Toronto reaches skyward, but how dark the clouds?

Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:48pm EST
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By Russ Blinch

TORONTO (Reuters) - Barry Fenton walked to the bank of floor-to-ceiling windows in his 30th-floor uptown Toronto penthouse suite and declared, "This is the best view of the city."

To the south, a mass of steel-and-glass skyscrapers glinted in the bright autumn sun. Several cranes were in motion on unfinished buildings, a common sight in a city in the midst of a residential building boom.

"If you look around the core, every building you look at has a different look to it, a different ambience," said the energetic co-founder of Lanterra Developments, one of the city's most active builders. "That's important."

Fenton, 56, says he is confident the city's condominium market will remain strong -- despite warnings that it is all moving too far, too fast -- and has an ambitious lineup for future development. And he is not alone in his optimism.

Toronto's seams are bursting with new condo and hotel towers designed by star architects like Frank Gehry and built by famed developers like Donald Trump.

But Fenton and others who see Toronto emerging from its "pokey" past -- as a columnist in the Globe and Mail recently described it -- face some formidable obstacles: an infrastructure buckling under soaring density rates, the laws of supply and demand and preservationists who say too many new towers are destroying the city's character.

Canada's central bank drew a bead on the city of 2.6 million this month in its weighty "Financial System Review," warning of "potential future supply imbalances" in the condo market.

The Bank of Canada noted that the number of unsold condominiums in pre-construction has doubled, to 14,000, over the past year.   Continued...

A woman walks past graffiti which reads, "KA-CHING" near condominium buildings behind a lot of vacant land that is boarded up in Toronto September 21, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch