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Why The Well by Tridel is One of The Most Ambitious Developments in Toronto

The Well Tridel Podcast True Condos

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The Well Tridel Podcast True Condos

Special guest Jim Ritchie – President of Tridel – joins the show to discuss The Well which is one of the most ambitious developments in Toronto.

** We apologize in advance for any issues related to volume due to technical difficulties we were experiencing at the time. For the best listening experience, please use headphones. 

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Click Here for Episode Transcript

Andrew La Fleur:
On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the most ambitious projects ever in the history of Toronto: Tridel’s The Wells. 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 and welcome back to the show. Thanks for tuning in, as always. Your host here, Andrew La Fleur. If you ever want to reach me, you can do so 416-371-2333. You can also email me directly: andrew@truecondos.com. Thank you very much for tuning in, and I hope you’re having a great day so far. Today’s episode, we’re going to be sitting down with Jim Ritchie, who’s the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Tridel, Canada’s largest condominium builder and possibly the best known condominium builder. If you just ask 10 people on the street, “Hey, name a condo builder,” chances are, most of them would say Tridel over any other builder. The Tridel brand name is simply the most established one, I would say, in our industry.

Andrew La Fleur:
So very exciting to sit down with Jim. But more importantly, what are we talking about? We’re talking about a number of different things. You’ll hear more about Jim’s story. Fascinating to hear his story with Tridel, and I’ll let him tell you about that. But we’re also talking about The Well, The Well development. Very interesting, kind of a microcosm of what it’s like to be a condo investor sometimes, where … This is one of the most ambitious projects in Toronto’s history. It’s a scale unlike, really, anything else that’s out there. And we’ll get into the stats and everything on that. If you’re not familiar, it’s at Front and Spadina. It’s pretty much an entire city block; maybe two city blocks really, if you look at the size of it. Is it six or seven buildings, there? Six or seven cranes are onsite now. More cranes, apparently, are on the way. It’s absolutely incredible to see. If you just get a chance, go down and see that construction site. So many people working onsite there.

Andrew La Fleur:
And we’ve been waiting for this for over five years, now. The Well officially came out, the name, The Well … We knew about The Well, the proposal known as The Well for more than five years, now. And so the anticipation, the hype and everything has been building in our industry for a number of years. And now, believe it or not, in just a blink of an eye, it’s almost gone. It’s almost over. So we wait for five years for something, and then it goes on sale, and a project like this, with this kind of a following, built by a builder like Tridel, it goes so quickly. So again, it’s a great lesson there for any condo investor, new or old, to say, “Hey, when opportunities like this come up, you do have to act quickly if you’re interesting in participating in them because they go so quickly.” Five years of waiting, and then within five weeks, almost, or less, everything is gone.

Andrew La Fleur:
So even though there are a number of buildings in this project, only three of them, only three of the buildings, are actually for sale; condominium buildings. So the first two are pretty much gone. And the last building, the third and final building, the Classic Series II on Front Street, the southwest corner of the entire site of The Well, that’s going to be going on sale very, very soon.

Andrew La Fleur:
So if you’re interested in getting the floor plans and pricing for Classic Series II, make sure you do reach out and contact me: andrew@truecondos.com. Call me: 416-371-2333. Or, just go to truecondos.com, type in “The Well,” and sign up on the project page from truecondos.com for The Well, and we’ll make sure we get you that information to give you an opportunity. This is your final opportunity, as I mentioned, to get into The Well.

Andrew La Fleur:
So yeah, without further ado, here is my interview with Jim Ritchie from Tridel. Please enjoy. Thanks.

Andrew La Fleur:
Jim, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for being here.

Jim Ritchie:
Well, thank you for having me.

Andrew La Fleur:
Really excited. So much to talk about. First, I thought it’d be great just to hear … I want to hear … I’m curious, especially, just to hear more about your story. How did you get started in real estate?

Jim Ritchie:
Well, that’s a good question. It wasn’t the plan. You know, you don’t go to school and say, “We’re going to get into the real estate development business, and here’s the route that you take.”

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
That doesn’t exist.

Andrew La Fleur:
Exactly.

Jim Ritchie:
In fact, if anything, I thought I might be an economist. Or, a political science expert, or something like that.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
Like a … Sometimes it’s happenstance. I started with Tridel a long, long time ago. In fact, it’s really been the only company that I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

Andrew La Fleur:
Really?

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah.

Andrew La Fleur:
Wow. I did not know that.

Jim Ritchie:
So I’ve worked in a number of different disciplines within the organization. It’s quite a large organization, and there are many different areas, but I really started off in the business. I was on the property management side.

Andrew La Fleur:
Okay.

Jim Ritchie:
And actually, based on Ottawa.

Andrew La Fleur:
Oh, okay.

Jim Ritchie:
And then in the late ’80s, they asked me to move to Toronto, and one thing led to another.

Andrew La Fleur:
Are you fro Ottawa?

