Today we’re buzzing with the President of Harhay Developments, Chris Harhay, the esteemed boutique developer behind many of downtown Toronto’s most attention grabbing projects.
Harhay Developments has been involved in design, construction and project management since 1987. These guys do it all and they’re good at what they do. A few notable Harhay projects include The Ninety, Theatre Park and the new much-buzzed about oneeleven.
We chat with Chris about the pluses of living in a building developed by a boutique developer, the unique attributes of oneeleven and why Tim Horton’s is essential to any developer’s diet.
BuzzBuzzHome: How long have you been in the development industry?
Chris Harhay: I’ve been in the development business now for 15 years.
BBH: What drew you to the industry?
CH: I’ve always been interested in real estate in terms of design as well as the construction side of the business. My father is a professional engineer so I was exposed at an early age to the industry and big, heavy civil projects.
BBH: What was the first project you ever built?
CH: There’s really two parts to my career. There was the commercial component. I started off in property management and then went into commercial development — office, retail, industrial. The first project I did in terms on the residential side was Zen Lofts which was a condominium on Camden Street just west of Spadina.
BBH: Have you always built around the downtown core of Toronto?
CH: We’ve always maintained that we want to work within our “Manhattan” which is traditionally Roncesvalles to the Don Valley Parkway and from Front Street up to Queen Street. So our focus has always been the downtown core. With that being said, our Manhattan is expanding but we do still focus on downtown primarily.
BBH: What are some pluses living in a project built by a boutique developer?
CH: Well, we’re a family business and we’re involved in all aspects of the business. We’re not only the developer, we’re also the constructor. From the very beginning, from when we design the building to when we’re constructing it, we’re paying attention to the details and I really do believe we’re building better quality buildings.
We’ve now done 11 of these in downtown Toronto and each time it’s the same team. We’re getting better and better as we go. We have higher quality finishes and features, and higher calibre construction.
BBH: Can you tell us a bit about the genesis of oneeleven?
CH: This was a really sought after site. There were a lot of people bidding on this property. What I really love about it is it’s a corner site. You’ve got that whole exposure along Bathurst and then you’ve got that exposure along Adelaide, so we’re really excited about having these two sides. You’ve also got that laneway on the east side so that creates more separation and exposure too.
We went to Core Architects, who are a fantastic firm, and said we want to do something really great here. This is a once in a lifetime property and we want to make sure we do something really unique. We’ve got the strong podium with the plumb brick and up above we have a really cool glass tower with lots of terraces and balconies.
BBH: One attribute that makes oneeleven standout is the number of floorplans relative to the number of units. Tell us more about that.
CH: There are 41 unique floor plans out of 255 units. There are buildings out there that are 40 storeys with only 15 floorplans. It’s more cookie-cutter all the way up. More floorplans translate into value for purchasers.
BBH: Where do you see Harhay Developments in 5 to 10 years?
CH: Our long term plan is to focus on urban environments. We’re a boutique developer and we truly do believe that the devil is in the details. That requires involvement in every aspect of what we do. We don’t see ourselves growing too much bigger because we like what we’re doing and we know we’re doing it well.
BBH: What’s your favourite neighbourhood in Toronto in the summer months?
CH: Our office is in King West so I love that neighbourhood for the patios. King West is certainly my haunt. I also love Queen East. We’re topping off The Ninety at Queen and Broadview so I’ve been spending a lot of time over in Queen East.
BBH: Are you a Starbucks, Second Cup or Tim Hortons guy?
CH: I’m a Tim Hortons guy. When you spend as much time in construction meetings as I do, you drink a lot of coffee and it’s always Tim Hortons because they come in those wonderful containers.
Thanks for buzzing with us Chris!