Over the past thirty-five years, the VANDYK group of companies, based in Mississauga, ON, has evolved from building custom-designed single-family homes to developing award-winning condominium projects and master-planned communities in the Greater Toronto Area and Sarasota, Florida.
Real estate developer John C. Vandyk, founder, president and Chief Executive Officer of the VANDYK group of companies has every reason to feel proud as the company continues to receive multiple awards based on its ‘Think, Design, Build’ strategy. At this fully integrated construction company, everything from the initial concept and planning stage to the interior and exterior design, marketing and sales are completed in-house. Simply put, it means that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. This results in greater accountability, transparency, and attention to detail, which come together seamlessly with all the details that reassure buyers they will be moving into a fully-functional home.
“I think lifestyle is a component the company has always believed in,” says Sherman Chan, Vice President of Land Acquisition and Development. He joined the VANDYK group ten years ago. “At the beginning, it was about listening to what the homeowner wanted, customizing one house for one client at a time.”
Now the company has taken that philosophy to a new level, customizing for a sophisticated demographic that wants an affordable home, located near green spaces, with easy access to public transport and urban amenities but without compromising on quality. It is a tall order but one which VANDYK is looking to fill.
“Lifestyle in Toronto has changed with everything being integrated, and the infrastructure of it all has to be tied together. Our ability to understand lifestyle, needs, and the economy, and how it integrates with buildings is where we position ourselves,” Chan says.
A perfect example of this is the new Backyard Neighbourhood Condos project still under development in south Etobicoke, just west of Toronto. The first phase is now sold out, and the first boutique building, known as The Humberside, is a six-storey residence where warm brick and glass combine traditional and modern architecture. A 15,000-square-foot community health centre at ground level is already completely leased, with spaces available for specialty shops and independent retailers to lease. It is already garnering attention, having been nominated for the 2017 BILD Award, which the company received last year for its Craftsman Condominium Residences. This award is sponsored by the Building Industry and Land Development Association of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Location, as oft repeated in the real estate business, is everything. The Backyard project is surrounded by green spaces such as the Discovery Path trails in and around the Old Mill and the Humber River. With public transit literally at the doorstep, residents have easy access to High Park and the unique shops and restaurants of Toronto’s Bloor West Village.
Given the skyrocketing prices of real estate in the GTA, one might think such an ideal residence would be priced at the high end of the scale. “But being sensitive to price point is one of the attributes that separates us from other companies,” Chan says. “Most developers will adjust pricing of their homes in accordance with the economy. If land is going up in price, then the house will go up in price. But we’ve always taken a mindset to supply price point sensitive housing with a lot of value, and that’s not to say that we don’t construct higher end housing or more basic housing, but that’s not our core business. We like specializing in a demographic who’ve grown up in established communities and don’t want to leave,” Chan explains.
“What you’re seeing in the Greater Toronto Area is that people are being pushed and priced out of their own city. And it even applies to Etobicoke and Mississauga, to people who’ve grown up there, graduated from university and are ready for their first-time home, but they can’t afford anything, and they’re forced to move north. Similarly for retirees,” says Chan.
“We’re not a big fan of that. We think communities and families should stay together, so we offer price point targeted housing so that young people just starting out or empty nesters looking to downsize can afford to stay in their own community. And that’s our sweet spot.”
Quality is never sacrificed as the company is committed to offering homes in which owners can take pride. Although a builder by trade, John Vandyk has always appreciated fine architecture, drawing inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright, “although we are careful not to exploit his name,” Chan says. “So, Wright may have been the starting point, but it’s not the end product. A more accurate portrayal of our style of architecture is that we lean toward natural, organic materials and that we’ve developed a West Coast flair. The style we favour is a Canadian-Modern and timeless aesthetic.”
Three years ago, Chan says that Mr. Vandyk began looking for opportunities to expand outside of Canada, and since he spent part of the winter in Sarasota, Florida it seemed like a natural place to start. “He was looking for a permanent residence there, a second home,” Chan says, “and kept shopping around but there was nothing he liked. And he thought ‘If there are other people like me looking for what I want, there could be a market.’”
And indeed, there were people who wanted the same kind of total luxury which VANDYK incorporated in ONE88. Chan calls it a landmark building and Sarasota’s premier magazine SRQ chose as its 2016 Building of the Year, awarding it Platinum status. Each of the eight residences boasts over 3,000 square feet of living space, three bedrooms and three and a half baths, en-suite elevators and private east and west facing glass fronted balconies for unobstructed views of sunrises and sunsets over Sarasota Bay.
Only two units remain unsold in the architecturally stunning building which features an LED waterfall in the foyer. The company is now in the process of building 688 Golden Gate Point, another luxury building, as well as Orange Club, a mix of townhouses and condominiums, with 65 percent of the units sold.
Five years ago, VANDYK looked to diversify and developed a portfolio of five commercial sites which include 120,000 square feet of retail space. It leases turn-key operations to such clients such as the Royal Bank, IBM, Lindt and Sprungli and Sherwin Williams. Several new projects in southern Ontario are under way as the company plans to add another 200,000 square feet of retail space.