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah, you could say that. Yeah, I’ve been around a little bit. I was an Air Force brat, but we spent most of our time, in one particular spot, would be Ottawa.

Andrew La Fleur:
Okay.

Jim Ritchie:
So that’s where I originated from.

Andrew La Fleur:
So did you go to school? Did you go to university? What was the sort of genesis of … Like you said, nobody really says, “Hey, I want to work for a real estate company.”

Jim Ritchie:
Well, while going through school, and when I started at university, I was actually working for a Tridel affiliate in Ottawa.

Andrew La Fleur:
Okay.

Jim Ritchie:
On a part-time basis, and it particularly started off in the summers, as a summer student.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
So when I say I’m here for a lifetime, I’m not kidding.

Andrew La Fleur:
Wow. So literally started at a Tridel affiliate as a teenager? As a university student?

Jim Ritchie:
A university student, so I’d have been early 20s. Late teens, early 20s, yeah.

Andrew La Fleur:
And then from when you graduated university, you just immediately went right into-

Jim Ritchie:
Had nothing else, no other offers, so I stayed with Tridel.

Andrew La Fleur:
That’s incredible.

Jim Ritchie:
And here I am.

Andrew La Fleur:
I mean … Yeah. That’s what I mean. How rare is that? Usually, I ask this question to a lot of people. It’s, “I was here, I was there, I tried this, I tried that.” And all of a sudden, four careers later, you end up in real estate kind of thing, but you’re truly a-

Jim Ritchie:
Well, my story might seem unique, but factually, in our organization, there’s quite a number that have similar stories. I mean, maybe not quite the same tenure, but certainly in terms of a career and a number of decades to go behind it. That’s not that rare, here.

Andrew La Fleur:
Wow.

Jim Ritchie:
It’s a larger company, but with family values and we think we’ve got something good here, so we don’t leave.

Andrew La Fleur:
So I didn’t realize that Tridel was involved in Ottawa. Is that still, to this day, or was that in the past?

Jim Ritchie:
No. No, that was an opportunity that came about, actually before my time started, I guess in the ’70s, the late ’70s. And it ran until the early ’90s.

Andrew La Fleur:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Ritchie:
But the focus, really, has been, for our organization, in the GTA.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah. So why have you spent your whole career with Tridel?

Jim Ritchie:
Well, I believe it’s a good place to engage all your activities. I mean, you’re here so much, in terms of a lifetime, from your daytime hours, so it’s this-

Andrew La Fleur:
I mean, I guess question behind the question, you must have been headhunted a million times over the years.

Jim Ritchie:
Well, I don’t know about a million times …

Andrew La Fleur:
But you’ve-

Jim Ritchie:
But there was certainly some opportunities.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
But-

Andrew La Fleur:
So what is it about Tridel that is-

Jim Ritchie:
Well, we have an organization that I think has a number of attributes. We have, certainly, a large scale that gives us an opportunity to do certain things. We’re small enough that we have family values. And the one thing that resonated with me from day one was that we always defaulted to do the right thing. And that was just something I was very comfortable with. And from that day until now, that’s still the standard. So I’m here.

Andrew La Fleur:
Great, great. So do the right thing; what are the core kind of values or principles or guidelines that you personally … that, I guess, resonate the most with you about Tridel?

Jim Ritchie:
Well, we’ve always wanted … We believe we’re a leader in this industry. There’s a certain standard on a number of things, but our brand, there’s a representation that when you buy a Tridel home, there’s a certain expectation in terms of the quality of the product and in how you’re going to be treated. And that comes first. And I think that has worked very well for this organization over the many, many years. The roots go back actually 85 years.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
The condo business, for us-

Andrew La Fleur:
So this is a very old company, by the time you showed up.

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah, yeah, pretty much. Pretty much.

Andrew La Fleur:
It goes back to, I think, the ’30s? I mean, a lot of people don’t realize this.

Jim Ritchie:
It goes back to … Yeah, yeah.

Andrew La Fleur:
It’s [crosstalk 00:09:39].

Jim Ritchie:
It’s exactly 5 years ago.

Andrew La Fleur:
How many generations are we [crosstalk 00:09:42] now?

Jim Ritchie:
Well, we’re into the third.

Andrew La Fleur:
Third gen, yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
So the founder immigrated from Italy. He was a stonemason.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
And built a single house in downtown Toronto in the 1930s.

Andrew La Fleur:
What house was that?

Jim Ritchie:
It was on Lappin Avenue.

Andrew La Fleur:
Is it still there?

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah. Yeah, it’s still there.

Andrew La Fleur:
Really?

Jim Ritchie:
It’s still there.

Andrew La Fleur:
There better be a plaque on that house.

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah, yeah.

Andrew La Fleur:
Is there?

Jim Ritchie:
There should be. I don’t think so. There should be.

Andrew La Fleur:
Lappin? Where is that?

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah, that’s the Bloor/Dufferin area.

Andrew La Fleur:
Bloor/Dufferin, okay.

