Toronto Condos are Going Micro

Smart HouseRecently I was asked to discuss the trend of micro condos in Toronto and whether this type of development is sustainable. Like it or not, the future of big cities will involve smaller living spaces. When I moved into my downtown condo about 7 years ago, 650 square feet was considered tiny then. Now, with recent projects such as DNA 3 by Canderel, INDX by Lifetime Developments and One Park West in Regent Park by Daniels, where units start from 300 square feet, my 650 square feet feels pretty spacious. But whether it’s 300 square feet or 3,000 square feet, it’s all about functionality and smart design.

Smart House City ViewMicro condos are nothing new in major cities like Manhattan and Tokyo…but is Toronto ready for them? UrbanCapital and Malibu Investments think it is. A new project is coming to the city – Smart House. This 25-storey, 281-unit building in the Queen and University area, offers units starting from 289 square feet and as large as 778 square feet. What’s different about this project from the ones I mentioned above? Smart design – every aspect of the building and suites has been thoroughly thought out to maximize space. Features like Murphy beds, movable partitions, expandable and retractable kitchen counters and hidden storage throughout, truly differentiate it from what would otherwise just be a small condo. Rooms can have more than one function when the furniture that outfits them is designed to be there when you need it, but hide away when you don’t.

Even with the most clever design, the micro-condo concept won’t appeal to everyone. Not everybody is going to want to be reassembling their bed every night. But the young, urban demographic who spend an increasing percentage of their lives outside the walls of their unit might be into it. It’s about lifestyle and what’s most important to the individual. There is also the concept of an Edited Life. This is an idea that people could have everything they need using less (and better) stuff and space.

As with most new downtown condo developments, there are questions and scepticism about how well this type of project will do and whether it is a positive addition to the market. The price per unit starts at $249,000 and most are under $350,000. Not exactly a steal if you’re comparing price per foot, but all that custom furniture can be expensive to source and the location is a big selling factor for the target market. Close to Osgoode Station, Financial District, hospitals and U of T.

So who’s buying? There are the investors looking to capitalize on the rental market, but there is also a surge of young people living in Toronto that would sacrifice space to own their own place. Torontonians are staying single longer, getting married later, having less children and want to enjoy life and concentrate on their careers. This roughly translates into a lifestyle of working during the day, meeting friends around town in the evening and coming home at night.

Whether these type of properties will retain their value and increase in value only time will tell. Population of downtown Toronto has doubled between 2006 and 2011 so if the population keeps rising along with the demand for these type of small footprint projects, this type of development will be sustainable. The market will dictate the price. It’s definitely a new and an interesting concept in urban living. If you’re interested in the concept of an Edited Life yourself, take a look at this short video by Graham Hill, founder of LifeEdited.com and Treehugger.com.

Photos via urbantoronto.ca

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