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Old Posted Aug 7, 2005, 9:12 PM
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Buffalo News

Toronto condo boom attracts Trump

Three-story penthouse will cost $15 million

Sunday, August 7, 2005

A billboard and sales office is located on the site of Trump's Toronto tower.

A scale model of Trump's tower is on display downtown.

TORONTO - Donald Trump, building his first residential condominium in Toronto, is offering 24-hour access to chauffeured Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans and a chef for parties as incentives to attract buyers.
The New York-style amenities may help the 70-story Trump International Hotel & Tower stand out, said Barry Landsberg, marketing director for the project.

"That's very unusual for Toronto," said Marisha Robinsky, a real-estate agent for Sutton-Granite Hill Realty in the city. Robinsky said developers usually offer kitchen appliances, parking spaces or access to compact cars as incentives. "The standard perks are becoming more common."

Trump, 59, is taking advantage of a surge in demand for city apartments. About 50,000 to 60,000 people will move downtown this year, Toronto developer Harry Stinson said.

Stinson made headlines in the Toronto Star and the National Post with plans to build the 88-story Sapphire Tower hotel and condominium a few blocks away from Trump's building.

At least six Toronto properties are selling units at up to $1,000 (Canadian) or $824 (U.S.) a square foot, or about $2.2 million (Canadian) for a two-bedroom apartment, according to real-estate agent Laurie Hanes. A year ago nothing sold for more than $500 (Canadian) a square foot, he said. The three-story penthouse in Trump's building, which will begin construction next year, is $15 million (Canadian).

"We're rapidly becoming Manhattan," said Hanes, who described Trump's incentives as "smoke and mirrors."

"I've got clients in upstate New York who always dreamt of retiring in Manhattan for the shows, the restaurants. Now they can in Toronto."

The Four Seasons Hotels is among the companies planning hotel-condo complexes in the Yorkville section of Toronto. The area is known for upscale stores such as Tiffany's and restaurants including Bistro 990. Movie stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger have visited the neighborhood while in town filming.

Real-estate agents lined up overnight in Yorkville last month to buy apartments for clients in a planned 96-unit condominium. The development, whose penthouse is priced at $6 million (Canadian), sold out in four days, said Pat Baker, president of Baker Real Estate Corp., which is handling sales at the development.

Toronto condo construction will reach a five-year high of 15,000 units this year, said Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. senior analyst Jason Mercer. The vacancy rate for rental apartments has risen to 4.3 percent from less than 1 percent in the mid-1990s as more apartment dwellers look to buy, said Mercer.

More people have been able to buy condos after the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., a federal agency that insures mortgages, removed rules last year that required them to put down at least 5 percent. He also cited mortgage rates, which have fallen to 4.5 percent from 6.75 percent five years ago, according to Canadian mortgage broker Invis.

"We always get apprehensive when there's so much construction," Remax agent Bette Ursini said. Cheaper financing "makes it so easy for the first-time buyer," said Ursini, who focuses on selling condos that cost as much as $500,000 (Canadian).

Trump's plans for Toronto were delayed by four years as he switched financial backers and designs. The site in Toronto's financial district will round out Trump's collection of buildings, bolstered by his construction of a 92-story hotel-condominium tower in Chicago that's slated to open in 2008.

The 374 units in Toronto's Trump International Hotel & Tower will include hotel rooms owners can rent to the company, as will a planned complex by Host Marriott Corp.'s Ritz Carlton chain. Those and the Four Seasons' building are slated to open in 2009, giving Toronto its first five-star hotels.

"We deal with people all the time that come to Toronto and meet with us and then go to New York for two or three days," Trump's Landsberg said. "Their preference is to stay in New York because they can stay at the Trump or the Ritz."

Landsberg declined to say how many units have been sold, so real-estate agents will have to wait until September, when the company has planned an announcement, to find out whether Trump's incentives are working.

"For his target market - international travelers who have homes in New York, London, and other cities - those types of amenities will certainly be an attraction because they don't want to have to think about transportation or cooking," said Lauretta Stewart, 45, a real-estate agent with Royal Le Page Real Estate Services in Toronto. She primarily sells condos in the $700,000 to $4 million range.

"If you're an affluent buyer who already lives in Toronto, you probably have your own chauffeur-driven car and your own cook."

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