Sweet New Listings – Christmas Edition

Gingerbread Realty Inc., Brokerage – Listings

Realtors specializing exclusively in Gingerbread homes for sale.

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11 Sandalwood Pl – 1bed/1bath

 11 Sandalwood Pl

Located on quiet cul de sac just 20 minutes from the downtown core, this modest 1.5 storey post war Gingerbread home on an irregular 5’ x 3’ lot with a mature Spruce, has been lovingly maintained by the owners since 1985. Basement is a crawl space. Includes garden shed and giant candy cane decorations.  New ice sugar roof and windows replaced in ’13. Perfect for the empty nesters who just want peace and quiet, and a warm fireplace.

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 24 Forest Hill Rd – 3bed/2bath

 24 Forest Hill Rd

This elegant Georgian home features impeccable ice sugar details on the exterior and throughout. The home exudes a quiet luxury, with a formal dining room and chef’s kitchen with a walk-out to the garden. Professionally landscaped with mature Gingerbread Balsam Firs. Walnut walk-in closets in every bedroom. Full and finished basement complete with a wine gum cellar.

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8 Blue Mountain Dr, Collingwood – 5bed/7bath

 8 Blue Mountain Dr 

Blue Moutain Ski Club Charmer! This grand chalet is built with original solid gingerbread logs. The massive jellystone wood burning fireplace keeps this beauty warm and cozy through the winter months. The almond turret features a 24 foot library filled with every classic novel written since the late 1800s. Boasting soaring cathedral ceilings, 5 bedrooms, and 7 bathrooms, your guests can enjoy comfort and privacy when they visit. Blue Mountain Ski Resort is just a short stroll away, but the backyard view of the ski hill makes it feel like you’re at the foot of the ice cream hill.

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33 Silverthorn Ave – 2bed/2bath

33 Silverthorn Ave

*****Calling all investors and builders*****. Well priced, fully detached Gingerbread home needs complete gut & renovation. Renovate & sell for profit OR renovate to your liking. Sprawling 4’x5’ lot. Good Gingerbread bones, just needs a little TLC and candy. Great opportunity. Sold in “AS IS – WHERE IS” condition.

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2 St Ives Cres – 3bed/2bath

 2 St Ives Cres

Traditional Georgian Gingerbread Home in the most prestigious neighbourhood. Gorgeous ice sugar cornice and dentils decorate the charming sash windows. An impressive ice sugar arched fanlight decorates the entrance leading to a dramatic sweeping staircase. Palladian window off the grand principal master bedroom. Walnut Herringbone Floors, Custom Molasses Cabinets and Candy Cane French Doors Leading To Gardens.

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94 Prince Arthur Blvd – 4+2bed, 5bath

 94 Prince Arthur Ave

A classic Victorian in one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. Protected by the Heritage Act, this architecturally significant  Gingerbread home showcases old age design: A sugar fondant widow’s walk atop of the buttercream fishscale mansard roof, wrap around candy cane verandas and detailed ice sugar quoining. Impeccable details include 6 wood-burning Gingerbread fireplaces, hazelnut flooring, chestnut paneling throughout, elaborate marzipan crown moulding, 1′ ceilings and stained candy windows.

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60 Beech Ave – commercial property

 60 Beech Ave

Excellent Investment opportunity! 9 spacious Gingerbread units in this apartment building. Legal Retrofit. 7 sugar fondant parking spaces. 9 seperate ice sugar hydro meters. 3 chocolate coin operated washers and dryers in the basement. Exp/Inc Ratio 35% Cap Rate 7.69% Cash Return 1st year 13.31% ROI 16%. No vacancy until April 2014. There is a new environmental assessment report available for review. Please allow 24 hours for showings. Do not contact Gingerbread tenants directly.

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84 King St, Kingston – 5bed, 3bath

 
84 King St, Kingston
 
Estate Sale. Stately late 19th century black licorice  and dark chocolate Second Empire Gingerbread home belonging to the same Gingerbread family for over 150 years. Please give 72 hours irrevocable on all offers as per estate executor. The executor does not warrant vacant possession upon closing, and does not make any representations that the home is free from Gingerbread spirits and will not be held liable for any damage, real or cognitive.

