Why Is SPIRE So Expensive?



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I’ve been asking this question for three years, and prices have continued to rise.

I feel like it’s a joke that everybody understands but me, and yet I continue to say, “I don’t get it.”

Why does this building cost more than any other building in the area?

spiretower.jpg

While we’re asking questions – how the heck did the developers get zoning for a building that tall with no other precedents?

While we’re asking, “Why is Spire so expensive?”  We should also be asking, “Why is Spire so tall?”

But this is like asking, “Why am I going to order two dinners on Valentine’s Day and then eat both of them?”

Spire is a whopping 45-stories and stands alone at Church & Lombard with no other buildings over 20-stories in spitting distance.  Don’t let the above photo fool you – that maroon tower to the left (financial peeps – please identify it) is two city blocks away and is actually taller than Spire.

You can see Spire from almost any point in the city, as there are no other buildings to block it out.  The yellow racing-stripes that run vertically down the side of the building are a unique yet curious touch, and despite its seemingly common design, I think the glass structure is rather tastefully done.

Built by Context Developments who brought us Tip Top Lofts, Mozo, and Radio City, the condo defied all logic in city planning.

WHY did a structure that large and that out of place end up being built at Church & Lombard?

Did somebody slip somebody an envelope full of cash?

92 King Street is the closest condominium, and it only measures 17-stories.

King George Square is 15-stories, and King’s Court is 17.

The newest building in the area, Vu Condos, is only 24-stories and it was approved for construction several years after Spire.

Developers usually “request” a certain height for their projects and base that on the existing buildings in the area.  Notice how Mozo is the same height as King’s Court, which is right next door.

If the previous condo was 25-stories, the developer will ask for 30, hoping to get approved for 28.

So how Context Developments end up with 45-stories when there was nothing else in the area even close?

Sorry to ask a question to which I don’t have the answer…..but I really don’t have the answer!

So, let’s get back to my first question (which I also can’t answer!): Why is Spire so expensive?

The latest listing at spire is for a 523 square-foot, 1-bedroom condo with no parking, asking $299,900.  This is $571/sqft, and there isn’t even any parking!  I like to compare apples to apples, so if this unit did have parking, it would be approximately $621/sqft.

And even more shocking – they seller and his agent are holding back offers.

Does this mean they’re expecting MORE?

I shudder to think…

But condos at Spire routinely sell for in excess of $600 per square foot, and the world just keeps on moving like nothing ever happened.

So let’s compare Spire to other buildings in the area and try and find out why the prices are so high.

What metrics should we use?

Location, age of building, style of construction, features & finishes, and amenities.

I don’t really see anything above-average about the location of Spire, but that’s just me.  I think many buyers prefer the proximity to the financial district.  Church Street is one city block east of Jarvis, and two city blocks east of Sherbourne, so I suppose the two blocks can make a difference when you compare the walk from a building like 230 King Street.  But Spire and 230 King Street are both equidistant to the St. Lawrence Market, so I don’t know how much you gain with Spire’s location.

The style of construction is very similar to everything that Context Developments has done.  Close your eyes, spin around, and you’ll think you’re inside a unit at Radio City.  In my opinion, the style is “average” but not above, and there are countless layouts at Spire that make no sense.  When you walk into the living room and it happens to have a fridge, stove, sink, and microwave, it suddenly dawns on you that the living room IS the kitchen!  I’ve never been a fan of this design, as I don’t like putting my TV next to my dishwasher…

The finishes of the units is also what I would call “average.”  There’s nothing special about it as Spire is somewhat of a “soft loft” style with exposed concrete ceilings and some units have polished concrete floors.  Most kitchens and bathrooms are upgraded, but we’re talking “upgraded” like your average condo; not your Yorkville upgrades.

As for the amenities, there is a fantastic gym and a sauna, and the lobby is very large and pretty, but I don’t (usually) sleep in the lobby so personally, I don’t care what it looks like.

No, I can’t seem to find any reason why prices at Spire are around $600 per square foot and all the neighbouring buildings in the St. Lawrence Market can be had for much less.

Maybe it’s the name: Spire?  Is that tres cool?  Is that too-cool-for-school?

As an aside, the name “Spire” was taken from the impressive spire atop the St. James Cathedral next door, as shown below:

stjamesspire.jpg

The ONE major benefit to living at Spire is that every single unit has outdoor space, and a lot of these units have huge terraces.

