Condo carrying costs have turned a once propitious investment vehicle in Toronto into a nightmare. But, fortunately, a couple of hours north of the city investors will find respite from their monthly losses. For investors, the Barrie real estate scene is an area to keep an eye on.
The City of Barrie has embarked upon an ambitious infrastructure plan in preparation of growth to 253,000 residents and 129,000 jobs by 2041. And in doing so, the market fundamentals of a sound investment strategy are taking shape.
Barrie will see $3 billion in infrastructure improvements over the next two decades. That’s not an insignificant sum bespeaking confidence in the city’s growth, as do the $41 million investment in the city’s transit and $450 million investment to expand its Royal Victoria Hospital.
Barrie leveraging its waterfront
Barrie is leveraging its six-kilometre waterfront and surrounding area, namely Dunlop St. W.. In addition to wide, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, a slew of boutique stores, bars and restaurants are setting up shop. The result looks very much like what Torontonians find on King or Queen Streets.
“You’re not sacrificing anything by moving from downtown Toronto to downtown Barrie,” says Gary Silverberg, developer of Debut Condos along Barrie’s waterfront. “What I was looking for in a place to build Debut was somewhere with hidden equity and appreciation opportunities that hadn’t been capitalized upon.
“I wanted to go to an area that will change and transform. That’s like I did when I designed Art Condos on Queen St. W. in Toronto. Barrie was obvious to me because it’s very close to a major urban centre. And there’s a group of millennials who think differently about what quality of life means.”
Debut Condos embodies the innovation that surrounds its outside walls. Silverberg “future-proofed” the building. So, should the personal automobile’s obsolescence indeed manifest, the ground-level parking garage could be transformed for other uses.
“It’s been rezoned already and approved by the city so that a section of the parking lot can be transformed into a residential condo or for commercial purposes,” he says. “The parking spots will have additional value.”
Lake Simcoe views
The towers’ units, commodiously designed, feature modular pieces in the kitchens and dens that permit multi-use living. For example, a kitchen island could easily double into a home office desk.
The 33-storey towers will each have 272 units, 87 per cent of which will face Lake Simcoe. The units start in the mid-$400,000 range. According to Mark Cohen, managing partner of The Condo Store in Toronto, there are scarcely any other areas of the Greater Toronto Area that offer as much value as Barrie real estate, in general, and Debut Condos, in particular.
Initial pricing of $800 per square foot
“It’s safe because you have 705 prices and 416 rents at Debut,” says Cohen. “The condos in the GTA stopped carrying themselves a number of years ago because of construction costs and planning costs, and necessary delays in getting business started and finished. And because of the fact that condos were less expensive than their detached counterparts, but they’ve gone up in prices since.
“Debut’s pricing is in the $800 a square foot range and rents are north of $4 a square foot. You won’t find $800 anywhere in the GTA – Vaughan and Mississauga are at $1,000 a square foot.”
Throw in the Barrie’s makeover from satellite city north of Toronto to a regional hub, and Debut’s investment potential is hard to ignore, adds Cohen. The Barrie real estate scene is an area to keep an eye on.
“It has an existing downtown with new businesses, but you’re going to see more specialty businesses and stores, like fine foods or shops with an international flavour,” he says. “All things fun and sophisticated.”