Gehry moves on huge condo project despite cooling market

TorontoMagnifying glass

The Canadian housing market is cooling down, but someone forgot to tell Frank Gehry and David Mirvish.

Gehry, the man Vanity Fair once described as "the most important architect of our age,” has unveiled plans for a gargantuan condominium project in downtown Toronto. With funding from theater promoter David Mirvish, Gehry’s design will incorporate three 85-floor towers sitting atop two six-story podiums.

The developers held a news conference officially announcing the project on October 1.

“I am not building condominiums,” said Mirvish. “I am building three sculptures for people to live in.”

The towers, which will feature residential, retail and gallery space, would be the tallest residences in North America.

Unfortunately for Gehry and Mirvish, these skyscrapers will have to compete with a gluttony of unsold spaces built during Toronto’s condo boom.

As of June 2012, there were 18,123 unsold condos in the Toronto area, according to market research firm Urbanation. In addition to that, market research firm RealNet Canada reports that there are 224 condo projects currently underway. If that weren’t enough, the Toronto Real Estate Board reports that September condo sales were down 29 percent from the same time last year.

Ben Myers, Urbanation’s executive vice president, recently spoke to Bloomberg Businessweek about the project.

“We’ve definitely reached a peak and we’re on the way down,” he said. “We didn’t anticipate these kinds of super projects coming onto the market.”

Despite the bleak atmosphere, Gehry seems unworried.

“Of course the condo bubble in Toronto is on my mind, but we’re in the early beginnings of it,” he said at the press conference. “The culture of the city and the condo boom has nothing to do with me. That’s your problem.”

Gehry’s cavalier attitude may be premature, as the current housing trend will most likely affect everyone involved in building right now.

The bright side to all this is that for the first time since the slump, financial experts are saying Toronto housing is about to become a buyer’s market. Lack of sales and an overabundance of units are creating a perfect storm for prospective homeowners.

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