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yep.

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah, it’s a-

Andrew La Fleur:
Big changes come [crosstalk 00:10:13], yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
So it’s a long time ago.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
So you know, it’s grown from there to the where we are today.

Andrew La Fleur:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). So when you-

Jim Ritchie:
So when we started, it started with single family housing, obviously, and then got into apartment building.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah. Not too many condos in the 1930s.

Jim Ritchie:
Absolutely none.

Andrew La Fleur:
Or ’40s.

Jim Ritchie:
None.

Andrew La Fleur:
Or ’50s.

Jim Ritchie:
So the very first condo, 1967. Legislation enabled that form of ownership in Ontario. And we weren’t the first. Our first one showed up in 1968. And of all places, in Oakville. So on Kerr Street. So that was Tridel’s number one condominium. And then we’ve gone from there, year over year, and decade over decade to be the most prolific, in terms of generating this condominium product in the province of Ontario.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah. So how does the shift happen, or when does the shift fully happen from, like you said, the origin, the roots in low-rise and single family homes; and now, correct me if I’m wrong, exclusively condominiums for a long time, now?

Jim Ritchie:
It’s pretty much exclusively; or, if it’s not exclusively, it’s because there’s something that complements the condominium product.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
And today in our marketplace with mixed-use, it’s so prevalent because there’s really nothing else available, and you have to have a little more imagination in terms of what the overall product’s going to be, and The Well’s a great example. It would be the focus. That’s what we do best, and that’s what we want to focus on.

Andrew La Fleur:
And when did that sort of … Was it a conscious moment in time, where, “Okay, we are now just going to do condominiums. This is-”

Jim Ritchie:
That happened in the ’70s.

Andrew La Fleur:
Oh, that early on?

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah.

Andrew La Fleur:
Wow.

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah.

Andrew La Fleur:
So from that, I mean-

Jim Ritchie:
Now, that’s not to say that in between, we haven’t done some townhouses, but they complemented, probably, a development that we were doing that had higher density in terms of high rise condo.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
But in terms of chasing subdivision and single family homes, et cetera; really the turning point was in the ’70s.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right. So I mean, is that not a distinctive of Tridel’s Well, that you are just so committed to condominium products?

Jim Ritchie:
Well, we like to think so, yes.

Andrew La Fleur:
It is, right?

Jim Ritchie:
Yes.

Andrew La Fleur:
Because a lot of builders, they dabble in both.

Jim Ritchie:
They do.

Andrew La Fleur:
Most builders probably do, right?

Jim Ritchie:
They do, and that certainly may work for them, but our focus has been higher density.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
That has served us well, and I think it’s served our customers very well.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah. And what about geography, as well? I mean, it seems to me that’s another distinctive of Tridel, is a commitment to the GTA.

Jim Ritchie:
Correct.

Andrew La Fleur:
Again, whereas most builders are-

Jim Ritchie:
Well, when you look at the opportunity for this type of development, this high rise development, and in particular with condominium, there’re not a lot of opportunities that have the depth and all of the things that make the condominium industry work, that we see here in the GTA, and Toronto in particular.

Andrew La Fleur:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Ritchie:
There certainly have been opportunities outside of Ontario.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yes.

Jim Ritchie:
But frankly, we like it here.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
And there’s still a lot of opportunity on a go forward.

Andrew La Fleur:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I mean, whereas most builders, they’re constantly looking further and further afield; the mentality of it’s too late, it’s over.

Jim Ritchie:
Right.

Andrew La Fleur:
And even the individual and-

Jim Ritchie:
Well, I’m certainly we wouldn’t subscribe to that.

Andrew La Fleur:
That’s what I mean.

Jim Ritchie:
You know, some of the advantages of concentrating in this particular market … Now, the fact that it’s the largest one in probably all of North America helps.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
But we have a trade base that we’ve worked with for generations. We have other opportunities here that present themselves almost on a weekly basis.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
And we like the presence, and we certainly like the longterm prospects of the condominium development business in the GTA.

Andrew La Fleur:
On the flip side of that, what would you say is the greatest challenge, or what are the challenges that you face, as a high rise builder today?

Jim Ritchie:
Well, I guess the erosion of affordability.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
And there’s many things that contribute to that. But it has always been relative affordability compared to other built forms. And I suspect that that’s going to continue to be the same. The fact is that in the city of Toronto, a single family home resells around $1.2 million, and the typical condo is selling almost half of that. Not quite. It’s actually picked up … The gap is not quite as large as it used to be.

Andrew La Fleur:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Ritchie:
And in it’s own, that may not be affordable to everybody, but it’s relative affordability to compared to other built forms.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
So that helps.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
But like in everything else, we’ve seen cost pressures in many different disciplines, and it affects obviously the price of the home.

Andrew La Fleur:
Speaking of the Toronto market, and when you hear things like Toronto has the most cranes of any city in North America-

Jim Ritchie:
And we do.

