U Condos

New in Toronto real estate: U Condos

U Condos is a new two-tower development headed for St. Mary and Bay streets, adjacent to the St. Michael's College campus. Surrounded by a perimeter of townhomes and enveloping an inner courtyard "U is for you," as the Pemberton Group likes to say, if you like tall towers, high density, and lots of private space to enjoy the fresh outdoors. Yes, for four whole months of the year. Now in Phase II with its double-exposure, two-bedroom suites on display, here's a closer look at the soon-to-arrive U Condominiums.

SPECS

Intersection: St. Mary and Bay streets

Number of towers: 2

Number of floors: 55, 45

Unit sizes (in square feet): 325 - 1458 (Available units start at 892)

Ceiling height: 9'0 - 10'0

Prices start at: Original listings started in the mid-$300,000's. Available suites now start in the mid-$600,000's

Parking: Included in purchase price

Locker: Included in purchase price

Maintenance: $0.45/ sf

Maintenance fees include: Heat, water, building insurance

Interior design: Kantelberg Design

Architect: architectsAlliance

Amenities: Library, yoga studio, 24-hr concierge, gym, party room, wraparound terrace

Expected occupancy: Winter 2013

U Condos

THE GOOD

From an investment standpoint, this is probably one of the best places to buy in the city. Say what you will, you boisterous leather-jacket-wearing Queen's U alum you, the University of Toronto is never going out of style. Adjacent to the St. Michael's College campus, condo-dwellers needn't worry about the noise of first-year shenanigans in a way they might, say, next to University College (how's that for stereotyping?!), and finding a tenant to rent out the space will never really be a problem for any condo landlord. Yes, university students will actually live in (and pay good money for) a suite of just 325 square feet. They'll also pay good money for an undergraduate degree in philosophy or art history, so that's enough said about university students.

But its not just proximity to U of T that renders this spot ideal. It's also walking distance to several subway stations, walking distance to Queen's Park, walking distance to the ROM, Church/Wellesley village, several hospitals, and Yorkville shopping. And while the area adjacent east of Yonge is seeing all sorts of tall tower development — one structure rising just to block the view of the next — the University of Toronto quells the danger here (somewhat) of an obstructed view one year after occupancy. And with a network of shorter streets and the odd cul-de-sac (as compared to say, east of Yonge or north of Bloor), the immediate U Condos vicinity is treated to a (relative) level of calmness.

Now, Pemberton in currently in its Phase II of sales, which, when translated from marketing developer speak, simply means it is selling 2-bedroom corner units. And I must concede, these units do look mighty fine. (Their price tags so not, but more about that later.) Both the "King" and "St. Michael's" layouts include close to 900 square feet of living space, along with two (!) balconies totaling at least 277 square feet. As much as I enjoy being a jaded skeptic, I can't deny the loveliness of the vast double exposure. Plus room for real patio furniture! And if you can your hands (read: your real estate agent can get his/her hands) on a smaller, and thus, more affordable unit, you'll still get 132-square-feet of balcony with your "Innis" one-bedroom, and 136-square feet of balcony with your "Trinity" one-plus-den. Even the 325-square-foot studio comes with a 54-square-foot balcony. Because art history majors, too, need a little time in the sun. These layouts, too, include bedrooms with windows and (most) kitchens with islands. Thus, I'm satisfied.

U Condos

THE BAD

Let's talk about pricing. (You knew I was going to go here, didn't you?) Now, going with available suites, you're looking at paying probably $670,000 minimum for a two-bedroom unit on a lower floor. Granted, that $670,000 does include a parking spot and locker, which, when purchased separately, could easily amount to about $40,000 (probably more, but as we all know, these things are constantly changing). So, I suppose you could look at the cost for the condo itself as somewhere around $630,000 (again, probably a lowball estimation), which amounts to a little more than $700 per square foot for a 892-square foot unit. That's definitely above the 2011 assessed average of $529 per square foot for new units in Toronto. And keep in mind, the figures I'm using are definitely on the low end; if you're keen on a suites, say, above the fourth floor, chances are you're going to be paying even more. In which case, I, personally, would start looking for a property with a yard.

U-Condos has also very proudly boasted its 4,500-square foot amenity area — make that, its 9,000-square foot amenity area, since each tower is topped with its own expansive amenity space. Lovely in the summer and for entertaining, I'm sure, though my concern (as always) is for its effects on building maintenance fees. U-Condos is off to a good start with a lower-than-typical $0.45/square foot fee, though it has left the door open for 4,500 square feet of potential elliptical machine failures, party room mishaps, and steam room maintenance. For each building. All of which, of course, will drive up maintenance fees. I can't understand why a property in such a central location would need so much amenity space with a plethora of options nearby. While I'm sure an in-building yoga room does entice some potential buyers, it wouldn't win over this one.

And for my last, and admittedly, most superficial criticism: Am I the only one who is a little sad to see the classic St. Michael's College architecture somewhat cheapened by its two new giant glass neighbours? I get that the city is growing and glass is in and that there's money on top of money to be made and all... but... shucks. (My most persuasive argument, I know.)

THE VERDICT

A great spot and good layouts. But in U Condos, as in life, you've gotta have some money. And a willingness to part with a whole lot of it.

What do you think? Would you live here? Add your comments to the thread below.

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U Condos

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