Condominium and Industry Profiles

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

The Greatest Canadian Condo Wins - TWICE!

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

CCI National created the Great Canadian Condo Contest in 2017 to commemorate Canada's 150th birthday. Condominiums in each of CCI's seventeen chapters entered in the hope of being declared the best condominium in their chapter. A national winner was then chosen from those local winners.

"We were extremely pleased," says the Board's president Jonathan Weill- Wolf when he received the email from CCI announcing that Discovery had won the competition. Jonathan adds that the board viewed the recognition as, "a great reward for our residents." Discovery, a complex made up of 15, 19, 29 and 33 Singer Court is located in the Bayview Village area of Toronto. In total, Discovery consists of 1,131 units spread over four high rises and a town house complex. The street was named after Verner Milton Singer, the North York Reeve from 1957 to 1958 and a member of the Ontario legislature from 1959 to 1977.

Discovery's sales office opened to the public in 2007, with the complex ready to accept its first residents in November 2011. "I was excited," says the Board's Vice-President William Choi, when he first saw the developer's plans back in mid-2000. William is one of Discovery's original residents and a first time condominium owner. Discovery and the proposed community surrounding it occupies a huge swath of former Canadian Tire land bounded by Highway 401 on the south, Sheppard Avenue East on the north, Leslie Street on the east and Woodsy Park Lane on the west. The developer's plans called for a public library, community centre, two elementary schools and multiple condominium complexes of five thousand units in total.

Having visited Discovery, it is not surprising that the condominium snagged the awards. Stepping through the front doors, I was immediately impressed not only by the elegant and pristine lobby, the smiling concierge but by the friendly residents who greet visitors with a cheery "Good evening."

Car-less residents appreciate that Discovery is a mere seven-minute walk to the Sheppard subway and that the board expanded the one, original car-sharing slot in the underground garage, to two by offering space to a second company.

Discovery's developer not only offered perspective buyers impressive 'open concept' bachelors to three bedroom suites and the usual amenities - party room, guest suites, gym, sauna, and basketball court, but sweetened the deal by including a kid's play room, a lap pool, movie theatre, wall mounted swim-suit dryers in the pool change rooms and a dog sauna to help keep the building's fourlegged residents zestful and aromatic.

"We're planning a big party," says Discovery's Senior Property Manager, Aleksandra Homesin. But not just any party, Discovery's Board and management plan to celebrate their double win not in their party room but in Discovery's 'Grand Lobby' a huge, chandelier lit, marble floored space akin to the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Although this upcoming celebration is certain to be well attended, it may have a tough time rivalling Discovery's wildly popular Holiday Party, which features live music, games and activities for kids and adults. Their annual party averages five to six hundred attendees and caps off the year's many social activities and charity drives. Residents are encouraged to bring at least one non-perishable food item although extra food items qualify residents for additional spins of the popular roulette-style prize wheel. The non-perishable food items are donated to the Daily Bread Food Bank. New and used clothing can be deposited throughout the year in the building's conveniently located Canadian Diabetes Association bin.

"The (original) board was incredibly young from the beginning," says the Board's secretary, Araz Sarchami, "Everybody had specific skills - engineering, accounting, etc. We instantly developed trust in each other." From the first board to the present, that kinship and trust has fostered a board that in William's words is, "extremely family-like. Everyone has a deep sense of ownership."

Effective succession planning has also played a part in the Board's success over the past six years, "Past board members set the tone from the beginning and, as they leave, they have made the effort to update new members," says William.

Discovery's five member Board is made up of: Jonathan Weill-Wolf, President; William Choi, Vice President; Ian Chan, Treasurer; Araz Sarchami, Secretary, and Kevin Lin, Director-at- Large. Like William, Araz was a member of Discovery's first board and the two have remained members since.

With any condominium complex the size of Discovery, communication is always a challenge. The Board and Management of Discovery keep residents informed through the corporation's online portal, the three bulletin boards in each of the complexes elevators, and digital screens - one in the mailrooms of each of the four towers.

The "sense of ownership" that Jonathan mentioned earlier is not confined to Board members. Discovery has an unusually low rate of staff turnover compared to condominiums its size. Nearly all the security and housekeeping staff have been with the building since the beginning and greet each other by name.

A good deal of Discovery's success is due to Aleksandra, an industry veteran with years of property management experience. Having worked with many boards, Aleksandra is impressed by how smoothly Discovery's board manages the occasional contentious issue and notes that such matters rarely go to a vote but are decided by consensus. "We take the time to convince all members," says says Araz Sarchami, Secretary. That unity of opinion allows individual Board members, when approached by residents, to respond with one voice. It is an ability that has proved its worth time and time again but most recently when Discovery began wrestling with a blight of short-term rentals and increase in crime. Management and the Board wasted no time in confronting the two related problems, first with a ban on rentals of less than a year in order to put a halt to future shortterm rentals. Aleksandra then instituted a mass registration program that not only identified rule breakers but also provided the Board and Management with a comprehensive database of residents. The program required all residents to attend the management office where they were registered and photographed. During their visit, management took the opportunity to ensure that each resident was familiar with the rules and policies of the corporation. And how were residents induced to register? "We made the announcement that we were going to begin deactivating fobs floor by floor", says Aleksandra.

Although the national recognition was lovely, the Board, management, and staff have always known that Discovery is a 'Great Canadian Condo' but it is its residents who represent Discovery's greatest asset. As the Board's entry application to the Great Canadian Condo Contest explained, "Our community is defined by its size, location, diversity, multiculturalism, and generosity. Discovery is a place where Canada and Toronto values are on full display and exemplified."

In the six years since Discovery was completed, the once vacant land surrounding it has grown into a vibrant community, yet, despite the fresh concrete and new landscaping, Discovery continues to stand as the Crown Jewel of Bayview Village. As Jonathan says, "Discovery is like a good bottle of wine, it gets better with age."

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