Andrew La Fleur:
And Tridel is probably responsible for half of them, but-

Jim Ritchie:
[crosstalk 00:15:33].

Andrew La Fleur:
And sort of the pessimist is coming at us and saying, “It’s too much. It’s all going to collapse.” We’re building too many condos. It’s the same thing as always, but I’m curious what your perspective is on that, and in particular, how does Toronto compare, and why are we so different from all these other places? How do you see it?

Jim Ritchie:
Well, Toronto has many unique advantages. The fact is that for our real estate industry to be viable, we need a very good economy. We need obviously an interest rate environment that supports these very large purchase, with mortgages. And we need a population that continues to grow. I think those are the three most important things. I mean, there’s so many nuances. We could talk hours about all these little things that affect our market one way or another.

Andrew La Fleur:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Ritchie:
But without this economy, without this population growth that we see year over year, and without an interest rate environment that’s supportive, the rest of it is … It’s interesting, but it’s not the big item. So I think those are the biggest drivers.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah. Is there anything on the horizon, or is anything happening now that is worrisome to you or concerning to you regarding the market, or is there a storm cloud that you’re seeing that you’re kind of keeping an eye on in the distance?

Jim Ritchie:
Well, I can tell you that a few years ago, I was a bit concerned about the velocity of the sales and the year over year increases in the valuations of the condominiums that were being sold.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
It happened rather quickly. We have been a market, for years, that always saw year over year increases, but they were single-digit, and quite manageable.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yes.

Jim Ritchie:
So I thought that was a scenario that could not be sustained. It cannot be, but we seem to be back, now, to … I’m going to frame it as a more balanced market. And I’m saying it’s balanced just compared to what we saw three years ago. Our industry seems to be able to sell and build about 20,000 condominium units in the GTA annually.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right. That’s a-

Jim Ritchie:
Which, by the way, on its own; even though it’s down from the peak, is still the largest on the continent.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah. By a lot, yeah. So that’s … Yeah, I mean that’s something that we’ve heard, and has been proposed as sort of what’s driving this cap on supply, has been talked about for at least the last 10 years that I’ve been listening; this idea that we can only build so many per year. And like you say, it’s somewhere around 20,000, 25,000 condos.

Jim Ritchie:
It’s very tough to get it to the 25,000.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah. Why is that?

Jim Ritchie:
Because of the trade base.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
You know? They are operating full out. And I think if there was an … We don’t experience this concern because of our longterm relationships with the trades in the GTA, but newer developers who don’t have the same track record and don’t have the same access to the trades that we do are probably A, paying too much; and secondly, are not getting the trades or not getting the quality trades. So that’s a challenge. I think that the tier I developers in the GTA can manage that, but otherwise, I’d be a bit concerned if it was getting into this condo development business for the first time.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah, and so much of it, I think, as you alluded to, goes to the brand of Tridel. And I’m thinking back, I remember you were quoted in, I want to say it was around … It was the launch of Ten York.

Jim Ritchie:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andrew La Fleur:
I remember a quote from you in the Star, or something like that, and-

Jim Ritchie:
Well, you got a good memory, because that’s a few years ago.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah, this is going back. And you know, there were talking about … It was a slow market at the time. A lot of condo buildings were launching and not selling.

Jim Ritchie:
Oh, that’s true, yeah.

Andrew La Fleur:
And I just remember the Ten York, at the time, did very, very well. And I just remember your quote was something to the effect of, “If you have good products, good builder, good location, it’s selling.”

Jim Ritchie:
It’s selling, yeah. And I think that’s still today.

Andrew La Fleur:
And while the B tier builders and stuff, or B tier locations are struggling, like you said, the Tridels of the world in the great locations are … The product is still moving very, very quickly.

Jim Ritchie:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, that’s to the brand.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
It speaks to the brand, again.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
Which we’ve worked very hard to maintain that position.

Andrew La Fleur:
You keep any … I’ll just throw this out there, but do you have stats, or do you track this stuff, like repeat buyers in your new condos? You must have a very high percentage of following the people who are buying again and-

Jim Ritchie:
We do. I mean, when we’ve sold to thousands and thousands and thousands of homeowners, so … It depends where.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
And our market, as you know, is very diverse. People talk about a condo market, but we know that it’s made up of many, many sub markets. And many people buy for different reasons.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
So you can design a condominium in the core of the city with very, very small suites and probably directed to the investor market completely. But there’s opportunities in the city in different sub markets for different buyer profiles, which we tend to move towards quite frequently, to balance off which might be happening just strictly with investors. So a community in Lawrence Park or, more particularly in terms of what we just released in the King’s Way, at Royal York and the King’s Way, is really directed to an end-user, and it’s a larger condominium home; it’s a bit more expensive. But there’s certainly a market for that. So we tend … Sometimes in that market, they could be first time condo buyers, because they’ve never experienced it before; they’re coming out of a single family home. Where people that are buying in other, more dense urban environments are buying for many reasons; over and over again from Tridel over time.

