Private Zipcars, hidden kitchens, and more killer features coming soon to a condo near you

Private Zipcars, hidden kitchens, and more killer features coming soon to a condo near you

(Images: Gabby Frank)

Condo developers have long wooed would-be condo buyers with the latest cool thing they can think of, but infinity pools and mood-lit party rooms can only do so much to set a listing apart these days. To get a leg up on the competition, builders have started making sophisticated, high-tech amenities standard—a Nest thermostat here, an integrated audio system there—making well-heeled residents’ lives that much easier and more exciting. (You’ll never have to flip a lightswitch yourself again!) It was only a matter of time before developers upped the ante again, making your everyday digital upgrades come off as dated as knob and tube wiring. Here are seven high-tech upgrades that aren’t commonplace yet, but that are destined to be.

(Image: Gabby Frank) (Image: Gabby Frank)
Virtual concierges

What it is: Rêve at Front Street West and Bathurst, the pre-construction Carmelina on the Danforth near Woodbine, and a handful of other Toronto buildings are replacing traditional front-desk employees at certain hours of the day with a Remote Concierge, an attendant beamed in by video from Mississauga. The miles-away employees are cheaper than on-site staff, and can still do things like monitor security cameras (from afar), accept packages (via a remotely controlled secure mailbox) and greet guests (through a front desk video terminal). Remote Concierge’s army of virtual attendants work rotating shifts to monitor a building up to 24 hours a day or as needed, providing tailored coverage during off-duty periods late at night, on weekends or over lunch breaks.

How much it goes for: Assessing and upgrading a building’s security features costs up to $5,000, according to Andrew Draper, Remote Concierge’s director. It’s another $2,000 to $4,000 for the video terminal, though condo boards that need fewer features can go with more budget-friendly audio-only concierges. Draper boasts that hourly rates for the service are 30 to 70 per cent less than the average concierge wage of $18 to $22 an hour, depending on the size of the property.

(Image: Gabby Frank) (Image: Gabby Frank)
A squash court that’s also a basketball court that’s also a soccer field

What it is: Instead of painted boundary lines, the multi-purpose courts at the 5959 Yonge condo towers being built near Yonge and Steeles have markings made of colour-changing LED strips. The setup lets residents change the courts at the push of a button, meaning the athletic room can be used not only for basketball, but also volleyball, squash, badminton, soccer and other sports. Inspired by similar courts in Britain and Germany, the condo developers, Ghods Builders, built their own, the first of its kind in Canada.

How much it goes for: Ghods Builders shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars for the courts, and it’ll cost you a condo unit in the building (average price per square foot: $520) to use them.

(Images: Gabby Frank) (Images: Gabby Frank)
Remote-controlled everything

What it is: Every unit in Tridel’s recently completed 300 Front Street condo building comes equipped with a Cisco Smart Home package, which lets residents monitor their energy consumption, locks, doors, thermostat and, eventually, even some appliances like baby monitors and smart televisions, with a companion app that works on the included tablet, along with other smart devices. Residents can set commands that turn on lights and music when they enter their unit, or dim the lights and draw the blinds when they settle in for a movie.

How much it goes for: For suite owners in Tridel’s buildings that are already wired for it, it’s $2,000 to $3,000; depending on how tricked out the system is, installing one from scratch can cost $25,000.

(Images: Gabby Frank) (Images: Gabby Frank)
Hideaway kitchens

What it is: With the size of the average Toronto condo unit continuously shrinking, kitchens have a lot of catching up to do. The ones in Urban Capital’s upcoming Smart House condos on Queen West near University will have features that fold, roll, or slide into walls and cabinets when not in use—like a retractable cutting board—freeing up lots of space for other purposes, Smart House kitchens come with an array of appliances, like a dishwasher drawer that’s half the size of a compact unit, a combination clothes washer and dryer, as well as a dual-purpose microwave and convection oven.

How much it goes for: It’s about $13,500 per unit for a 10-foot kitchen equipped with features and appliances like those at Smart House, according to Urban Capital partner David Wex, which he says works out to 40 to 50 per cent more than the cost of an average-sized, 15-foot-wide condo kitchen. That should get cheaper, though, as pint-sized appliances doing double duty get more affordable and commonplace in Toronto.

(Image: Gabby Frank) (Image: Gabby Frank)
Really, really, really fast internet

What it is: Just what it sounds like: fibre-optic internet connections from Beanfield Metroconnect, with speeds topping out at 500 megabits per second, more than 15 times faster than the average Canadian’s got. Residents of River City, the soon-to-be-occupied Canary District condos, and several other buildings planned for what’s being dubbed the intelligent community along the waterfront all either have the technology now, or are about to have it.

How much it goes for: Internet packages with 500 megabit-a-second speeds and unlimited data usage are $60 a month for residents whose buildings are wired for it.

(Image: Gabby Frank) (Image: Gabby Frank)
Private car sharing

What it is: Four Zipcar stalls on the first level of private underground parking beneath CHAZ Yorkville’s luxury condos, near Yonge and Bloor. According to David McComb, president of Edenshaw, the building’s project manager, even well-off residents are happy to skip on car ownership. “They don’t want the burden or the operating costs of a permanent vehicle,” he says.

How much it goes for: Residents can use the cars for the price of a standard Zipcar membership, which starts at $7 a month. The condo board maintains the spots themselves at a cost of $50 a month each.

(Image: Gabby Frank) (Image: Gabby Frank)
High-tech security 

What it is: Samsung Digital Home, a system that controls a bevy of security features that residents can access from their smartphone or tablet. All 25 penthouse suites at the yet-to-be-built YC Condos at Yonge and College will come with them installed, complete with optional features that will let residents do things like lock or unlock doors remotely; more tricked-out versions of Digital Home can notify a unit’s owners if a motion sensor is tripped while they’re out of town.

How much it goes for: Canderel, the developers of YC Condos, puts the value of the basic system at $8,000 a unit.

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