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A 52-storey tower on Church Street caters to the city’s tech boom


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Bader Elkhatib, partner and senior vice president of CentreCourt, didn’t always have a soft spot for downtown’s east side.

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When the firm opened 12 years ago, its projects were situated west of Yonge. The skyscraper Karma, completed with Lifetime Developments at 15 Grenville, is one example.

“Within two to three years, we realized there is a disconnect. Why is west of Yonge so sought after?” says Elkhatib, answering his own question. “Well, it has proximity to amenities, high-order transit, employment. But if you step back, Church and Jarvis is also 300 or 400 metres away from the financial core relative to York or University. It’s equidistant.”

With that in mind, Elkhatib turned eastward. He built towers — five in the snug pocket east of Yonge between Carleton and Queen — that offered amenities people actually used, in projects like Core Condos, 411 Church, 199 Church, Grid and Prime. Well-equipped gyms and roomy work-from-home spaces (“this was long before COVID,” notes Elkhatib) that catered to the end user, mostly young professionals and students at the nearby (and soon-to-be-rebranded) Ryerson University and George Brown.

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The value proposition in comparison to west of Yonge is better, notes Elkhatib; something business owners cottoned onto. “They didn’t want to pay Bay Street and King Street West rents, and so they started popping up on the east side.”

The outdoor lounge has barbecues and seating areas.
The outdoor lounge has barbecues and seating areas. Photo by Photo courtesy of CentreCourt

Staples just opened “a working and learning” concept at 517 Richmond St. E. featuring co-working areas and a café, he points out, adding, “while rents likely played into this decision, the availability of space, growth of housing and proximity to employees were probably also key factors.”

On that front, big tech is moving in too: Google has a future office slated for King East, while Amazon, Netflix and TikTok are growing their presence with new downtown offices in the area.

Future residents at Elkhatib’s next and sixth building on the east side is 252 Church St., which he calls “well placed for the city’s ongoing tech boom.”

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Located two minutes from Ryerson and five minutes from the Eaton Centre, the 52-storey tower will feature 681 suites, consisting of bachelor units, one bed, one bed plus dens, and two-bedroom suites. Units are priced from the high $500,000s for 300 square feet, with an occupancy date of 2024.

Designed by IBI Architects in coordination with GBCA Heritage Architects, the new condo was devised with the Gothic churches that line Church Street in mind, including St. Michael’s Cathedral, The Cathedral Church of St. James and the Metropolitan United Church. The condo will merge with the three-storey former Sterling Bank of Canada building, clad in brick and stone, its restoration in tune with the northeast corner.

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“The facade of 252 Church will be fully restored and retained on-site,” says Elkhatib.

The co-working lounge in the podium has a shared harvest table and “technology study pods” for quiet work.
The co-working lounge in the podium has a shared harvest table and “technology study pods” for quiet work. Photo by Photo courtesy of CentreCourt

Up top, double-storey, inverted U-shaped white metal panels will skirt up the structure to create what the firm is describing as a fish-scale-like pattern that wraps the building.

Both the building’s design and amenities come from the developer’s experience in the area. “The product we’re delivering speaks to the tenant. We really know the end user, both from a rental and owner perspective,” he says.

“If you’re in the creative sector you’ve always worked from home,” says Elkhatib. “Everyone makes it like Zoom is a new phenomenon; we’ve been building COVID-era facilities for the last five years. We know young professionals and students want a place that’s not a crowded library or a Starbucks to work — they want a cool, hip place to collaborate.”

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To that end, there will be 18,000 square feet of amenity space with outdoor dining zones and barbecues; spacious games rooms and lounges and a modern co-working space in the building’s podium “that is very much inspired by the Google and Facebook offices,” says Elkhatib. “We’re going to have a combination of independent lounges decked out with technology study pods without the noise.”

Another noteworthy space is the fitness centre that has a CrossFit studio and a Peloton lounge.

Says Elkhatib, “Ultimately you don’t have to pay for a gym membership because you have this premier facility in your building.”

Prices at 252 Church begin in the high $500,000s for 300-square-foot studios and up. For more information, visit 252churchcondos.com.

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 Three things

Tuck into British classics and a pint at the cozy Queen & Beaver Public House: seafood pie and buttered peas, bangers and mash in sweet onion gravy and roasted tomato and cheddar on toast. 35 Elm St.

A seven-storey addition and two smaller concert rooms were just added to the Victoria-era Massey Hall. On the marquee recently: Nick Cave and Warren Ellis; Paul Simon; and Rufus Wainwright. 178 Victoria St.

The long, low shelves lined in vases of colourful flowers are impossible to turn away from at Thyme Studio, which sells both fresh and dried stems; ditto a suspended ceiling raft of botanicals. 779 Queen St. E.

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