GAIRLOCH DEVELOPMENTS FOUNDER: 1414 BAYVIEW AND THE CHALLENGES OF LAUNCHING A NEW PROJECT DURING A PANDEMIC

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BY MARJAN ASADULLAH

Gairloch Developments, a real estate development firm, has announced two new mid-rise projects in downtown Toronto. The first one, 1414 Bayview, which launched this month, is a luxury boutique condominium development in the Davisville Village neighbourhoods, designed by Peter Clewes of Architects Alliance, ready to offer residents an opportunity to live in one of Toronto’s most highly sought-after areas. Interiors are being handled by Sixteen Degree Studio.

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The Junction Point development, located at Dundas and Dupont, is aiming to launch in September and brings residences a three-sided building that celebrates the industrial heritage of The Junction, embodying key architectural characteristics of the area. 

Bill Gairdner is the founder and president of Gairloch Developments. We spoke to him about his work, the Toronto real estate market, and the challenges of launching a new real estate development during a global pandemic.

RL: Tell us a little about yourself and how you started as a real estate developer? 

BG: I worked at Freed Developments in the mid 2000s straight out of college. I spent six years there and learned a lot and I decided to go off on my own. The primary objective for Gairloch Developments is to acquire, build, and sell mid-rise boutique developments where people were keen to live. We always try to take a hands-on, curated approach to building and to stand out from the other developments in the downtown core. 

RL: Gairloch Developments is launching two new projects. Can you tell us about it? 

BG: Our priority right now is 1414 Bayview located at Davisville neighbourhoods. I’ve lived in the area so I’m super familiar with it. I’ve always enjoyed walking by the site, going to Mount Pleasant Cemetery for a jog, or biking in the Don Valley trail network. As soon as the parameters changed on the stretch of Bayview, we quickly worked to assemble four separate properties to combine them into one property and put forth this eight-storey condominium. It has 44 units total and they are larger suits, around 1,100 square feet, which is quite large in Toronto and a larger unit size that we’ve ever done. We’re excited about that. We’re hoping to target a lot of the folks who want to downsize from their large homes but still want to maintain a lot of the amenities. 

RL: Are you worried at all about sales for these projects amid Covid-19? 

BG: Based on all the research we’ve been doing, there’s a ton of demand and interest in the scale and style of developments we’re doing. But we’re certainly taking a cautious approach with how to announce these projects. Typically, we have a big launch party, have hundreds of people come, and sell a bunch of the building right out of the gate. Now we’re doing a more curated approach where we take appointments, have one-on-one meetings and avoid large gatherings. It’s certainly a different vibe, but it’s the right thing to do and people are much more comfortable this way. 

RL: What are your thoughts on where the real estate market is at now or will be coming out of the pandemic? 

BG:  I’m curiously optimistic, as we have seen higher numbers of registrations than we expected and stronger sales since opening for 1414 Bayview. Having said that, our exception was to plan for slower absorption due to selling via one-on-one private appointments versus a large opening launch event. Given the larger purchase prices for the larger unit types we have designed, targeted at downsizers, it is expected that the sales process will require multiple visits and time to plan for the lifestyle change the typical purchaser will have to navigate. It is hard to know whether or not COVID is playing a roll in this timing.

Analysts and forecasters have been calling for price drops and corrections since the mid 2000’s when I started in this business. So long as Toronto continues to be a super desirable place to live and work on a global scale, I don’t think we will experience any long term drop in condo pricing.

Affordability is an on-going issue in Toronto, and is only going to get worse in my opinion. There are too few sites that will permit multi-res density, there is a lot of institutional and private capital chasing the same opportunities, construction costs seem to be continually escalating, alongside the vast magnitude of government fees embedded throughout the development process.

1414 Bayview is by far the most luxurious project we’ve done as far as unit size and quality in general. I think for us, we’re really focused on trying to build the right buildings in the right neighbourhoods where we know people are going to want to live.

RL: Do you think the priorities among buyers are changing now or will change post-pandemic, like wanting better security, health, hygiene, sustainability, and how is Gairloch addressing that? 

BG: I think priorities are changing but adjustments are made very quickly. For example, there is a massive development and one of the amenities was a sauna. It’s probably not a good idea to put a sauna in a building where people will be sharing the same air and space together for a long period of time. For us, all of our projects are light on amenities anyway. Our idea is that the area we choose to build are amenities themselves. I think it’s a bit too early to tell. Everyone has their own hypothesis but it’ll be interesting to see if people go back to the office or work from home and I’m sure the condo market will adapt quickly.