I once visited the penthouse unit just for fun on a Friday night (shhhh!) and the terrace wrapped around the entire building; it was spectacular!  And the view from the 40th floor was amazing!  North, South, East, West – you name it, Spire has it.

But if you live on the 4th floor of Spire and stare directly at The Courthouse, unless you are addicted to partying and want to keep an eye on the VIP lineup on a Saturday night, I don’t see the value in owning in this building.

For the right unit, the right layout, the right floorplan, and the right client, I can definitely see the value in Spire!

But nine times out of ten, I don’t get it…

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10 Comments

  • Alex February 4, 2010

    The maroon tower is Scotia Plaza and is somewhere around 65 stories.


  • JB February 4, 2010

    Since Spire is so tall and has no other tall building around it, doesn’t this mean most units have a great, if not fantastic, view when compared to other condos?


  • earth mother February 4, 2010

    I think Dave wrote previously about the fast-fading enjoyment of a good view….


  • Meh February 4, 2010

    Views are amazing the first time you walk into a place.
    After that, they don’t do much.


  • LC February 4, 2010

    I’m sure there must be nice views from inside the suites….but everytime I look up at that building from the outside, it just looks like an endless garage sale – what with all balcony contents being widely exposed from all angles thanks to the most glass I’ve ever seen on a building.

    I haven’t actually been inside the building – other than to view the model suite years ago – but I can think of other more site appropriate buildings in the SLM area I’d rather buy in.


  • JB February 4, 2010

    I haven’t read every single blog post, so he may have talked about that.

    But that doesn’t mean people aren’t willing to pay for the great views at Spire now.


  • KL February 5, 2010

    Not sure if you’re comparing apples to apples.

    The type sales above $600/sqft at the Spire is usually the suites on the highest floors or penthouses (with penthouse finishes and high end appliances etc.)

    A quick check of mls.ca shows the two current listings at the Spire on the 6th floor and 18th floor is $507/sqft and $570/sqft, similar to a real comparable (nearby new modern glass building) on the 14th floor at 33 Mill Street going for $560/sqft.

    Once we “normalize” (as they say in statistics) and adjust for views, suite size, finishes, which floor the suite is on, amenities, ceiling height, age of building, etc., I think you’d find Spire pricing not that unexpected.

    Or if you think I’m off-based, please provide the relative complete data.


  • DP February 5, 2010

    What is expressed at the beginning re height etc. highlights the fact that there is no other ‘apple’ like Spire in the city. Comparing the building to 33 Mill Street is not a reasonable thing to do as the reasons to buy into SLM and the Distillery District are both very different.

    I would also contest that any building designed by Architects Alliance would be considered ‘average.’ CityPlace and ‘9T6’ St. Patrick are average. They consistently (by that I mean they all look the same – see 18 Yorkville and 22 Wellesley in addition to Radio City) design good looking simple buildings that do not try to attract more attention than is deserved of a place that houses people. It is a condo after all, not a performing arts centre.

    At the end of the day the reason people pay more for Spire is the same reason people pay more for Starbucks drip coffee than McDonalds. I like McDonald’s coffee (top rated by Consumer Reports) but I would never be seen walking back to my office with it. I like other buildings in SLM, but I would still prefer to be at Spire because for some reason that eludes us all it is known for being a better building and that will protect my investment.


  • dogbiskit February 7, 2010

    It’s a nice building but the maintenance fees are getting really silly there. A few units I looked out worked out to around .65 sq/ft and that’s not including hydro.


  • KL February 15, 2010

    DP – you missed my point, which was that David hasn’t shown that the pricing of Spire suites is “premium”, once you have adjusted for all relevant factors. I merely compared Spire to 33 Mill Street to show that some Spire Suite are actually pretty cheap.

    Sure, people pay “more” for Spire, relative to dumping 50 year old buildings with 8 foot ceilings. What’s your point? Show me some actual sales stats that shows Spire Suite are selling for a huge premium relative to other new buildings – I’ve got a suite to sell ya!

    I, too, live at the Spire and wouldn’t want it to be filled with snobs that can’t stand to be seen drinking McDonalds coffee. Maybe you should live in Yorkville!





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