Andrew La Fleur:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. Yeah, I mean I’ve just noticed that time and time again.

Jim Ritchie:
Our focus, we know that we’re a home builder.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
So whether that home builder originally is the end user who bought, specifically, to be there, or it was because they thought it’d be an investment and they’re going to rent it out and somebody else is going to live there; one way or another, our focus is our buyer is a homeowner, and the attributes flow from there.

Andrew La Fleur:
What’s your message to the home buyer of today in the market? Particularly the first-time buyer, or the first-time investor. What advice, or what message would you give to somebody sitting here and they’re saying, “I’m looking to get into the market for the first time,” or, “I’m looking to invest for the first time.”

Jim Ritchie:
So there’s a number of things that come to mind. They’re obviously going to want that purchaser to understand the process. It’s not exactly straightforward, it can be complicated. There’s the journey from the original acquisition to when you take title.

Andrew La Fleur:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Ritchie:
If they’ve never been through that before, they need to have a basic understanding, at least a basic understanding-

Andrew La Fleur:
The mechanics of it.

Jim Ritchie:
The mechanics and how that all comes together, and working with somebody like yourself, you’ll be able to help them with that. Though with our team, we try to do the same thing; they need to understand the financial aspects of it. Obviously, it’s in our best interest that we’re selling to somebody that has the financial wherewithal to close the transaction three years out.

Andrew La Fleur:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Ritchie:
So there’s kind of mutual responsibilities for both of us.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
And so we want to make sure that they understand that. Somebody who’s buying for their personal use, it’s really not that different. Obviously the end goal is a little bit different, but very similar. So we want them to know that there are risks in this development process. The fact that you’re buying from us, you’ve already mitigated some of those risks because we will deliver the product.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right. Which, it’s crazy to say, but yeah that is actually a very important piece in today’s market, right?

Jim Ritchie:
Well, we’ll deliver it, and we’ll also deliver it without … I mean, it’s not to say that we’re 100% perfect all the time-

Andrew La Fleur:
Sure.

Jim Ritchie:
But where we have those challenges, we’re there, we’re responsible to deal with it. If a prospective buyer would go into Tarion and look up our track record in terms of chargeable conciliations, which is something any consumer could do with any builder that’s registered in the province; for the volume that we have and for the amount of time that we’ve been there, we do not have a single chargeable conciliation. Not one. Ever.

Andrew La Fleur:
Wow. Wow.

Jim Ritchie:
So that’s a pretty good track record.

Andrew La Fleur:
That’s not bad, yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah, considering our volume.

Andrew La Fleur:
80,000 and not one, yeah. Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
Not bad.

Andrew La Fleur:
But what would be your message to somebody, just in terms of, is it a good time to buy right now? Particularly your product. Is it a good time to buy a Tridel pre-construction condo right now?

Jim Ritchie:
Well, coming from me, I guess I’m going to say yes.

Andrew La Fleur:
Of course, but why?

Jim Ritchie:
I think from … Well, I think historically, you can look at the track record of real estate and as much as there’s always risk involved, but over the long period of time, many people have done very well by holding a real estate asset. And in many people today, most of the assets they have are in their home. So I mean, we treat the condominium as a home. It’s obviously a large investment whether you are an occupier of this home or whether you’re an investor. But it’s just over time, has proven to be a reasonably good … I was going to say investment, but I guess that’s the word you like to use because you mostly deal with investors, but we tend … Our focus always is with homeowners, but I guess you can use the word investment.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah, well your homeowners have made very good investments, I guess.

Jim Ritchie:
They certainly have.

Andrew La Fleur:
They’ve done very well with their investments for the vast, vast majority.

Jim Ritchie:
I mean, we don’t advise people, in terms of investments.

Andrew La Fleur:
Sure.

Jim Ritchie:
We don’t give projections, all that kind of stuff, because that’s not our focus.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah, yeah, no, no.

Jim Ritchie:
But just the nature of the product, if you’ve held it long enough, you’ve done reasonably well in this marketplace.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
And I think that if you have a longterm vision, you’re not buying this product to try and sell before it’s delivered; or I guess the word is flip. Some of the vernacular with investors, that’s not something that we would encourage.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
Or, in fact, even allow with our agreements. A longer term vision, you will do well. Short term, there’s always little bumps in the road, or certainly can be.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
But I think historically, things look pretty good.

Andrew La Fleur:
I want to talk about The Well, obviously, and getting ready to launch the Classic II building. But looking at downtown Toronto, in particular, that’s the sub market of the GTA that our investors are obviously most interested, and historically has been where most of the condominiums have been built. There’s so much going on downtown.

Jim Ritchie:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andrew La Fleur:
You can’t even keep up with it; even for us, in the industry, in the business every day. It’s just proposal after proposal and mega proposals, it seems like, every other week, happening all over downtown. The Well, for example, one of the most biggest scale-type proposals ever downtown, and it’s like … There’s several other, of similar kind of size coming along.

