With two condominiums completed, three more under construction and another nearing its sales launch, Toronto’s North Drive has carved a niche in the city’s development industry.
Jordan and Taylor Morassutti, along with Robert Fidani, are the driving forces behind the company. They all come from real estate families which their website says “have inspired the construction and management of over 75 million square feet of office, industrial, retail and multi-residential properties.”
The brothers are also part of their father Larry’s The Morassutti Group, which advises on, develops and owns real estate. They’re also nephews of CBRE vice-chairman Paul Morassutti and RBC Capital Markets managing director Gary Morassutti. Fidani has experience in the field from his family’s business, Orlando Corporation, Canada’s largest privately owned industrial real estate developer and landlord.
“We wanted to do something more entrepreneurial and we came up with the idea of an urban intensification fund, which then morphed into a condominium development company,” Jordan Morassutti told RENX about North Drive, which specializes in end-user, up-market buildings.
“A few years ago, we started to see land and construction costs start to run away from us, and we made a conscious decision to focus exclusively on areas where there’s not a clearly defined ceiling in terms of the end price. We quite like that upper segment of the market because buyers have accumulated enough wealth outside of their home that they don’t view it as a piggy bank for retirement, and are looking to make a true lateral transition when seeking a new home.”
The first two condo completions for North Drive, which obtains debt financing from Schedule II banks but doesn’t use third-party capital, were The High Park and Picnic – The High Park II on Bloor Street West, across from the park that bears the same name.
Minto Group partnership on 88 Cumberland
“We were presented with the opportunity to co-develop 88 Cumberland and we saw a tremendous opportunity to learn from a vertically operated development company,” said Morassutti. “The opportunity was presented when North Drive was in its infancy and we’ve learned a tremendous amount from that partnership.”
While Morassutti said North Drive’s preference is to develop condos on its own, it’s open to future partnerships if the opportunity is compelling.
4 The Kingsway and One Forest Hill
North Drive’s 4 The Kingsway project at 3109 Bloor St. W. is fully sold and the first occupants should take residence in November. The eight-storey building combines four townhomes and 30 condo suites.
One Forest Hill, located near the intersection of St. Clair Avenue West and Avenue Road, is more than 80 per cent sold. It just came out of the ground and occupancy is expected at the end of next year. The 43 suites in the 12-storey building range from 1,303 to 3,576 square feet, and prices started at $2.5 million (which includes two parking spaces).
Amenities include 24-hour concierge service, valet parking, a private function room, gym, lounge and barbecue terrace.
“It catered almost exclusively to a very local audience,” said Morassutti of the purchasers in the building.
One Forest Hill was named the project of the year in 2018 by the Ontario Home Builders’ Association. It’s one of numerous awards that North Drive has received.
Sales will start for North Drive’s latest project, 36 Birch, this fall. It will be built on a dead-end, tree-lined residential street in the Summerhill neighbourhood, which Morassutti calls one of the most desirable locations in Toronto.
North Drive approached the owner of the property, Community Living Toronto, on an unsolicited basis more than five years ago. The two parties had an agreement in principle, but couldn’t finalize a deal at that time because the organization, which supports people with intellectual disabilities, couldn’t find a new location.
The 36 Birch property — which has 200 feet of frontage and 140 feet of depth — officially came on the market in late 2017. North Drive purchased it for just under $17.5 million.
“I think the information we collected through the first go-round gave us a leg up on our competition,” said Morassutti. “This is a unique building typology in that it’s a hybrid between a townhome project and a four-storey condominium with a series of two-level units.
“The garden towns will all have either porches or backyards, and the sky residences will all have roof terraces that are about 25 by 40 (feet). The building blends the effortless convenience of condominium living with the space and privacy of a townhome.”
Architectural firm Richard Wengle Architect Inc. and interior design firm Michael London Design Inc. collaborated on the building, while the outdoor spaces were designed by landscape architecture and urban design firm Janet Rosenberg & Studio.
The 27 two-storey, two- and three-bedroom residences will average more than 2,500 square feet. Prices will start at $3.25 million.
Future North Drive developments
What’s next for North Drive?
“We’ve been taking a disciplined approach to new acquisition activity and currently have one site in due diligence,” said Morassutti, who added that the location is equally as attractive as Summerhill.
“We’re looking for boutique buildings in mature, desirable neighbourhoods and, rather than take a flyer on the next up-and-coming ‘it’ spot, we invest in established communities and craft buildings that resonate with the local buyer.”
North Drive intends to remain focused on the Toronto condo market because that’s what it knows best, according to Jordan Morassutti.
“I believe we’ve carved out a real niche for ourselves and we’re only getting better at it.”