Gavin Cheung succeeded Shamez Virani as CentreCourt president on Jan. 1 and hit the ground running, with a new Toronto condominium launch and several active developments to oversee.
Virani joined CentreCourt in 2011 and became president and a partner in late 2016. He’ll continue as a shareholder in the company, but not in a management capacity.
Cheung joined CentreCourt in 2016 and has held numerous operational leadership roles, including involvement with sales, finance, development and construction. He previously worked in private equity and investment banking at a major Canadian bank, where he was involved in underwriting, financing and advising public and private real estate entities.
The transition from Virani to Cheung has been underway since February and has gone very smoothly, both internally and externally, according to Cheung.
“It’s an exciting time for me and an exciting time for the company,” Cheung told RENX. “We have massive opportunities and goals ahead of us.
“We have a senior leadership team that I think is the best in the industry. We have an acquisitions team that’s second to none. We have a track record with our capital partners and land vendors of being a best-in-class operator.”
252 Church Centrecourt’s next project
The first project to launch under Cheung’s leadership will be 252 Church, a 52-storey, 681-unit condo at the southwest corner of Church Street and Dundas Street West in downtown Toronto.
The site, which includes a heritage building and a parking lot, was assembled from private owners for an undisclosed price.
“We’ve allowed some of the people that were selling us the land to participate in the development shoulder to shoulder with us,” said Cheung. “I can’t get into any more details than that, but that’s something they found attractive based on our track record of delivering great projects and great returns to our partners.”
The condo will have bachelor units and one-bedroom, one-bedroom-plus-den and two-bedroom suites ranging from about 300 to 1,000 square feet, with most in the 500-square-foot range.
The amenities at 252 Church will include: an 8,700-square-foot outdoor space with barbecues and dining areas; a 1,600-square-foot co-working space; a games room and lounge space totalling more than 3,400 square feet; and a 5,600-square-foot fitness centre with a CrossFit studio and Peloton lounge.
“Typically we’re focused on quality over quantity,” said Cheung. “In this case, because of the number of suites we have here and the sheer size of the building, we can give both. We can give a range of amenities, but also not have them be tiny in scale.”
Prime location should help sales
Salesfor 252 Church will begin on Jan. 6. Cheung hopes to begin construction six months after that, when he anticipates 95 per cent of the units being sold.
The eastern downtown core has been a focus for CentreCourt since 2014. It has had great success with projects in the area and would like to do more, but most prime sites have already been purchased and/or developed.
Cheung particularly likes the 252 Church site for its proximity to Ryerson University, the CF Toronto Eaton Centre, Yonge-Dundas Square and the financial district, which he believes will appeal to young professionals and the growing number of students Ryerson is admitting, but not housing.
“Our slogan for the site is ‘100 per cent downtown, zero per cent compromise’ because it really is a site where you can get access to the best components of downtown and be right in the thick of it.”
Ongoing CentreCourt developments
Toronto-headquartered CentreCourt has several other projects at various stages of development in its hometown.
A crane went up in early December and work has begun on detailed excavation for 199 Church Condos, a partnership between CentreCourt and Toronto-based Parallax that’s just south of 252 Church. The IBI Group-designed condo will have 39 storeys and 484 units.
Heritage retention work is finishing and bulk excavation will start early in 2022 on 8 Wellesley Residences, a 55-storey, 599-unit condo. It’s also designed by IBI Group and is being developed in partnership with Concord, Ont.-based BAZIS.
Sales launched for Prime Condos in the spring and all 595 units are now spoken for in the 46-storey, IBI Group-designed condo at 319 Jarvis St. Shoring work is complete, bulk excavation is in progress and a crane is expected to go up in January for the project, being developed with Toronto’s Centrestone Urban Developments Inc.
Construction of the 47-storey, 543-unit IBI Group-designed 55 Mercer Condos on Mercer Street just south of King Street West is coming up to grade and the ground floor is expected to be completed by the first week of January.
Sales have substantially been completed at WestLine Condos, a 14-storey, 422-unit IBI Group-designed condo at 1100 Sheppard Ave. W., close to Downsview Park and the Sheppard West Toronto Transit Commission subway station. Construction will start in 2022.
Transit City and future acquisitions
CentreCourt and SmartCentres are partners on the Transit City condo towers at the SmartVMC development in Vaughan, which is north of Toronto. Construction is well underway on the sold-out, 45-storey Transit City 4 and 50-storey Transit City 5, which have a combined 1,026 units.
“The first of the two towers will top off at the end of Q1 or early in Q2 and we expect occupancy later this year,” said Cheung.
All of CentreCourt’s developments are by and large on schedule despite the pandemic and supply-chain management challenges, he said.
CentreCourt is also involved with two acquisitions; a joint venture and a site the company plans to purchase on its own. Cheung hopes CentreCourt will be able to close on those sites early in 2022.