"A glass beacon rises above the city, shimmering windows lighting up the
night. A sleek, distinctive shape redefines the skyline."
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights? No. Glasshouse Skylofts.
1) It's revitalizing a small part of Portage Avenue
2) It's adding to Winnipeg's skyline. That's always nice to see.
3) It's bringing office jobs downtown, with the relocation of the sizable Stantec offices from the 'burbs to the corner of Portage and Hargrave.
4) It's adding residential dwelings to downtown, something that everybody (except the Friends of Upper Fort Garry, but let's not go there) agree is of paramount importance.
|Site of future Glasshouse condos|
It is this last point that I'm rambling about today. While I'm optimistic about new residential units being built, I wonder about the appeal of units like these that are small in size, but not so small in price. the loft-style units range in size from 409 to 783 square feet, and in price from $170,000 to $310,000. Add another $42,000 for parking and $3,500 for a storage locker and a $1500 "floor premium", and you're paying upwards of $357,000 for a condo under 800 square feet. I guess that's good option if you're not a fan of 1500 square foot bungalows in River Heights.
In some larger cities it takes forever to get downtown and parking is crazy-expensive when you get there. It makes more sense for young and single office workers to establish themselves downtown. This drives demand for mid-to-high priced loft condos. I'm just not sure that demand exists in Winnipeg yet.
The crazy thing is, some of the modest square footages in the Glasshouse condos even exaggerate the useful space. The floor plans will not be released until the the preview event in a couple of weeks, but waiting is for suckers so let's check them out now...
a1: 409 sq.ft. $170,000
I think this is one of the better designs, to be honest with you. The whole space is useful, and you have a separate bedroom with nice big windows looking out on the city. I could live like this ... if I had less stuff.
Compare this to the next size up...
a2: 469 sq.ft. $180,000
This bachelor pad has a wide open bedroom and a ton of wasted space for a condo this size. The whole entrance corridor is not good for much of anything, except perhaps a bench or a bookshelf. If you upgrade with the extra privacy wall for the bedroom, you end up with a 40' corridor just to get from the door to the dining room! That's 160 sq ft of precious space being underutilized. In reality this living space is closer to 300 sq.ft. You do get a balcony though.
(Also for comparison, check out these apartments that were originally designed as shipping container housing. H/T: West End Dumplings)
Moving on ...
a3: 515 sq.ft. $195,000
a4: 551 sq.ft. $205,000
The smaller and cheaper a3 has a little more living space. It gives up the entrance lobby for a slightly deeper living/dining room. Otherwise, very similar except a4 faces south and a3 faces north, so maybe your choice depends on whether you want to look at poor people or rich people when relaxing on your balcony.
There isn't really anything remarkable about the mid range condo units, so let's skip ahead to the high end. This is what 300 Grand gets you:
c2: 758 sq.ft. $295,000
c3: 783 sq.ft. $310,000
With these sweet Portage Avenue lofts, you get an ensuit bathroom and two bedrooms. Both have exposed steel columns that you have to work around when you're furnishing your pad. You could call those an annoyance, but I call it character.
Once again, I prefer the smaller and cheaper unit, for the simple fact that there is more practical living space. The $310k unit has a large vestibule, but the living/dining space is 58 sq ft smaller than the less expensive unit. The less expensive unit also has a wall in the living room where you can park a TV or bookshelf. In the $310k unit you have no choice but to block windows with your giant flat screen TV because there is virtually no wall space.
None of these are good condos for people who cook. Even the top end unit has a kitchenette that you might find in a Ramada hotel suite in Toledo. If you have a microwave and a coffee maker, you're pretty much out of counter space.
I think there is going to be some sticker shock when people see these places. For comparison, the Sky Waterfront condos started at a relatively spacious 809 sq.ft. for as little as $235,000, and I would rather live on the waterfront than on Portage Avenue, but maybe that's just me.
There are a few perks, including a small gym and an outdoor roof-top patio for the use of the residents. Maybe some people will be dazzled by the "industrial chic" design of concrete construction, big windows, and exposed duct work. I don't know ...
Has the compact downtown condo market heated up so much that people will be willing to dump $300,000 on a 640 sq.ft condo with a parking space? Is this what it takes to make a condo project profitable in downtown Winnipeg without big government subsidies? If so, I am pessimistic about achieving that critical mass of downtown residents that we need to create a vibrant sustainable community that we all want. I hope the market is there, but I don't know that it is.