Jim Ritchie:
Right. Well, that’s what we find so exciting with The Well, because just of the unique opportunity that it presents, simply from its scale and what it represents.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
So when you talk about mixed use, I can’t think of something that would set the benchmark [crosstalk 00:27:47] than what The Well does.

Andrew La Fleur:
[inaudible 00:27:49], yeah. I think it just changed the dictionary. You look up mixed use, The Well is … There’s a picture of The Well.

Jim Ritchie:
I hope that’s the case.

Andrew La Fleur:
It’s the definition. I mean, it’s-

Jim Ritchie:
Well, that’s good. I’ll take your word for that.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
But the fact is that it has many different classes of real estate. And you have world-class developers that are participating in bringing this thing together. I mean, it’s that large. I don’t think there’s one single developer that could take this on, on its own.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
So we had the pleasure of presenting our three condominium buildings, plus there’s an additional three purpose built rental buildings. There’s an outstanding Class A office building, and it all sits on a podium of approximately 500,000 square feet of retail. So when you bring people like RealCan, when you bring people like Allied, ourselves, and another entity called Woodburn that will be owning the rental component, you’ve got a pretty interesting tea. And this just doesn’t exist in terms of development today in the marketplace. So we thought that it would be a very, very unique opportunity. We’re very excited to be involved with it.

Jim Ritchie:
And what makes it even more unique, is that the entire thing, all three million square feet above grade and a million and a half square feet below grade, there’s a city below this block that we’re building just to make everything work, is all under construction right now.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah. Incredible.

Jim Ritchie:
The entire thing will be delivered in the end of 2023.

Andrew La Fleur:
Six cranes, or seven?

Jim Ritchie:
I think we’re at eight.

Andrew La Fleur:
You’re at eight now?

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah.

Andrew La Fleur:
Okay. I can’t keep up.

Jim Ritchie:
And probably more.

Andrew La Fleur:
More coming? Wow. Eight cranes on the site right now. Yeah, one of the largest construction sites anywhere. You [inaudible 00:29:40] off some of the numbers, I mean it’s just staggering. It’s such a unique development. What’s your feeling? Where is downtown going? Where does Toronto go from here? Ten years from now, what are we looking back and seeing? Do you buy into becoming a world-class city, becoming like a New York type of … How do you see it?

Jim Ritchie:
Well, that’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
I think world-class, I guess you could call it that if you want. I think it’s certainly Toronto-class. I think Toronto has-

Andrew La Fleur:
I like that, yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
… attributes that are the envy of the world.

Andrew La Fleur:
Let’s patent that.

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah.

Andrew La Fleur:
Toronto-class. I like it.

Jim Ritchie:
But we like it because I don’t think you can compare what we do as a city, and some of the attributes that accrue to the development of industry in Toronto, it’s kind of unique. Each city has something a little bit different. But this industry has done well. We certainly have some struggles in terms of cost and all the other nuances that come together in the development business. But I think it’s one of the more outstanding industries in terms of the depth of experience and the quality of the product. And for the most part, there are some bit players, but you’re going to get what you buy, and it’s going to be delivered in a manner that is probably best in most of those other world-class cities that we talk about.

Andrew La Fleur:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Ritchie:
So we have our own attributes, and I think Toronto-class is a very, very high standard.

Andrew La Fleur:
What do you think about a big theme, especially this past year, is the tech industry boom downtown, and there’s Google and Microsoft and Uber.

Jim Ritchie:
Well, that’s a big driver. And it’s a big driver of the success at The Well.

Andrew La Fleur:
Shopify at The Well.

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah, that’s a good example.

Andrew La Fleur:
So let’s-

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah.

Andrew La Fleur:
Is that … How real is that?

Jim Ritchie:
Well, everything that’s going on, even in King West, I think Allied and RealCan did an exceptional job positioning that component of the project to that industry, and to what it represents. And there isn’t a week that goes by where we’re not reading or hearing about some success from a tech perspective, that exists in Toronto. It’s a big part of our economy.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
And I think The Well is successful, also, because of that.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
And certainly other opportunities in the city.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
And we talk about all these new office developments that are being announced, and tech has a lot to do with it.

Andrew La Fleur:
Where do you see prices going from here? Downtown, in particular. I mean, as you said, there was major run up in prices 2016, 2017, heading in 2018. But prices are still going up.

Jim Ritchie:
They are.

Andrew La Fleur:
Not at the-

Jim Ritchie:
I don’t think you’re going to … Well, definitely are not going to see the big jumps that we experienced several years ago. But mid single-digit to upper single-digit I think is reasonable, and probably what we would experience. But I would qualify that, again, on what and where.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
Because this industry, and all condominiums are not treated equal. So when you have an opportunity in a AAA location with the attributes that we’ve described at The Well, or other places in the city, certainly that have very close proximity to mass transit, subways in particular, they’re always a differentiator. So overall, will the industry do well? I think so. Some will do better than others.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
So we have to pick this thing carefully.