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35 Quietbrook Cres – vacant land

 
  35 Quietbrook Cres
 
Land value only. Established neigbourhood. This lot is approximately 3’x5′. Custom built Gingerbread homes on neighbouring street. Close to Gingerbread schools, mint candy parks, public transit, Gingerbread shopping mall and major black licorice highways. Architectural drawings available. Additional environmental testing may be required for financing and/or building permits.
 
Happy Holidays from Hanna In The City!
 

The Tribulations of Trump Tower

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Toronto Life wrote an article earlier this year. The opening paragraph reads:

 “The Trump Tower, downtown’s tallest new condo-hotel, is a monument to excess. And, like its tycoon namesake, it’s surrounded by controversy: 38 investors are suing the hotel for millions.”

Uh oh, it sounds like Donald Trump is out deceiving the poor people of Toronto.

The story focuses on the troubles of one particular Torontonian Sarbjit Singh, who invested $869,000 in a unit at Trump Tower. For this type of investment, Singh needed to give the developer a 20% deposit along with a protracted copy of the Agreement of Purchase and Sale. That’s almost $175,000! This is definitely not an amount just casually sitting around in the bank account of an average Torontonian. To make this deal happen, Singh convinced his own parents of what a colossal opportunity this was. They took out a line of credit on their home for $150,000.

And then the inevitable happened; only it wasn’t inevitable to Singh.

The project was delayed. Apparently the job site was so small that the developer, Talon International, could only employ one crane. Is this a big deal? I don’t think so. The project would have been delayed if they used 12 cranes. That is how it is. Every pre-construction condo project is eventually delayed; nothing ever closes on time in Toronto.

What’s the problem here?

The article blames the change in the real estate climate. The value of the unit was predicted to increase, and then the recession happened. The property hadn’t even closed and was worth less than the $869,000 Singh had already agreed to pay. 

Does this mean Singh is entitled to renege on the contract and get his deposit back? I don’t think so!

In Toronto, there is a cooling period for any pre-construction purchase. Buyers have 10 days to take their documents to a lawyer for review. Should the lawyer find any issue with the development or the papers, the buyer can back out of the deal so long as it’s within those 10 days. It is up to the buyer to do their due diligence before committing to a binding agreement, especially when large sums of money are involved.

I’m not siding with Donald Trump either though. He has nothing to do with this. He isn’t the developer, he isn’t a shareholder, and the sales people were not his employees. He is not involved in this project whatsoever, other than allowing the use of his name on the building and lending his presence at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

I’m more inclined to hold the investors suing the developer responsible for the mess they are in. They are the ones legally obligated to close on a property they can’t afford, and cannot get financing for, because Mortgage Lenders do not give mortgages for properties that don’t pass appraisals. Not to mention properties that qualify as commercial rather than residential, have lower than forecasted occupancy rates and are cash flow negative.

Regardless of the state of the economy, there is no profit to be made in pre-construction. People are still dreaming about flipping condos like it’s 2005. There are increasing numbers of developers, charging outrageous  premiums on vague floor plans while models serve inexperienced buyers champagne to seduce them into signing a 50 page contract. For the last time, it is not cheaper to buy a pre-construction condo than it is to buy a re-sale condo anymore. 

Condo hotels, which in many cases are classified as commercial properties, are an even riskier investment than buying residential condo units. If these speculators, not investors, had done their research, they would have known this wasn’t a lucrative investment, recession or not. The sales team is hired by the developer to sell, sell, sell. They are not licensed Realtors and they do not care about you. Don’t believe what you read in those flashy brochures, hire a lawyer and do your own due diligence.

Now Trump Tower (or Talon International to be more precise), is in the midst of a lawsuit. Troubled investors are suing Talon and Talon is suing troubled investors. The accusations listed are misrepresentation, breach of contract, breach of the Ontario Securities Act, and even conspiracy.

Singh in particular was promised that even at the worst case scenario 55% occupancy rate, he would still make a profit.  Since the Trump Tower opened its doors, his unit is vacant more than half the time. In an effort to lure guests to rent out the suites, the hotel has dropped the price from $600 to $400 per night. The low occupancy rate coupled with high maintenance fees resulted in a huge loss for Singh, who claims he was losing $5,000 per month.

