Back in 1999 (see photo above), after three years of a detailed retrofit, the third adaptive reuse conversion I was engaged on became registered as ‘The Movie House’ condominium. Located in Toronto’s Little Italy on the northwest corner of College Street and Euclid Avenue, this former Metropolitan Review Cinema became an intimate 18 unit live/work condominium with two commercial spaces that now contain Starbucks and the much beloved Kalendar Cafe. Riding the wave of the early stages of gentrification the area would, according to cool hunters and the media, become one of the Top 5 hippest neighbourhoods in the country. For me, with my residence at ‘The Button Factory’ two streets west, it was simply the ideal location for the urbaneer.com headquarters. Here’s a past HomeWatch Newsletter of mine if you’d like to learn more about Gentrification In The City, or download it from my HomeWatch webpage.
Originally constructed in 1911 as an Orangeman’s Lodge, a fraternal Protestant organization that was all the rage for the Irish and Scots back in its day, the development team elected to call it after its most recent use – a Movie House – given ‘The Orangeman’s Lodge’ didn’t have that snappy ring essential for effective marketing campaigns. In the original discussions the debate volleyed back and forth on whether the units would be affordable skinny mini slivers about eleven feet wide or double that width (and double the price tag) given the configuration of the structure and its fenestration. Our solution? We placed a billboard on the side of the building that said “Coming soon…vintage lofts from $139,900!” The result? The phone rang off the hook from dozens of single prospective buyers renting flats in the neighbourhood’s converted houses, all desperate to buy something affordable (under $200,000) in an area they had come to love. So the skinny mini configuration prevailed. Incidentally, with only one condominium on the northwest corner of College and Bathurst in 1997, this was an untapped market (frankly, it still is with the fifth condominium – “Cube” – now under construction – Ideal Lofts, Europa and The Movie House are the others). When we launched the building with an unfinished suite model and no heat in the Spring of 1997, the entire complex still nearly sold out within three hours.
What originally sold at The Movie House for $169,900 in 1997 sells between $400,000 and $450,000 today, depending on how much it’s been renovated or upgraded. Just like neighbourhoods, buildings also gentrify and over time the resident profile can evolve. While my first conversion – The Button Factory – on Clinton Street has evolved from housing young creative entrepreneurial singles and couples just beginning their career-paths, over the past fifteen years it has become a magnet for wealthy down-scaling boomers and established professionals who have the substantial coin to pay for the now premium price points. But The Movie House, perhaps because of their smaller sizes (ranging from 500 to 1100 square feet), have always tended to attract a younger professional first-time buying crowd. For the most part this still remains the case. Will my own renovation and future resale change this?
For the 12 years urbaneer.com has been located here, we kind of let the space age without much thought to its future. Like most work spaces (slash occasional residence and guest accommodations), it has been viewed more as a functional environment than the stylish live/work digs it could be, despite its inherent panache and eighteen foot arched window!. I don’t think I’m any different than any innovative realtor, designer or architect in their work space….we do have our own aesthetic and a commitment to great design but it doesn’t always mean our office space will be showcase worthy, especially when it’s a repository for piles of papers, plans and storage boxes. I would, however, like to change that.
In the original conversion we kept our finishes fairly basic including white appliances. We did upgrade to cinnamon stained maple floors and chose a rainbow coloured slate for the washrooms. I seriously have to ask myself “What were we thinking?” However, it all managed to hold up pretty well, but this was because we rarely cooked on site (when you work besides a Starbucks and a Cafe you become quite comfortable living a life of ‘take out’). This makes all of the original maple veneer cabinetry, six appliances, sinks, faucets and mirrors ideal for donation, specifically for donation to Habitat For Humanity.
Habitat For Humanity is a homeownership program for hard-working families living in need of decent, safe, and affordable homes. People donate time and money to help create new residences, as well as recycle building materials for resale in the organization’s ReStore. It’s a brilliant organization. Click here to learn more.
This week Habitat For Humanity is coming by to pick up my donations. Here’s a pic of some of the items looking down from the mezzanine level, as well as a photo of the kitchen now laid bare.
I’m excited for this new beginning to my old friend The Movie House. The renovation program includes getting rid of all the builder’s stock materials and upgrading them with a bit of custom luxe. It will prove to be a rather indulgent endeavor and one that may not prove to be profitable. But profit doesn’t always have to be the objective, right? Sometimes occupying a space that is Perfect for You is all that matters.
Stay tuned for more progress on Renovating The Movie House Loft!
~ Steven and the urbaneer team
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House And Home
Renovating The Movie House Loft