Andrew La Fleur:
We do. We do. You talked a little … You know, there’s so much, we can talk for an hour just on The Well and the attributes of The Well and the various components of it. You’ve covered them off, in terms of the retail and the commercial and the fact that it’s all being built together, and all the major blue [crosstalk 00:33:41] all involved-

Jim Ritchie:
Our customers are very excited about that. I mean, what it represents. The fact is that even in an … RealCan is putting together an 80,000 square foot marketplace simply to … the whole thing about experiencing food, of all things.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah, yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
So maybe a modern take on maybe what the St. Lawrence market represents. Again, just a very, very short walk from your home.

Andrew La Fleur:
From your front door, yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
Fact is, the office component is going to generate something like 5,500 jobs.

Andrew La Fleur:
Wow.

Jim Ritchie:
The retail component, when it’s fully [inaudible 00:34:18], will have about 1,200 workers. We know that the residential component is something in the order of … It’ll be about 3,500 people within there. I don’t know how many dogs, but I’m sure there’ll be a lot. So we’ve really created a little city within a big city and have provided all the infrastructure and then make it all come together.

Andrew La Fleur:
And one of my favorite components of the whole thing is just simply the beautiful glass canopy that you have planned; the undulating glass canopy over, I guess, it’s primarily the retail and the restaurants and the marketplace, I believe. Right?

Jim Ritchie:
Right. So a lot of RealCan and Allied’s vision was something that this obviously will serve the local community. We know, just from the various economic studies that we’ve done that even the people that live in The Well, the economic output that would be generated, in terms of using the retail components immediately in The Well, but also within a reasonable walking distance of The Well is incredible.

Andrew La Fleur:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Ritchie:
But they also see it as a destination. And the manner of this canopy that creates an open space, which is very easy to access from any street leading into The Well, provides an opportunity for any pedestrian people to walk by. It’s open and it pulls you in. The fact that it’s covering just space for an environment, so that [crosstalk 00:35:51] with the snow and the cold, et cetera-

Andrew La Fleur:
No, but that’s a-

Jim Ritchie:
[crosstalk 00:35:54] makes for a very interesting environment, from shopping experience. I had the pleasure of going to Ireland to look at something that exists like this in Belfast.

Andrew La Fleur:
Okay.

Jim Ritchie:
And it’s an incredible experience.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
So I think that was some of inspiration that helped with this design.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
But it’s got a Canadian flavor to it.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah. It’s like, “Have you been to the distillery district?”

Andrew La Fleur:
“Oh yeah, it’s great.”

Andrew La Fleur:
“Have you been there when it’s raining?” No. I mean, it’s not a good-

Jim Ritchie:
[crosstalk 00:36:25] district, and you’ll be protected from [crosstalk 00:36:27]-

Andrew La Fleur:
That’s what I … I mean, it’s … Yeah. It’s about … I interpret it as it’s about doing it right. You don’t really have to do something like that. I mean, most people wouldn’t really, off the street, they wouldn’t even notice that that canopy is not there. They would just see the retail and see the courtyards and say, “Oh, that’s amazing, it’s cool, there’s nothing like it.” But when you add that canopy and then it’s this beautiful, architectural, undulating piece, it just … You know-

Jim Ritchie:
And the sheer size.

Andrew La Fleur:
And the size of it.

Jim Ritchie:
500,000 square feet per [crosstalk 00:36:57]-

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah, it’s just drawing people in. It’s the destination. It’s like the new bullseye in King West kind of thing. Do you have any insight, or can you share anything with us … I know you’ve been involved in some conversations about the Rail Deck Park. Anything? Do you think that’s going to happen? Obviously that would be right on the doorstep of The Well, Rail Deck Park.

Jim Ritchie:
We know that there’s a bit of a journey. I know that the city is determined, and they’re putting all the planning and the process in place to get there. I can’t tell you definitively whether they’re going to be successful, but if you talk to-

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah. In your opinion, do you think … What do you think?

Jim Ritchie:
Well, we think it’s going to be an amazing [inaudible 00:37:47].

Andrew La Fleur:
Absolutely.

Jim Ritchie:
That will transform that area of the city beyond any expectation. And we’re very-

Andrew La Fleur:
You want it to happen, obviously.

Jim Ritchie:
Well, 110%, we want it to happen.

Andrew La Fleur:
You very much … Anything you can do to make it happen, I’m sure you’re doing, yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
[crosstalk 00:38:04] yeah. That journey is in the hands of the City of Toronto. I know that there’s no cleanness and a plan to get there, but it’s beyond our scope to even really tell you whether that’s actually going to happen. Do we want it to happen? 100%.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah. And talk to me … You mentioned last time, we were discussing about the future connectivity, so to speak; underground, in terms of future-proofing The Well. Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
So provisions are being made at The Well that would allow … And this would depend on a lot of the development coming together, but it would allow, eventually, some access to a path system, if we have a smart track connection right at that corner. There were provisions to give access to that. So there are a number of things that could happen down the road, all very good. So we look forward to the city bringing those things forward over the years.

