Barry Fenton and Mark Mandelbaum joined forces in 1999 after acquiring land in Toronto at Bloor Street West and Bedford Road, which became the 32-storey One Bedford condominium. Thus, Lanterra Developments was formed.
“We’re some of the most successful, prolific, entrepreneurial and imaginative guys on the street,” Fenton told RENX of the partnership which has built some 15,000 condo units over the past 20 years. “It was meant to be. We’re like two peas in a pod.”
Fenton, Lanterra’s president and chief executive officer, attended law school and was called to the bar in 1983. He practised law before becoming president of a real estate firm that specialized in the acquisition and development of commercial and residential properties in Canada and the United States.
Mandelbaum practised corporate law in a downtown Toronto firm before joining his family’s real estate business, H&R Developments, as vice-president of land development and corporate counsel. He’s now Lanterra’s chairman.
Lanterra’s operations encompass land acquisition, development, design, construction, marketing, rental management and support services.
“We want to get to areas that others haven’t quite figured out,” said Fenton. “We like to create new landscapes and new value, and it’s really been successful.”
Past Lanterra developments
It was developed with Cadillac Fairview and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and is comprised of 1.25 million square feet of useable space on more than 2.1 acres. Maple Leaf Square includes an office tower, restaurants, retail, a boutique hotel, condominiums and a daycare.
Lanterra has since developed the nearby ICE Condominiums at York Centre with Cadillac Fairview. The project includes 57- and 67-storey towers with more than 1,300 residential units, an adjacent 31-storey office building and a retail component.
Another major completed project is WaterPark City on Fort York Boulevard in Toronto on the site of a former Molson brewery. It includes approximately 2,000 condo suites in buildings facing Coronation Park and Lake Ontario.
“We created so much new synergy downtown and created such good value,” said Fenton.
Bay, Yonge and Wellesley developments
Lanterra is currently building approximately 3,000 condo units in buildings around Bay, Yonge and Wellesley Streets in downtown Toronto.
Lanterra’s new buildings in the area include:
* The Britt is a 42-storey condo at the site of the former Sutton Place hotel at Bay and Wellesley. Occupancy of its 649 suites began in the spring and the building is still being completed.
* Construction is nearing completion at the KPMB Architects and IBI Group-designed 11 Wellesley. The 740 suites in the 60-storey condo between Bay and Yonge Streets are sold out. It includes Yonge & Wellesley Offices On The Park, with 46,074 square feet of office condos on the second and third floors.
“There was some condominium development in that area years ago, but we created a whole new pocket of residential,” said Fenton.
Ongoing Lanterra projects in Toronto
Some of Lanterra’s other ongoing projects in Toronto include:
* The Hariri Pontarini Architects-designed Artists’ Alley at 234 Simcoe St., a master-planned, mixed-use community with 39-, 36- and 17-storey residential buildings as well as office and retail space.
* The IBI Group-designed Notting Hill Condominiums is a master-planned community featuring four residential buildings with 1,320 suites at 4000 Eglinton Ave. W. near Royal York Road.
* The 41-storey, Foster + Partners-designed 50 Scollard in Yorkville will feature just 77 suites. More than 50 per cent of the units in the luxury building are sold and the official groundbreaking will take place on Nov. 26.
Condo and purpose-built rental markets
While Lanterra owns apartment buildings, retail and office space, it has made its reputation on being a leader in developing high-rise condos over the past 20 years.
Fenton said buildings are now going higher, including more amenities and becoming “a lot more sensitive to LEED and environmentally sound principles.”
Fenton believes the Toronto condo market is still undervalued compared to New York City and has lots of room for price growth over the next five years. The primary obstacle he sees is the slow zoning process.
However, sales are strong and Fenton thinks the Canadian government-sponsored First-Time Home Buyer Incentive is “icing on the cake” to keep the momentum going.
“Ninety per cent of people over 21 want to own a piece of real estate and they should if they can,” he said. “The incentives are good but with low interest rates, that to me is a big enough incentive.
“If you’re buying from reputable developers that really understand the market and understand how to create value, it’s really a win-win situation. But, I think that offering incentives is always a good thing.”
The purpose-built apartment sector is also hot these days and Lanterra is considering building rentals at a few sites.
“The rental market is excellent right now, with vacancies below one per cent and the average rate per square foot is probably four to five dollars in downtown Toronto,” said Fenton.
“The CMHC is providing a lot of creative financing for people that want to build apartments, which means that rates are about as low as we’ve ever seen.”