August 2, 2010
Gary Switzer is a veteran of the Toronto condo development scene.
After founding the high rise division of the highly successful Great Gulf Homes in 1988 and subsequently developing some of Toronto’s most sought after condominiums, Switzer recently founded his own company, MOD Developments Inc. His first project, FIVE [map], a 45 story mixed-use development at 5 St. Joseph St. is currently in its pre-construction phase.
In an interview with BuzzBuzzHome, Mr. Switzer offered up his insights into the unique Toronto condo development scene as well as the details behind FIVE, a collaboration with fellow Toronto developers, Graywood Developments.
Are you more of a car person or walking person?
At Great Gulf I was much more of a car person because our office is at Victoria Park and Finch and I live at Eglinton and Avenue Rd., so I was in the car everyday. Now I take the subway or walk to work.
It’s one and a quarter miles from my office to the sales centre for FIVE so I’ve made it a part of my exercise regiment – except when it’s like 30 degrees out, that’s a bit much.
iPhone, Blackberry or standard cell phone?
I have a Blackberry, but my birthday was two days ago and my family bought me an iPad that I have not stopped using. The first night I got it, I was up until 2am using it and my wife was like, “Are you going to come to bed already?”
How did the collaboration between MOD and Graywood come about?
It started from the point of view that this is a very large project and we wanted to have a partner we felt we’d be compatible with given the fact that this is the first project for my new company.
I’ve known some of the guys at Graywood for a number of years. I also love the Ritz Carlton. From a pure design point of view, between the Ritz and the bank building next door, those are two of the best buildings in Toronto. So I know we’re on the same wavelength from a design point of view, and we figured we’d be very compatible.
What’s your favourite aspect about the FIVE building site?
Certainly the location, I love the fact that it’s close to a subway and I love the fact that it’s right on Yonge St. One of the most appealing things about it, which is also the biggest challenge with the project, is the historical aspect.
I think I’ve always believed that the projects I did when I was at Great Gulf were all part of city building. I know that sounds corny but the first condo we ever did was St. James at King and Jarvis and that was just a parking lot at the time. King St. East was all machine shops and vacant lots.
My background is as an architect and also as a city planner so I love the aspect of creating something that leaves the city better off than when we found it. Yonge St. between Bloor and College has seen better days but it’s got the bones to be much more than it is right now.
What’s your favourite aspect of the building itself?
The thing about Hariri Pontarini [the architect working on FIVE] that I like is basically he took a rectangular shape for the building and all the sculpture comes through the balconies. It’s very iconic architecturally, but the suites are still great. I think that Pontarini has really taken tower design to another level.
Do you see MOD moving beyond Toronto?
I think eventually we will. When I was at Great Gulf we were doing projects in Dallas and Denver. I’d love to do a project in San Francisco or New York or any of these cities.
But in Toronto, I don’t think we realize how well we do things. I’ve gone to sales centres in New York and in Chicago and I think we have nothing to be embarrassed about in terms of the quality of the work or the quality of developer buildings.
The quality of developer buildings here is higher than in New York. Unless you’re looking at the one-off, Robert Stern stuff, the typical buildings there are like our suburban stuff.
For more information call the FIVE sales centre at 416-928-0555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the sales centre at 5 St. Joseph St. between Monday and Thursday from 12pm to 6pm or Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 5pm.