Andrew La Fleur:
So The Well, the third and final condominium building is launching very soon. I guess the official name is Classic Series II.

Jim Ritchie:
Yes.

Andrew La Fleur:
What do we need to know about this building?

Jim Ritchie:
[crosstalk 00:39:14]. Well, this one’s quite unique. Its predecessor, which would be Classic Series I, is a 400-suite building.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
So a fair amount of density. They certainly are bigger in the city, but it’s still a big building.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative), sure.

Jim Ritchie:
It’s now over 90% sold. So we’re moving forward with the second phase of that grouping on Front Street. So it’s a bit smaller, it’s 258 suites. It has more, from a percentile wise, in terms of two bedrooms. We think there’s always a great niche with two bedrooms, particularly between 800, and say about 1,100 square feet. So because there are a few corridors that are favorable Classic II, we sized the product up a little bit. We’re still going to have great opportunities with ones and ones and dens, but we also have more mid-size, two bedrooms, simply because it was so successful in terms of our other offerings in that community.

Andrew La Fleur:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
So we’re very optimistic in terms of how this will work out [crosstalk 00:40:27].

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah, I’m sure. I’m sure it’s going to be another home run. And an important message, I think, for people, too, and it’s something I’m communicating with buyers a lot, I found, is people don’t realize that there’s only three buildings for sale.

Jim Ritchie:
That’s correct.

Andrew La Fleur:
They see all the buildings and the renderings and they think, “Ah, I’ll get one somewhere in there. There’s plenty of buildings around here.” This is your last chance, this building, to buy.

Jim Ritchie:
The total number of condominium suites at The Well is about 750. So this is the last 258 that’s going to the marketplace now. The other residential buildings are, as I mentioned earlier, are purpose built rentals.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
And a big building, the 1.1 million square feet is the office building, which [crosstalk 00:41:16]-

Andrew La Fleur:
Shopify-

Jim Ritchie:
Yeah.

Andrew La Fleur:
… is taking-

Jim Ritchie:
Well, they’re taking a big piece of it.

Andrew La Fleur:
Big piece of it, yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
But that’s under the purview of RealCan and Allied.

Andrew La Fleur:
Right.

Jim Ritchie:
They’ve done a remarkable job leasing that building. Certainly in the 70th percentile in terms of leasing.

Andrew La Fleur:
And so 750 condos and-

Jim Ritchie:
Well, 950 purpose built rentals.

Andrew La Fleur:
Rentals. So more rentals than condos.

Jim Ritchie:
[crosstalk 00:41:39] rentals than condos, all different sizes and opportunities there.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
What’s interesting is that there are only three residential buildings on Wellington Street, and we typically have heights, 12 to 14 floors, somewhere in that range.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
… smaller, in terms of exposure to the street and the relationship to Wellington, which will be transformed, as this amazing Boulevard upon completion.

Andrew La Fleur:
It’s sort of a forgotten street of downtown.

Jim Ritchie:
You want to talk about Toronto-class, you walk up and down Wellington.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah.

Jim Ritchie:
It’s a very unique opportunity.

Andrew La Fleur:
Yeah, it’s always been one of those streets where you find yourself on … In years past, you’ve found yourself on Wellington for some reason, and you look around, it’s so beautiful.

Jim Ritchie:
[crosstalk 00:42:23] so [crosstalk 00:42:23] just even within The Well development; and on its own, as a point of differentiation, the product that’s on Wellington is very, very different from what is on Front Street. So our condominium offering on Wellington Street, in a 14-story building only has 98 suites because we think that there’s a marketplace for larger suites in a great location in the urban core, the access to the amenities that we just described, so there’s only 98. So the sizes are much larger, and the average price in that building is about 2.5 million. So that’s a unique offering. But even the two rental buildings that’ll be on Wellington are similar, but not quite as large, in terms of the average size. But they will be large; something that you don’t typically see in purpose built rental market in the city. So different offering for a different segment of the marketplace.

Andrew La Fleur:
Jim, you’ve been so generous with your time. Thank you so much again for chatting with me today. Is there anything else that … Any other question I did not ask you that you wished I’d have asked you?

Jim Ritchie:
The height or weight or something weird. [crosstalk 00:43:28]

Andrew La Fleur:
What’s your sign?

Jim Ritchie:
I’m not even sure. But no, you were very thorough. It was great. I enjoyed the conversation.

Andrew La Fleur:
Great. Well thank you so much, Jim. All the best with obviously the final building at The Well, and many other buildings which we didn’t even talk about, didn’t have time for. But look forward to hopefully speaking to you again on the show soon.

Jim Ritchie:
Pleasure.

Andrew La Fleur:
Great.

Speaker 2:
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