National Post (Latest Edition)

Pandemic pivot

Enhanced cooking and dining features bring added appeal in post-restaurant times

- Adam Bisby

An alfresco kitchen has become an especially potent selling point for a mid-rise condo developmen­t coming to Barrie’s southeaste­rn outskirts. Designed by local celebrity chef and serial restaurate­ur Randy Feltis, the outdoor culinary hub will include a wood- burning oven, a smoker, direct- line gas barbecues and ample furnishing­s for gatherings on the leafy grounds of the Bistro 6 property that is expected to begin occupancy by April next year.

Kitchens have always been defining features in home design, certainly long before COVID-19 arrived. But given the pandemic pivot toward cooking and dining at home, condo projects that offer premium kitchen and dining features suddenly have an ace up their sleeve.

“We’re slammed right now,” says Pratt Homes salesperso­n Ramzi Ghandour, who is putting his culinary background to use as he highlights Bistro 6’s foodie features in the presentati­on centre just east of the Barrie South GO Station. “We released our Sumac building on April 18, right in the heart of COVID, and our Phase 2 sales haven’t missed a beat.”

The first of the developmen­t’s six buildings has sold out, Ghandour says, with three more now selling more quickly than expected due in part, he believes, to design features including gas stoves, bigger kitchen islands, more counter space, oversized sinks and gas lines on balconies.

“COVID-19 has really reinforced a live- at- home, work-at-home, play-at-home mentality,” says RE/ MAX Realtron general manager Cameron Forbes. “We always say the kitchen is the heart of the home, and with the home playing so many roles these days, its heart has never been more important.”

Here in the city, Tridel Corp.’s Innovation Suite atop the downtown Ten York tower showcases how far kitchen functional­ity can be pushed. A smart sink faucet, for instance, can be directed to pour a specific amount of water for a recipe using voice commands, while an app- connected oven can be preheated before a cook walks through the door.

“The coronaviru­s outbreak has definitely opened a door for us to look at new touchless and smart home technologi­es,” says Adrian Wang, the company’s director of innovation and sustainabi­lity, adding that the Tridel Connect platform being showcased in the suite is being deployed in other GTA properties including Via Bloor 1& 2, Auberge on the Park 1& 2, Evermore at West Village, Bianca, Aquabella and Aqualuna.

What residentia­l buyers are really paying for is the footprint and the framework. Developers work closely with sales organizati­ons to determine feature design in accordance with what’s selling in the market. — Phil Soper, Royal Lepage CEO

Dining spaces, both indoors and out, are being similarly augmented. Located at 1808 St. Clair West in the Stockyards District, Diamond Kilmer Developmen­ts’ 249-unit Reunion Crossing project features open- concept two- storey townhomes with roomy rooftop patios for entertaini­ng at home. Moving up the price scale, the full-floor residences of Kalovida’s 18-storey Bungalow on Mercer take open-concept design to the next level with dining rooms and kitchens with 10- foot ceilings, floor- to- ceiling windows and private elevator access.

Communal culinary amenities are also proving popular. Bistro 6’s indoor Community Kitchen, for instance, is said to feature Ontario’s first “kitchen library” stocked with utensils and small appliances for residents to borrow as needed. A spice library, meanwhile, aims to inspire culinary creativity, and a wine locker will chill bottles to sommelier standards. While the property’s outdoor culinary amenities are a draw no matter what phase of COVID the province enters, shared ladles, corkscrews and refrigerat­ors are, of course, another matter. “Like everyone else, we are going to have to adapt our indoor amenities to COVID-19 and find solutions that are reasonable,” says Pratt Homes’ Ghandour.

Something else in need of rethinking is the micro- kitchen.

Take the 162 units under 480 square feet in the sold-out Minto Westside developmen­t, near Front and Bathurst. None of these suites include ovens, with convection microwaves installed instead above two-burner stovetops to save space and accommodat­e busy urbanites who lack the time or inclinatio­n to cook at home. As weeks of dining in turn into months, kitchens designed for a pre- COVID lifestyle may not hold the same appeal.

Projects with similarly compact units that are still in pre- constructi­on — such as Centrepoin­t Developmen­t’s 199 Church Condos and Empire Communitie­s’ Empire Quay House — may still have time to pivot. And that’s where modular condo design saves the day, Royal Lepage president and CEO Phil Soper says. “What residentia­l buyers are really paying for is the footprint and the framework. Developers work closely with sales organizati­ons to determine feature design in accordance with what’s selling in the market.”

While they might have started building the framework of a condo, they can “turn on a dime,” as he explains, “when their marketing team and advisers from the real- estate brokerage” raise the flag that a feature is “suddenly crucial.” An oven, say — which for the foreseeabl­e future is looking like a musthave.

 ?? Photo courtesy Tridel Corp. ?? Tridel Corp.’s Innovation Suite atop the downtown Ten York tower showcases how far kitchen functional­ity can be pushed.
Photo courtesy Tridel Corp. Tridel Corp.’s Innovation Suite atop the downtown Ten York tower showcases how far kitchen functional­ity can be pushed.
 ?? Photo courtesy Bistro 6 ?? Barrie’s Bistro 6’s indoor Community Kitchen is said to feature Ontario’s first “kitchen library” stocked with utensils and small appliances for residents to borrow.
Photo courtesy Bistro 6 Barrie’s Bistro 6’s indoor Community Kitchen is said to feature Ontario’s first “kitchen library” stocked with utensils and small appliances for residents to borrow.
 ?? Photo courtesy of Kalovi da ?? Kalovida’s 18-storey Bungalow on Mercer take open- concept design to the next level.
Photo courtesy of Kalovi da Kalovida’s 18-storey Bungalow on Mercer take open- concept design to the next level.

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