What is the conclusion here? While the outcome of the lawsuit remains unclear, this may be a precedent setting case that may impact the regulations surrounding such properties. However, we’ll have to wait for the battle to be over and see who is left standing. If I were to guess though, I’d say it’s likely that the lawyers will be the profiteers while the developer is left with a bleeding tower and the investors are bankrupt.

Being an educated investor is not the same thing as being a gambler. Singh gambled by investing money he could not afford to lose and by not doing his due diligence on the risks of pre-construction and condo hotel investing. You can’t take a chance on the market and hope for the best, prepare yourself and protect your investment by doing research so you know what to expect. If you dream of making money in real estate you must educate yourself first and this may mean passing on opportunities that sound too good to be true.

 

THE PRECEDING COMMENTARY IS THE OPINION OF HANNA MACDONALD AND DOES NOT REPRESENT THE INTERESTS OR OPINIONS OF RIGHT AT HOME REALTY INC., BROKERAGE OR THE TORONTO REAL ESTATE BOARD. THEREFORE, RIGHT AT HOME REALTY AND THE TORONTO REAL ESTATE BOARD WILL NOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE AND/OR LIABLE FOR ANY OF THE OPINIONS HEREIN.

Then and Now: The Prince of Wales Hotel, Niagara on the Lake

This photograph was taken in 1901.

Francis J. Petrie Collection

Then:

The building was established as a hotel in 1864, but the site itself has a long history dating back to the 1800s.  Originally, the building was known as Long’s hotel, then the Arcade hotel, The Niagara House and finally, after a visit from the Duke and Duchess of York in 1901, it was renamed ‘The Prince of Wales Hotel’.

In the 1970s, the hotel was bought by the Wiens Family, who undertook serious renovations to expand the hotel to the east and to the south. The renovations stayed true to the late Victorian architecture when the hotel opened in 1864. The architectural style is called “Second Empire”.

Second Empire architecture actually goes back to the 17th century designs of French architect Francois Mansart, after whom the mansard roof is named.  The mansard roof (as seen in the photo below) is the key identifying feature of the Second Empire. It was not only a fashionable element, but  functional one as well since it created completely usable attic space.

PoW

Other commonly seen details are a bracketed cornice beneath the mansard roof, round arched windows, quoining, decorative dormer windows, an iron crest at the roofline (present in the original 1864 hotel but absent from the post 1970s renovated hotel), and columned porches or porticoes.

PoW2

Now: 

Currently, the hotel is a temporary home to guests visiting the vineyards and historic Niagara on the Lake. The luxurious landmark offers a state of the art spa, restaurant with an in-house Sommelier and an afternoon high tea. These accommodations are fit for royalty (as I’m sure the Duke of York, George V, could attest…if he were alive), rates are approximately $300 per night.

At night the ghost of Mary, who was accidentally killed by an American soldier in room 207 during the war of 1812, can be heard haunting the hallways. Flickering lights, voices, empty showers turning on and off have been reported by frightened visitors.

Would you rather? $25,000 vs. $1,000,000

Spend $1,000,000 on a 2 bed, 2 bath bungalow at Yonge and Finch?

Or spend $25,000 on a 3 bed, 3 bath 3 storey house across the border?

This little bungalow sold in a bidding war for over one million in the Spring of 2012.

Screen shot 2013-05-15 at 10.59.49 PM

I’m not saying the market in Toronto isn’t crazy (or depressing for buyers), but is it worse that this? Here is what’s going on the other side of the Lewiston Bridge in New York State: 

One forsaken home after the other:

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Shattered windows.

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Boarded windows.

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Decaying wood porches and posts.

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There’s a good chance that this vinyl sided home is worth less than your car.

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At some point this was a beautiful property, and proudly maintained for decades. This property was likely built in the 1920’s, nearly one hundred years later it’s in a state of disrepair.

IMG_20130514_182006

These properties were photographed at random in Niagara Falls, New York. There are streets with well kept homes and proud owners, but vacant, neglected houses are a common sight and not just confined to one area. Unfortunately they can be seen throughout the city. 

I don’t know about anyone else. Personally, I’d rather spend $1,000,000 on an exiguous bungalow anywhere in Toronto, than $25,000 in an auction on a condemned property across the border.

Extra Extra: Is the real estate market crashing? (Speech prepared for Toastmasters)

Extra

I came across an article in the Globe and Mail.  The headline read, “Clouds gather over Canadian Housing Market[1]”.

Wait, what?? What clouds??

What’s next, lightning, hail, tsunami?? Lake Ontario overflows and half the city is under water!! The housing market crashes as Torontonians evacuate!

Ok, Globe and Mail. It’s time to stop scaring my Buyers. These days I feel more like a psychologist than a real estate agent. I spend a lot of time reassuring stressed out, fearful clients.

Madame Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters, and Welcomed Guests,

Next time you see a headline like this, please take it with a grain of salt. Here are four reasons why:

1. Articles can be sensationalized.

Many writers use fear tactics to sell their articles.  A hard-hitting and controversial headline is attention grabbing and sells newspapers. Like Globe and Mail’s March headline that read “One word to describe Toronto’s real estate market: It starts with an F[2]”.

Toronto Life wrote the following line: “The house hunt has become a blood sport involving bully bids, bribery and a willingness to pay $100,000 over asking, without conditions, for the ugliest address on the street” [3].

Toronto Life, please don’t tell my Buyers that they’re going to end up bloody and swindled, the remorseful owners of an ugly house. I would never let this happen. I make sure my clients’ experience is PLEASANT. Ask any one of them.

2. Articles are sometimes published too late.

I don’t know how many articles I’ve read about a bidding war  for a specific address that occurred a season earlier.

3. Articles sometimes manipulate data.

You can make numbers say anything. There’s a lot of data out there, and when writers have a certain angle, they may omit certain numbers. If you read somewhere that the market has gone up by 6.5%, don’t just take that number at face value.  Does 6.5% mean sales are up, or does it mean prices are up. Is it for condo sales or for freehold sales? Is it for downtown Toronto or the GTA? Is it 6.5% more volume this month? Or 6.5% since the same time last year?

If I read that real estate sales have plummeted in July and August, I’m going to go crazy. It’s called seasonality and it happens every year.

4. Articles sometimes contain data from unreliable sources.

The only data my clients need to worry about is their own financial data and whether of not the can afford the monthly mortgage payments and maintenance fees, and property taxes.

For the record, the market is NOT crashing. To those of you who are wondering if and when the market will crash, I would suggest you stop speculating. In my opinion, speculating is like gambling. You don’t really know what you’re doing.

If you want to buy, then buy. If you don’t want to buy, then don’t buy. Just don’t fall victim to the Chicken Little Syndrome: The sky is falling, the sky is falling!  The sky is not falling and neither is the real estate market.

 

 

Disclaimer: The preceding commentary is the opinion of Hanna Stecewicz and does not represent the interests or opinions of Right at Home Realty Inc., Brokerage or the Toronto Real Estate Board. Therefore, Right at Home Realty will not be held responsible and/or liable for any of the opinions herein.

 

 

 



[1] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/housing/clouds-gather-over-canadian-housing-market/article9812647/

[2]http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/home-and-garden/real-estate/one-word-to-describe-torontos-real-estate-market-it-starts-with-an-f/article9759374/

[3] http://www.torontolife.com/daily/informer/features/2012/08/29/real-estate-bidding-wars/

The $20,000,000 Condo Fraud (Speech prepared for Toastmasters)

It’s the story that made newspaper headlines back in September.

A man by the name of Manzoor Khan stole 20 million dollars from condo owners across the city. 20 Million Dollars. That’s a massive figure. It’s hard to wrap your head around such a large sum

This man was the president and owner of Channel Property Managed and managed 9 different condominiums in Toronto.

He opened up fake bank accounts in the each of the condo’s names.

He authorized fake bylaws and falsified papers that authorized him to borrow millions of dollars from a lending institution.

He did this all without anyone noticing. Not the board of directors, not the condo owners, and not even the employees really knew what was going on.

