YP NextHome caught up with Zev Mandelbaum, co-founder of Marlin Spring Developments, for a lesson in location, and how this home builder spots the hottest up-and-coming areas for development.
YP NextHome: With projects underway in Danforth Village and The Beach, you have a knack for choosing great neighbourhoods. What do you look for in the next hot spot for development?
Zev Mandelbaum: When looking at an area to develop, there is certain criteria that I look for – the first of which is transit. I examine where you can get to and from the site, how long it will take to travel to the downtown core, and where the main access point is. Our projects in Danforth Village and The Beach are both well positioned in terms of their access to The DVP, the Gardiner, GO Transit, and of course the TTC, with direct access to two subway stops along the Bloor-Danforth subway line and streetcars along Queen.
Other criteria that I search for is the nature and user-friendliness of the retail. By that I do not mean boutique shops that you see along Queen Street West. I am looking for retailers like grocery stores or coffee shops; those retailers that allow residents to fulfill their needs on a daily basis. I think about what it would be like to live in the specific area I am looking at, and how easy it is to access these things that would make life more convenient.
Area amenities are extremely important, especially having lots of greenspace nearby. I look for a friendly and inviting feel in established neighbourhoods where people are improving their homes and there is a strong sense of community.
Most importantly, I look at the finer fabric. I isolate neighbourhoods within their larger environments and really examine what it feels like to live there. I stand on street corners for hours to observe the area. For example, in The Beach we see people with thousand-dollar strollers like Bugaboos, we see young families moving in and making great use of the parks and recreational facilities. As a father of two, I appreciate the value of that — a neighbourhood that is changing rapidly and becoming more and more user-friendly. When I see that happening, I know it has all the elements to be a great neighbourhood. I see a hub where people want to live because it has an intimate community feel within the big city.
YPNH: How does a neighbourhood’s vibe — particularly ones as distinctive as Danforth Village and The Beach — flavour a new condominium being developed there?
ZM: A development in a neighbourhood such as Danforth Village or The Beach requires a balance in the design of the building; we want architecture that amazes but respects its surroundings. When we move into a neighbourhood, we want to be part of it! We want it to be as though we have always been there, and at the same time have an exciting/distinctive element(s). It is a careful balance that is striking but not overpowering.
Other elements in the process, such as naming of a project, is very important as it must embody the nature of the environment we are trying to create. For example, when naming our project in Danforth Village we decided to name it “Canvas,” as the name denotes exactly what it may become; a blank canvas for each and every resident. Purchasers have the opportunity to create their lives, really design a home to call their own. With WestBeach, we coined the phrase and envisioned the beginning of this community. Just like Miami has a South Beach, Toronto has its very own “WestBeach.” This stretch of Queen Street has amazing amenities and is definitely the go-to spot in the summer.
YPNH: What’s the next hot area to watch for?
ZM: This city has many “hidden gems” that are on the cusp of establishing a strong, individual identity. Neighbourhoods that have older roots are beginning to sprout once more to create that new community feel. I, personally, am a believer in “The Avenues” – locations such as The Junction, South Etobicoke, the Upper Beach, Little India on Gerrard, and Danforth Village. These neighbourhoods will become more than places to just live, but genuine destinations for Torontonians to venture out to and to call “home.”