The 515 Logan Story
Finding the Perfect Property
515 Logan first came on the market in the fall of 2015. The spacious and well-situated building had been operated as a martial arts studio for the past 20 years. After years of punching, kicking, blocking, and dodging, the owners were ready to retire. The property piqued our interest as a possible location for our new office. But our Yorkville lease still had a couple of years to go, so the timing wasn’t quite right.
The property sold to a real estate agent who had plans to turn the property into a modest 6000 sq. foot home for himself. Shortly after the agent closed on the property, his plans changed, and he decided not to proceed with the renovation and to put the property back onto the real estate market. Seeing the property was back on the market so soon, we thought it was fate. We had to buy it. We were experiencing remorse after missing it the first time, so it was an easy sell when it came up the second time.
Making an Offer on Commercial Property
Our offer was accepted on Easter weekend 2016. Knowing that the property operated as a commercial enterprise for the past 20 years, we assumed that the zoning would entertain a less invasive commercial enterprise like an office. Sadly, the next business day, after a trip to city hall, we discovered, because the property was in a residentially zoned neighbourhood, the property USE was frozen as a martial arts, dance, or yoga studio. Being a property management and real estate company, we didn’t have much interest in teaching people how to fight, dance, or stretch. That property use would not work for us. Fortunately, the seller was willing to work with us in the Change-of-Use application.
Applying to the Committee of Adjustments
We applied to the Committee of Adjustments and were given an August hearing date. We were not exactly thrilled to see half a dozen of the neighbours also attended the hearing in opposition to the change-of-use.
While the neighbours would have preferred the building to be used solely residentially, their biggest concern was parking. Parking on a Riverdale street can be very tight. While some properties have parking off of laneways, many require street parking. For a time, we appeared to be winning our case at the Committee of Adjustments, but the neighbours were able to sway the committee members by convincing them that the number of staff vehicles would take up their own spots. So, we were declined. Once again, Toronto parking proved to be a pain in the arse.
This left us in a predicament. Do we walk away from the offer, lose our deposit, and start looking for another property or do we brush ourselves off and have another go at it? Well, we’re property managers, we keep working until the jobs done. So, we decided to take our case to the next level. Once again, the seller was exceptionally cooperative, and collectively we appealed the decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Applying to the Ontario Municipal Board
This brought us to a February 2017 hearing. The key to winning our case was proving our office would not cause parking issues for residents in the area. So, this time we pulled all the stops. Hired a $700/hour lawyer that specialized in such cases, a parking study consultant, an urban planner and we even had the martial arts studio owner there to attest the volume of people with cars that attended their classes.
The neighbours had previously misled the committee members by stating only people from the area attended the studio and thus parking was not an issue. What the neighbours left out was that most of the martial arts classes were in the evenings and on weekends and many of the students drove in from all over the GTA. Also, we explained, our office would only be open from nine to five Monday to Friday. We would arrive when the neighbours were gone to work, and we would be gone and by the time they got home. Parking, most certainly, would not be a bigger issue with our office than it ever was with the martial arts studio.
On Easter Weekend 2017, a full year after making our offer on the building, the committee approved our application.
Closing the Deal and Renovating
We quickly closed on the property and the race was on to renovate. At the time, our current office lease was expiring within months.
Unfortunately, we had to vacate our leased premises before the new office renovations were complete. This precepted the need to allow two thirds of the staff to work from home. They were happy to work remotely and continued to be an effective and productive team. The in-office staff worked out of the new property in the rear coach house as a temporary measure. It was quite cozy! When the renovations were done, it was time to move into our new office.
How it Changed Our Company
Having some of the staff work from home worked so well that we continued with that business model. And thus, the new office format was born. We now have half the staff work from home and the other half reside in the office. We have “hotel workstations” available for those coming to the office. Meaning anyone without an assigned desk can sit and work away for the day or a couple of hours. And the staff have been as effective as ever.
Enjoying the Fruit of Our Labour
We have lots of experiences like this, helping investors navigate Toronto’s real estate market. As with all those experiences, acquiring our office came with some things to remember in real estate and in business. We recognized an opportunity and had the vision to see what this building could be after zoning and renovating. We had the resilience to keep pushing towards that vision. We had the business relationships to leverage when we needed help. We had our internal renovations team execute the changes. And we were adaptable enough to remodel our business in the process. Now, we enjoy working out of our freshly renovated office and are happy to host meetings with our clients.
Explore the Virtual Tour of 515 Logan below to see the fruit of our labour.