Back in February I gave a preview of floor plans and prices for the Glass House condos that will rise across the street from the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. With condos the size of a shipping container selling for a minimum of $170k and units less than 800 square feet selling for upwards of $350,000 with a parking stall, you could say I was skeptical.
"I hope the market is there, but I don't know that it is" I wrote.
Well, now I know ...
There was a preview of the condos this past weekend in City Place where an actual condo space was constructed in the mall for people to experience in the flesh (or drywall).
This preview event was delayed by two months. It was initially supposed to be at the end of February or beginning of March, but that's okay because the extra time was well spent: All of the condo floor plans were completely redesigned.
This is good. I was critical of the long corridors and wasted space in the original designs, as well as the tiny kitchen areas. The kitchens are still tiny, but the floor plans in general are much better. They have reduced the number of units per floor from 14 to 11 so the average size is larger, and the layouts are more open, more creative and most have less wasted space.
A good example is condo b1. In the old layout this space was occupied by two units, but with a stairwell on one side and elevator on the other, both units had narrow hallways leading into a cramped living space. In this layout, they took that space between the stairwell and elevator and turned it into a usable den or sitting area.
Nevertheless, the suite looked quite nice. The materials and finishings, which were standard trim, looked of good quality, and the 9' walls gave an open feel to the rooms (as did the lack of a ceiling).
The $3000 Francisco Nunez paintings didn't hurt either. The demo pad was really a miniature art gallery, with every room festooned with artwork from Gurevich Fine Art.
All of this probably helped contribute to what I would call an impressive first two days of sales. There was a board mapping out all available condos, with red dots indicating those that had been sold. A super quick count showed that as of early Sunday afternoon, close to 40% had already been snapped up. I don't know what Longboat was hoping for, but that's pretty good in my books.
This is a hopeful sign, as downtown Winnipeg continues to fight its way forward towards a future as a livable urban area. There are big plans afoot for additional condos right in the core area, including Fortress Real Development's proposal for a 30-ish storey condo tower on Graham Ave. and another "residential project to be announced in the near future" by the Artis-Longboat team that's building the Glass House condos. This is in addition to the Heritage Landing and Sandhu condo towers already in progress on Assiniboine Avenue and the continued development on Waterfront drive.
If Longboat is successful in selling most of its 209 Glass House condo units, as expensive as they are, that will encourage other downtown residential developments to proceed. That in turn may encourage a real grocery store to open up downtown and things may begin to snowball until we actually have a moderately dense and vibrant core area!
Perhaps I'm reading too much into a two day sales blitz for a single project. I think the changes to Manitoba's liquor laws and the prospect of little pubs and music joints has me in a dreamy state of optimism that will abruptly end the next time somebody gets stabbed for a case of beer in downtown Winnipeg.