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Posted March 6, 2020 by Globe and Mail

The Convenience of a Hotel, All the Comforts of Home

Concierge services are like having your own assistant, who can deliver your morning coffee, book your vacation and plan your party

In the world of sophisticated condo living, there's a new generation of ultraluxury homes coming on the scene, and it's all about the services. While they still feature thoughtful amenities, the idea is to provide services to augment those amenities and provide a hotel experience in the home.

That could include anything from an executive concierge that provides services akin to a personal assistant, such as dining and travel arrangements, to on-site sommeliers, personal trainers, event planners and dog walkers.

Homeowners might be downsizing, but they're not down-pricing. They want customized services, "very much like if you go to a hotel," says Zev Mandelbaum, president and chief executive officer of Altree Developments.

That's what Altree is looking to do in its 2 Forest Hill development, a mid-rise that will feature 94 unique units, with no two alike. There will be two indoor lounges, an outdoor Zen garden, a pool, spa and saunas, a caterer's kitchen and even a pet-wash area. But along with these amenities will come services.

Partnering with The Forest Hill Group, "our concierge service is a step above the rest," Mandelbaum says. The residences will feature a primary lobby, similar to a hotel lobby, with 24-hour coffee and areas to sit and chat. There will also be a service lobby for deliveries, porters and valets.

The executive concierge will take it a step further with personalized services. If the resident is wintering south of the border, for example, the concierge can arrange to pack the car and send it to Florida. Unique to these residences will be a temperature-controlled wine library where homeowners can store their wine collection or have the on-site sommelier recommend bottles for dinner.

This isn't just appealing to retirees and boomers, Mandelbaum says, but young people, too.

"Millennials and young families want the same thing – the ability to live stress free when it comes to your home, and spend your energy on your work and your family."

The Forest Hill Group consults on new developments and sees them through to occupancy, including 2 Forest Hill and other prestigious addresses.

"We service probably 90 per cent of Yorkville's existing marketplace for luxury condos," says Robert Klopot, president and chief executive officer of The Forest Hill Group. "We're fortunate to be part of what I call the later evolution of luxury real estate, and it actually combines a lot of attributes, not just location."

While "location, location, location" is still key, alongside that is what Klopot refers to as the "lifestyle offerings of this place I'm going to make my home." That's why The Forest Hill Group offers everything from executive concierges to valets, porters and cleaners – a complete service model that tries as closely as possible to emulate a hotel.

That means working with developers from the ground up, such as being involved in the design of a parking garage because they will manage the valet parking. But it's not just the typical services, like valets.

"We're talking about adding barber shops and juice stands and boutique markets in lobbies, versus the cookie-cutter models we got so used to seeing a decade ago," Klopot says. "It's definitely taken a turn."

Residents might also request event tickets, customized wine tours or luxury travel arrangements. They might want private security, personalized yoga classes or customized meal plans delivered to their residence.

The concierge is more of a personal assistant than someone who signs for parcels.

"We're an extension of their lifestyle. We can start to predict when the next dinner party will be and [we know] their favourite caterers and florists," Klopot says. "We do a lot of vetting of suppliers, then we recommend who we see as the best fit."

Ultrahigh net worth individuals are looking to live in a smaller, boutique building, and they want more personal attention, says Janice Fox, broker of record with Hazelton Real Estate Inc. One such project is Menkes' 77 Clarendon, which will feature just 15 spacious units and the services to go along with it.

"There's definitely a new demand coming up for the ultraluxury [market]," Fox says. "We haven't had new luxury built in Toronto since 2009-10 when the last round of hotel condos came along. We've got a little gap in the market now for the segment that wants that ultraluxury."

And luxury buyers are not concerned about downsizing; they're concerned about lifestyle. They still want to entertain, to hold charitable events in their home and to have space to display their art collections.

Along with spacious units and direct elevator access, the 77 Clarendon development will also feature bespoke concierge services. "By concierge service they mean hotel-style concierge service. They're not just looking for a concierge sitting at the front desk," Fox says.

Residents might want their coffee delivered to their door first thing in the morning, or they might want hard-to-get theatre tickets. "They want a seamless life and they want the concierge to do that, almost like a personal assistant."

In some cases, though, that luxury lifestyle is provided by the neighbourhood and not the building itself.

"For quite a while we saw buildings that were rather heavy with amenities that included party rooms and wine-tasting lounges and golf simulators, all of these things that seemed to suggest that your entire life and every need you'd ever have would be met within the confines of the building," says Paul Johnston, salesperson for Right At Home Realty Inc., representing the Charbonnel luxury townhouses from Treasure Hill Homes.

But now, more people want to live in close proximity to existing services.

"It means that people want to live in buildings that are carefully woven into the existing fabric of a neighbourhood," he says, like a locally run wine bar or coffee shop that's been in the community for 20 years.

It's about taking a neighbourhood that already has a diversity of restaurants and service providers, and then "gently introducing density," Johnston says.


The convenience of a hotel, all the comforts of home - The Globe and Mail