is that I have a unit actually in DNA3 and I’m getting higher rents in DNA3 than I am in Yonge and College. It just makes no sense to me.
Riz Dhanji: But what I’m finding is that some of these … people who are younger demographic, the millennials, they want to live in these neighborhoods that have these pockets of growth opportunities.
Riz Dhanji: They don’t want to live in these tall buildings. They want to live in more boutique buildings with great amenities and they can walk to amazing cafés and restaurants. And that’s what King West Village offers.
Riz Dhanji: Canderel’s doing this again. They’re actually bought three projects out in St. Clair Village. And I actually haven’t been to St. Clair in quite awhile, but I’ve been there now for the past few months.
Riz Dhanji: And I’ve been dining at the restaurants. And I gotta tell you, it is King West on steroids to me. I think it’s gonna be much bigger than King West could ever be.
Riz Dhanji: And the reason is because some of the top restaurants and cafés in the city of Toronto are actually setting up there because of its proximity to Hillcrest, it’s proximity to the Wychwood area and Forest Hill, which are some of the most expensive neighborhoods there.
Riz Dhanji: You know, these people are dining on St. Clair, which I didn’t even know that. And so, you’ve got this mixer of Corso Italia, this old Italian restaurants and bakeries, and these fish markets. And then you’ve got these amazing restaurants, that are five star to my standards, that are in the neighborhood.
Riz Dhanji: And so Canderel has come out and they’re doing their first project there, which is gonna be 900 St. Clair. It’s a boutique building of only 11 stories and only 121 units. It’s got amazing outdoor areas, great chair spaces, amenities that will be mind-blowing for the neighborhood. It’s never been done before. And they’re putting in a great retail tenant that’s coming at the base of the building.
Riz Dhanji: So they’re setting up a sales office, which will be opening up sometime in May. And it think that, when you see pricing that we’re talking about today, you can buy in St. Clair Village for cheaper than you can buy at Yonge and Finch, which is amazing to me.
Riz Dhanji: And the great thing is is that there’s a dedicated streetcar right outside your door that will take you to the Bathurst subway station underground in literally eight minutes flat.
Riz Dhanji: And you can make it to Bloor Street in another ten minutes. So you can’t do that from Yonge and Eglington. You could definitely not do that from Yonge and Finch. So I think this is one of the best opportunities that are gonna be around this coming summer. And we’re excited to be part of that launch.
Andrew la FLeur: Awesome. Very exciting. Yeah. Thanks for that.
Andrew la FLeur: And obviously is the one thing we know Canderel is amazing at it’s, it’s the retail portion. And getting in amazing retailers that add tons of value. You know, you’re buying in a Canderel building, you’re getting phenomenal retail that really, like you said, drives rents.
Andrew la FLeur: And DNA3, great example. You got the Loblaws in there. Like, people love renting and living in that building ’cause it’s just so friggin’ convenient to have everything right there, right there in your building.
Riz Dhanji: Exactly. And when you see what the tenants will be it’ll be pretty amazing what I hear, that they’re talking about. So we’re really excited to be part of this launch as well.
Andrew la FLeur: Awesome. Great. Riz, thank you so much for your time today. As always, really appreciate your insights in the market and what’s happening. Looking forward to the final release at King Toronto and a little bit later St. Clair Village too.
Andrew la FLeur: Thanks for your time, Riz.
Riz Dhanji: Thanks so much, Andrew.
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