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All About Detailing And Quality Of Space

The Gardens' South Building is a new entry in the competitive condo market

Some people walk down a street, eyes focused on the sidewalk. Not Doug Casey. The Ottawa native and seasoned developer is always looking up, checking out the ironwork on buildings. He maintains this practice as a tourist in Glasgow, Scotland, and continues it at home as he takes in the detailing of weathered brick in the Byward Market.

Photo of South Buidling

Doug Casey

You never know, he reasons, when a building or a detail will spawn a fresh idea to add to a condo project. "You know I'm not looking at my feet. I'm busy looking at the architecture." It was during a trip to Scotland that the president of Charlesfort Developments fell solidly under the influence of artist, designer and architect Charles Rennie MacKintosh and his pivotal Glasgow School of Art.

The symmetry of windows, the simplicity, the stained glass, heavy doors and even some of the ironwork in the 1896 building spawned a new European style. Mr. Casey has admired the Scottish architect for several years, modifying design details for his successful condo, the Glasgow, now under construction near Clemow Avenue at Bronson Avenue.

Now Mr. Casey is picking up other MacKintosh finishings for the South Building, the second 16-storey tower of the Gardens and 70 condos, planned for Bronson at Queen Street.

"It's all about detailing and quality of space, says the man who in 2000 was named top condo builder in the province by the Ontario New Home Warranty Program and was recently honoured by the city for a trio of infill projects and heritage conservation.

The Sandringham in the Gardens' South Building features three bedrooms and this spacious, rotunda-style room that promises some great views of Ottawa. Developer Doug Casey, below, believes the extra details will help sell the condos in this building.

It was on a walk along George Street in the Byward Market that he noticed brick detailing on the front of the building, built around 1910, that used to house the Spaghetti Factory. Ottawa architect Barry Hobin worked the rectangle of light and darker bricks and corner accents into a design defining floors between balconies on the second Gardens' building.

Then Mr. Casey asked architectural designer Jason Grant- Henley to put an Ottawa spin on the glass in MacKintosh's School of Art in Glasgow. The imaginative designer, a principal at the design firm Urban Keois, came up with swirly flowers that will be part of a wall of glass in the lobby.

Then there is iron man Cairn Cunnane from St. Pierre de Wakefield, who has been retained to produce ironwork for the front door and lobby.

The details add to sensory space in the tower, a new entry in the competitive condo market that now accounts for 20 per cent of new home sales. The Charlesfort president is a force in the urban condo market, a housing niche that appeals to professionals and older buyers selling off a family home for central, convenient living.

The developer has learned some fresh lessons through the construction dust of the past five years and wildly successful condo projects, including the Glassworks on Main Street and the first tower at the Gardens.

He is further refining the MacKintosh designs and expanding the inside spaces of six designs in his newest project so they imitate room sizes of single family homes.

It seems there were older boomers looking to move, but not happy with having to sell off favourite furnishings in a bid to downsize, says the developer. "In the South Building there is space if the kids want to come home on the weekend. Buyers don't feel they have to compromise on space."

Photo of South Buidling

South Tower of The Gardens

He decided to boost the size of condos in the South building, with the largest, the Madison, offering three bedrooms, a den and two bathrooms spread over 2,077 square feet. Views of the Ottawa River and Gatineau Hills and downtown Ottawa are an extra bonus.

The McMichael, the most popular design since sales started earlier this month, is 1,463 square feet, with two bedrooms and two baths. The Sandringham is 1,771 square feet with three bedrooms, while the Giverny is 1,517 square feet, and has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and an office.

The condos are 200 to 500 square feet bigger than Charlesfort's earlier condos.

"The rooms are large, the same size as in a single home," says Mr. Casey, which means buyers can hang onto some of their favourite pieces.

The spaces also feel larger than the actual square footage because the Charlesfort team — which includes some of the best design brains in the city, including Mr. Hobin and Urban Keois — has eliminated walls, added large windows, curvy spaces and open kitchens defined by two-level eating bars.

The McMichael offers stunning space, thanks in part to a circular living and dining room that is all about windows, big views and drama. It was Mr. Grant-Henley who designed the heating and plumbing of the condo to be encased in a drop bulkhead that wraps around the outside of the circular room, adding more definition to the space.

All of the condos feature 10-foot ceilings, hardwood flooring and granite counters — more details in finished spaces, says Mr. Casey.

The combination of details and space doesn't come cheaply. But it has found a successful niche, with 10 sales in a couple of weeks.

The smallest unit, the 760-square-foot Le Moutier, is on the second level, offers one bedroom, one bath, study and terrace for $250,000. Prices go up to $850,000 for the penthouse version of the grand Madison. The dramatic McMichael is $395,000 on the second floor and $490,000 on the 11th floor.

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