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Classic design meets urban vision

A designer favoured by prime ministers and urbanites scores again with a new condo project

Photo of Doug Casey

Doug Casey, above, was named condo builder of the year in 2000 for Jefferson Hall at 130 Glebe Ave. He also won the City of Ottawa Heritage Award for Design Excellence that year. His latest project, the Glasgow Condominium Flats, right, is receiving rave reviews.

Late last month, painters invaded Doug Casey's Bank Street offices, covering the floor in drop sheets and the walls in a soothing ochre and moss green. It was prep time for a two-day launch of his newest urban project, 51 condos on Bronson at Powell Avenue, to entice buyers to pull out their chequebooks.

The paint, wine, nippy cheese and the promise of modified Arts-and-Crafts designs blew away last weekend's ugly weather, convincing seven couples and singles to buy into the Glasgow Condominium Flats and a new address in the spring of 2005.

The award-winning president of Charlesfort Developments couldn't wipe the grin off his impish face. "We took our time. We did our homework and had a sense of what people wanted."

Once again, the builderdeveloper has nailed the urban vision, combining the artistry of Scottish designer and architect Charles Rennie MacKintosh with Ottawa sensibilities.

The affable 52-year-old was introduced to the clean lines of the Scottish architect by another Ottawa bright light, designer John Swain, in the early '80s. The late designer, who helped design and dress up private custom homes and builders' show homes, attended the Glasgow School of Art, a magnificent stone building Mr. MacKintosh designed in 1896 when he was only 28.

Ottawa's Glasgow Flats is a gentle interpretation, sitting on the edge of the Glebe and beside the former Borden High School on Powell Avenue, a building that he is now converting into condos.

Image of the front of the Glasgow School or Art

The Glasgow School of Art, a magnificent stone building designed by Charles Rennie MacKintosh in 1896 when he was only 28, is the inspiration behind Doug Casey's Glasgow Condominium Flats project.

Mr. Casey has been paying tribute to Mr. MacKintosh ever since, keeping a folder of photographs from the School of Art in his computer.

"It is a thoughtful design. It is just very cool," says the man who seems to be in constant motion. In 2000, the Ontario New Home Warranty Program named him condominium builder of the year for his Jefferson Hall condos at 130 Glebe Ave. He also won the City of Ottawa Heritage Award for Design Excellence that same year.

His buildings have won design honours from the Ottawa-Carleton Home Builders' Association and in 2002, Builder Magazine named him developer of the year.

He has been a design darling favoured by urbanites and prime ministers. Former prime minister Joe Clark bought one of his townhomes on Creighton Street and outgoing prime minister Jean Chrétien and his wife, Aline, bought one of his customized semi-detached home across from Government House. He grins, shakes his head: "It's cool."

This time, he pooled the MacKintosh inspiration and the Glasgow School of Art with the design smarts of Ottawa architect Barry Hobin, designer Jason Grant-Henley, who is half of the Urban Keios team, and landscape architect Jerol Wheeler.

Mr. Hobin has interpreted the MacKintosh language of large-paned windows, flat roofs and small, curvy balconies in the Glasgow. The Casey team tweaked layouts after running a survey of potential buyers, asking what they wanted.

Inside, the Casey team delivered hardwood maple flooring, granite countertops, ceramic in the bathrooms, high ceilings, big windows, deep baseboards and open spaces. There are also two levels of underground parking and rooftop terraces.

Last weekend, buyers from their late 20s to early 60s sipped wine and bought space in the Glasgow. Sales ranged from $236,000 for a 762-square-foot condo up to $408,000 for a 1,403-square-foot two bedroom with a den.

Three buyers also paid $20,000 and $25,000 for a rooftop garden, including a young woman who said she didn't need a car or a parking spot, but wanted a rooftop terrace.

There are 22 private gardens with outlets for water and gas and a public garden with plans for lilac trees, flowers, benches and a nearby washroom.

The rooftop gardens were refined by Mr. Wheeler and encouraged by Mr. Casey, who first introduced them at the GlassWorks, a condo next to the Queensway and boasting inside ceilings soaring 17 feet.

"This is pioneer time again. We will see if there is an appetite for gardens," Mr. Casey said a few days before the launch. "I'm really pleased.

"The Glasgow is a second generation GlassWorks. You get better each time," he says.

One of the buyers is moving from Glassworks, which was finished a year ago and already has seen selling prices go from $240,000 to $290,000 on the resale market.

Occupancy for the Glasgow is spring 2005. Visit www.charles or call 233-0044 for information.

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