It was months before anyone caught on to his scam. It was only when the property management company began to default on payments, that the lender issued a notice to the condo board. And that’s when the scheme unraveled. But by then it was too late, Khan had vanished.  Speculators claim that he had fled with the money to the Middle East.

Madame Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters, Welcomed Guests,

Now those condo owners are on the hook for 20 Million.

This could have happened to anyone. It could have been you.

What do you do when your condo board announces you owe a lender 20 Million? Some people have succumbed to depression. Some people have tried to sell only to realize their units have become unmarketable. The negative media attention and resulting stigma has destroyed their condo’s reputation and nobody wants to buy.

They’re losing money on their investment; their units are selling for significantly less than a year ago.

Some people worry that the maintenance fees will increase to the point they can no longer afford to pay, or worse, a special assessment will be issued against the condo owners and they’ll be forced to pay thousands of dollars up front.

The truth of the matter is, that no one really knows what the future holds for each of these condos. The owners have pooled together and filed a lawsuit against Khan and his property management company. The case has gone to the superior court, but it could be years before they see an outcome.

This cautionary tale is not meant to scare off condo owners or condo buyers. This is an unprecedented case.

Sometimes despite your best efforts, there isn’t anything you can do. There are bad people in this world. And whether it’s in real estate, banking, in the stock market, in business fraud exists.

But there is something you can do to reduce the risk: your due diligence.

Future condo buyers: make your condo offer conditional upon the your lawyer’s review of a current status certificate.

The status certificate is a disclosure document which describes the financial state of the condominium, including information about maintenance fees, the condo’s budget, the amount of money in the reserve fund, special assessments, lawsuits, the status of the building insurance, etc.

Be diligent. Sit down with your lawyer and go over the document line by line.

If there is anything in that document that indicates the condominium is unhealthy, your lawyer will let you know. And you can walk away from the deal, with your deposit back in full.

Current condo owners: join the condo board. You’ll learn more about condos than you ever thought possible. You’ll have influence over how your condo is run, and at the very least, you’ll know where your maintenance fees are going.

In the meantime, we need to wait and see how this lawsuit plays out. Will the court recover the $20 million? Will the lender have to take a loss? Will the condo owners have to pay? These questions still need to be answered.

I’m certain that when the court announces a verdict, we’ll be reading it in the newspaper the next day.

 

Disclaimer: The preceding commentary is the opinion of Hanna Stecewicz and does not represent the interests or opinions of Right at Home Realty Inc., Brokerage or the Toronto Real Estate Board. Therefore, Right at Home Realty will not be held responsible and/or liable for any of the opinions herein.

Then and Now: 299 Queen St W

This photo was taken in 1919.

Then:

This Neo-Gothic structure was built in 1913 by architects by Burke, Horwood and White. Originally, it was the headquarters of the Methodist Church of Canada until the church converged with another denomination and became the United Church. In 1985, CHUM (Canada Broadcasting Corp. which owned CityTV and A-Channel) acquired the building. In 2007, CTV Globemedia (owns CTV Television Network) acquired CHUM. In 2011, Bell acquired CTV (and CHUM…and everything else).

Despite it’s long history of being passed on from corporation to corporation, the architecture has remained the same, but it goes without saying that thousands have been spent to maintain the building.

What defines this building as Neo-Gothic are the terra-cotta carvings and crests beneath each set of three windows. Neo-Gothic architecture commands strong vertical lines and a sense of great height. With it’s pointed finials (the ornamental pinnacles protruding from the roof), 299 Queen St W certainly has a looming presence.

Now:

It’s known as the iconic Much Music building. The constant influx of celebrities attracts teens from all corners of the GTA. The streets are shut down once a year in June when Much Music hosts the Much Music Awards. It’s a definite treat for youngins hoping to catch a glimpse of Miley Cyrus, but a “screeching” headache for local residents who know well enough they need to leave the city until it’s all over the next day.

Not a traditional characteristic of Neo-Gothic architecture is the CityTV turned CP24 truck that projects through the eastern wall of the building. That CP24 goes through great lengths to bring us the news eh?

