Condominium and Industry Profiles

July, 20 2018 Published by Toronto and Area Chapter - By James Russell

Condominium Profile: Massey Square

From the Summer 2018 issue of the CCI Toronto Condovoice Magazine.

The twelve member Board's drive and single-minded commitment to excellence has made Massey Square a success.

Massey Square, and the adjacent Crescent Place, was built in 1972 on farmland first purchased in 1887 by Walter Massey, son of Canada's first major industrialist. Back then, Mr. Massey and Mrs. Massey, whose maiden name was Dentonia, raised chickens and fished in the many trout packed streams that ran through their property. In recognition of the area's history, the City of Toronto named one of the main streets transecting the community after Massey while the lush park to the south and the golf course to the east are named after Dentonia.

In addition to being only a ten-minute walk to the vibrant intersection of Victoria Park and Danforth with its eclectic mix of large chains and family-run stores, burgers and Biryani, Benzs and bikes, Massey Square has its own shopping and service complex that includes a supermarket, medical centre, pharmacy, dentist, and coffee shop.

Identified by factors that include median household income, education level and knowledge of English or French, Crescent Place has been designated as one of Toronto's 'Priority Neighbourhoods' and consists entirely of rental units. However, the units of the adjacent Massey Square are condominiums. "I guess when the people built this condominium they had a vision about building bridges between the two communities so that those doing a little bit better can purchase condos," says Mahassen Mahmoud, one of Massey Square's two Vice Presidents.

The 1420 units of 1, 3, and 5 Massey Square are spread over three high rises and three townhouse complexes and unlike most condominiums built recently, Massey Square's one to three bedroom units range from seven hundred to the whooping 1400 square foot, three bedrooms that typically list for a half-million dollars. And whereas condominiums in the GTA average a 50% rental rate, Senior Property Manager Jesus Sibello Martineza points out that 80% of Massey Square's units are owner occupied.

Because Massey Square has none of the usual amenities of most condominiums, residents are free to use the Crescent Town Community Centre's gym, pool, handball court, fitness room, sauna, club room and social services. A short walk from Massey Square, the Crescent Town Community Centre, established in 1971, is run as a nonprofit facility, with an elected board of directors comprising representatives from Crescent Place, Massey Square, the City of Toronto, and the Crescent Place Tenants' Association. YCC 76 pays fifty percent of the community centre's operation expenses.

"Mostly families and a lot of new comers," is how Mahassen describes the demographic of Massey Square's population, many of whom are newly arrived from places as far afield as India, Pakistan, Nepal, Asia, Bangladesh, the Middle East and Africa. In addition to their town hall, a large, inviting space with large windows, Massey Square has three community rooms that residents often use for special religious occasions.

Massey Square's board consists of twelve directors: N. Gupta - President; Mahassen - Vice President; Sadru Kassam - Vice President; Shiraz Ratansi - Treasurer; Moez Kanani - Enginnering Officer; Beth Edwards - Secretary, Shirley Banks, Noordin Dhanji, Syed Fezauddin, Semina Kurji, Albert Tepstra, and Mohammad Miah. All are volunteers who come from varied backgrounds and professions, so it is quite an accomplishment that this group of twelve dedicated individuals has so successfully managed a 1420 unit community replete with a condominium corporation's usual collection of finance, compliance, policy, engineering, communication and community healthy matters, and without the assistance of a management company.

The Board meets twice a month and their meetings last two to three hours. Decisions are typically arrived at through consensus. Any twelve member Board would expect a certain amount of turnover but the core group of Board members, some, like Mahassen who has been on the Board for a decade or more, "Always welcome new members," says Mahassen, "you need a good mix (of Board members) - that makes for a good dynamic."

In addition to the heavy load of managing a complex as large as Massey Square, the twelve board members do double duty on Massey Square's committees: Building and Engineering; Executive; Communication and Policy; and Finance. The only committee positions filled by residents are the currently inactive Operations and Security Committee and the Landscaping Committee, which meets regularly during the spring to fall months.

The twice-monthly Board meetings are open to residents to ensure transparency and provide residents with insight into their corporation and community. Several months ago, the Board retired Massey Square's long serving paper-based newsletter, The Communique in favour of posted announcements and info bulletins on the complexes many physical notice boards and electronic screens.

"Our AGM's are always very lively with people expressing their satisfaction or lack of satisfaction," says Mahassen. Beginning on Sat at 9am and typically wrapping around one, Massey Square's AGM provides an important opportunity for residents to socialise before, during and after the meeting. At the last AGM, the Board took advantage of the short period when scrutineers were counting votes and proxies to conduct what Mahassen describes as, "a data collection exercise."

The Board erected three flip chart labeled, "What Works Best", "What should be our planning priorities", and "Items That Need Urgent Attention". Residents were given sticky notes and asked to post their comments on the appropriate flip chart. The comments, suggestions, compliments and complaints contributed by the residents were invaluable in helping the Board define priorities and planning. The 'three flip chart ' idea grew out of an earlier Board level exercise in which the members were asked to answer the question, "What do you think the owners (and residents of Massey Square) want? After some discussion, the Board members agreed that their opinions were very subjective and subsequently devised the 'three flip chart exercise'.

The Board has a staff of twenty-six, unionised, maintenance and cleaning staff and five management office employees who report to Property Manager Anvar Samigdjanov, who then reports to Jesus. Both Jesus and Anvar, who have been at Massey Square for nine months, are employed not by a property management company but by the Board. Jesus's background as an industrial engineer gives him a deep understanding of the complex's soul, dynamics and physical heath, which, despite Massey Square's vintage, "Is in very, very good shape," says Jesus, "Unbelievable (shape)," he adds.

A Board contracted security company provides walking patrols of Massey Square's extensive grounds 24/7.

Forty-six years ago, when coal generated electricity was cheap and we Canadians were blissfully ignorant of coal generation's damage to the environment, the architects that designed Massey Square decided it was prudent to heat the complex's units with inefficient, ceiling mounted electric heating. Times have changed and the Board members are united in the hope that the results of their current engineering study will provide them with practical ideas for reducing the complex's electricity use. "Hydro is killing us," says Jesus.

Also on the Board's 'hit list' are:

  • Replacing each unit's original, single pane windows
  • Extensive repairs to tower's cladding and brick envelope as the brick has begun to degrade after nearly five decades of exposure to the elements.
  • Repair the underground garage membrane
  • Full renovation of their multi-use rooms
  • Renovation of the laundry rooms in each of the three towers

It's an ambitious agenda for any condominium board. Any board but Massey Square's. Vince Lombardi, the legendry coach of multiple championship football teams, once said, "Individual commitment to a group effort—that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work," and in the case of Massey Square, it is their twelve member Board's drive and singleminded commitment to excellence that has made Massey Square the success it is and always will be.

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