At 13 units, Winnipeg’s Dexter House may be small, but the multi-family project aims to make a big impression with an increasingly affluent demographic: the baby boomers.
The concrete and steel, four-story development in trendy Osborne Village – which has a completion date of spring 2019 – is not a condominium project. It’s a purpose-built rental offering a similar experience to high-end condo living without the commitment of ownership, says Ben Lount, executive vice-president of Lount Corporation, the company behind the development.
“Boomers may be looking to downsize, but we found many are just not interested in having another mortgage, nor do they want the responsibility of a condo,” he says. “They want to lock the door and leave for the winter.”
At the same time, Lount adds many of those people don’t want to compromise on quality. They need simplicity, but they also want luxury.
That’s exactly what Dexter House aims to provide.
Situated at 93 Nassau St., in a neighbourhood renowned for restaurants and boutiques across the Assiniboine River from downtown, Dexter House might seem like a leap of faith in a city where the average rent is about $980 a month.
Lount saw demand for high-end rentals
Dexter House rents will range from $1,700 four a one-bedroom of about 900 square feet to $2,800 for a two-bedroom suite of about 1,200 square feet.
Those are pricey rents for Winnipeg, which has a reputation for bargain-hunting citizens. However, the premise for the project is based on the company’s recent experience with another purpose-built rental that was actually its first development in many years.
“Our company builds rental apartment blocks, not condominiums,” Lount explains. “For many years, we didn’t believe Winnipeg could support the rental rates necessary to build steel and concrete buildings, as they are very expensive.”
Turns out that assumption was wrong. The company increasingly found itself faced with demand for new, high-end rentals. While not widespread, it amounted to a niche opportunity the firm seized upon, building a 36-unit, high-end project called Conrad House — one block east of Dexter House.
“At the time, we were focused on attracting baby boomers and young professionals,” says Lount.
Developments appeal to boomers
Upon completion in 2016, Conrad House quickly filled up, but one segment of its target market was missing.
“It turned out we filled it with young professionals, but a lot of boomers couldn’t wrap their head around selling a big home and then trying to move all their stuff into 1,000 square feet.”
Boomers wanted more, and they were willing to pay for it. So, the idea for Dexter House was born.
What’s more, the company appears to be on trend with its latest build. In fact, it is arguably ahead of the curve.
Consider the recent 2018 Re/Max Spotlight on Luxury report revealed a growing interest in luxury condos. At the same time, another report by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation shows rising demand for rentals among boomers.
Another contributing factor: many people who fit this demographic have benefited from soaring home values over the last two decades.
Add to that many boomers are on the receiving end of the lion’s share of the largest transfer of wealth in history — an estimated $750 billion across Canada — and you have the largest demographic in the nation’s history flush with cash. They are willing and able to pay up to rent luxury apartments.
Lount Corp. a longtime trailblazer
While the two multi-family projects mark a departure for the property management firm, Lount Corporation has a rich history as a trailblazer among developers.
Company founder Charles Lount, a civil engineer, began homebuilding in the 1940s with his son Graham, an architect. Many of these homes, inspired by the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, still stand today.
With Graham Lount at the helm in the 1960s, the company moved into multi-family development, constructing some of the most forward-thinking projects in North America at the time.
“He was always interested in pushing the envelope,” says Graham’s grandson Ben, the fourth generation of the family to work in the business.
Projects often involved employing the best and most cutting-edge designs, materials and techniques. Underpinning this focus on innovation was the desire to construct quality buildings to last – important because the company intended to own and manage the properties for generations.
Among those buildings it still owns and manages are the Kiltarton Towers. Completed in 1968, the 200-suite apartment towers were decades ahead of their time, using an environmentally friendly geothermal heating and cooling system still in use today.
Company builds to own
While the company’s latest projects have much smaller footprints, like their predecessors they are constructed with longevity in mind.
“We plan to manage and hold these properties for the long-term,” Lount says, adding this is an investment for his children.
If strong bones are essential to the construction, so too are quality, high-end finishings and amenities.
Dexter House delivers in this respect, too. For example, every bedroom features en-suite bathrooms with tiled, stand-up showers and quartz floating vanities.
As well, each unit has its own laundry room with a stacked washer/dryer. All appliances are high-end, similar to luxury condominium projects while the floorplans are spacious, yet not amorphous. Rather, the layouts have defined living spaces (including a designated area for storage).
“We found a lot of people were asking for this, so they don’t have to figure out where their furnishings are going to go.”
There are private balconies and heated parking with electric car plug-ins.
Dexter House seems to check off a lot of the boxes for this graying demographic.
“We already have a short list 65 people deep,” Lount says. “So, we’re very confident it’s going to be a hit.”