Forgive my sad attempt at a joke. I’ll just stick to real estate.

Then and Now: 295 Davenport Rd

This photo was taken in 1948.

Then:

Looking south onto the seemingly quiet Bedford Rd. The CN tower was absent from this view until 1976.

On the right is the Creed’s Storage Vault building, which was the storage and cleaning location for Creed’s Fur Ltd.

Creed’s was a women’s specialty store which specialized in furs and high end designer fashion. The retailer opened it’s doors in 1916 but went bankrupt in 1990.

The building itself is designed in the Art Deco style, embellished with hard-edged designs and geometric shapes. To keep costs down, ornamental treatment was limited to the most visible parts of the building.

In Ontario, the style was adopted by wealthy and very fashionable patrons who wanted the Art Deco detailing to make their buildings look lavish and exotic.

Now:

The building was converted into residential lofts in the mid 80s. Named the Creed Lofts, the space contains 19 multi-level units with 13 foot ceilings, skylights, and atriums. The original building had only two stories, the third storey was added during the loft conversion.

From this vantage point, residents could see the growth of the CN Tower over the course of 40 months. Construction began on February 6, 1973 and wrapped up in June 26, 1976.

Then and Now: 205 Yonge St

This photo was taken in 1979.

Then:

205 Yonge St and it’s twin 199 Yonge St were formerly the Bank of Toronto. Both buildings were built in 1905 by architect E. J. Lennox. The structure, made of grey limestone, is a prime example of neo-classical architecture.

Neo-classical buildings were constructed on the traditional Georgian plan but the Greek empire became the standard for architectural decoration. Detailing became more refined, delicate, and elegant.

The focus of 205 Yonge St are the four Corinthian flutes (Greek columns with channels cut vertically in the shafts) adorned at the top with an Acanthus (Mediterranean plant whose leaves are stylized into decoration for the column) framing the entrance. The domed roof, carvings, cornices all added to the richness of the architecture, which ultimately showcased the wealth of the landowner.

The buildings were designated as a heritage site under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1975.

Now:

The two buildings still exist today. They’ve been the home of a bank, a Heritage office, even a dentist’ office but they’ve been vacant for the last 25 yeas. Today, the landmark is known as “The Bird Poop Building”. If you’ve ever walked by either of the buildings, you would notice the horizontal surfaces are covered in pigeon droppings. Although the city has put up netting to keep the birds off, it still isn’t enough. It’s a shame to see a structure that was once a symbol of wealth turn into a such derelict state.

The good news is that MOD developments announced it’s purchase of 199 and 205 Yonge St and plan develop the property into a 60 storey condo, which will incorporate both neo-classical buildings into the architecture. The condo has been named “Massey Tower”.

While I have never sold pre-construction condos to my clients, and won’t be selling this one, I think it’s a necessary evil. If the city won’t spend money to bring the historical structures back to their former glory, I welcome a developer to step in.

Then and Now: 245 Carlaw Ave

This photo was taken in 1917.

Then:

This factory was built in 1907. It was the home of the Wrigley Gum Factory.

The Industrial Revolution had brought steel, plate glass, and mass-produced components. These enabled a world of bold structural frames, with clean lines and plain or shiny surfaces. In the early stages, a popular motto was “decoration is a crime”.

The side view of this building is completely unadorned. The front of the building however, does show case a repeated geometric motif between the windows.

Now:

The company moved the manufacturing operations to Leslie and Eglinton, and in 1998 Atria developed the building into residential lofts. 245 Carlaw Ave is now home of the Wrigley Lofts.

The building has been preserved wonderfully and residents can enjoy all the characteristics a hard loft has to offer from 14 foot ceilings, exposed brick and wood beams, concrete floors, large fluted columns and floor to ceiling warehouse windows.

For those who can afford loft living (a 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom unit sold in March 2012 for $499,000), the space is filled with inspiration. William Wrigley Jr. founded Wrigley at the age of 29, with only $32 in his pocket. He started out as a soap salesman. He offered merchants two packs of gum as a thank you. When the gum proved to be more popular, he made it his focus.

The company was acquired by Mars Inc in 2008 for $23 billion.

 

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau.