It’s safe to say Jared Bensky, Wycliffe Homes’ VP of Development, knows a thing or two about the importance of family. Not only does he have familial ties to the 63-year-old company, but Wycliffe Homes has also been noted for its ability to keep generations of home buyers in its communities.
We caught up with Bensky to chat about current projects in the works, Wycliffe’s position in the marketplace and what he’s watching on TV right now (when he gets the time, of course).
BuzzBuzzHome: How long have you been working with Wycliffe?
Jared Bensky: I have officially been at Wycliffe Homes for about four years. I grew up in the industry my entire life. Before I got here, I was building and renovating homes for myself, but I always knew I was coming here. I was working on my own in another industry altogether with a heavy focus on product development, product launch, branding and positioning, all of which have contributed heavily to my role at Wycliffe.
BBH: So you always knew you’d be joining your father at the company?
JB: Yes, it was always the plan, but I wanted to take my own route to get here on my own. It took about 10 years to do it.
BBH: So Wycliffe has developments across the GTA — you’re in Woodbridge, you’re also in Toronto and other areas. How do you determine where to build?
JB: Currently we have four projects that we’ve launched that are active. We have Fairground Lofts in Old Woodbridge Village (below), we have 8 on Bayview, the Wycliffe Luxury Collection at Bayview and York Mills. We just launched another site called Wycliffe on the Ravine, which are heritage estate homes in Markham. We’re going to be building nine homes right in the heart of Main Street Markham, in Markham Village. We’re about to launch, in the next four to six weeks, Hendon Park Towns at Yonge and Finch, which is about 130 urban towns right at the Finch subway station. We also have several projects under development, which will be launched over the next several years.
BBH: How do you fit into the GTA market?
JB: We are definitely an upscale builder. We do not turn out five hundred houses a year, because we are an upscale builder. It could be a stacked townhouse, it could be a condo, it could be a freehold townhouse, it could be a semi — apples to apples, in any part of the city we tend to be more expensive.
If we’re selling townhouses in Woodbridge starting at $299,900, our closest competitor in Woodbridge is selling stacked townhouses at $239,900. If we’re selling luxury townhouses at the corner of Bayview and York Mills for a $1.6 million, our closest competitor down the street is selling it for a $1.1 million or $1.2 million. We tend to be higher-end, that’s just our positioning and that’s why we try to buy the best locations. Our location generally attracts the buyers, and our marketing and advertising campaigns work around our location rather than the opposite. We buy the location and the location often sells itself.
BBH: And it has worked well for a very long time.
JB:Yes, we’re proud to be around for 63 years. I don’t know how many developers can say that and hopefully we’ll be at it for another 163 years.
BBH: We wanted to talk about the Hendon Park project. Could you tell us a bit more about the background of the project?
JB: Historically, Wycliffe has done a lot in North York. We have done a lot of work up and down the Bayview line, right up to 16th all the way down to south of Finch.
This is our really big jump back into Toronto proper, so to speak. We were looking for a location where we felt we could be different. Yonge and Sheppard is pretty built up and it’s continuing to be built up. It’s a second downtown and there’s still a lot of room for absorption. Yonge and Finch is getting built-up even more though. It’s a real hot spot. We saw a lot of townhouses going up there and there are a lot of high-rise condos going up. We thought the hybrid product of a stacked townhouse or an “urban town” was really the way to go. At Yonge and Finch or at Yonge and Sheppard, stacked townhouses just do not exist.
You can have seven hundred to a thousand square feet, which is sort of a condo size, with your own front door and your own porch, and not a lot of amenities, which keeps the maintenance fees down. That’s how we went about Yonge and Finch, and we had been scouting the location for years. We were able to put together a fabulous assembly, which is literally on the subway line. It is probably a two minute walk to Finch station. That’s how we picked that location.
BBH: Who else are you working with on the project?
JB: On this project we have a fabulous team. L.A. Ads is our agency for this project. Our architect is SRN Architects. They really were one of the inventors, if not the inventor of the stacked townhouse module. So we’re doing fabulous things with SRN Architects and Vince Santamaura and Rob Nicolucci. We’re working with tcgpr who’s handling all of our PR, and The Condo Store is doing our sales. We’re very proud that we put this team together.
BBH: There isn’t as much low-rise being built in Toronto right now, but there still is room for it. Where do you see the low-rise market fitting in to Toronto over the next decade or so?
JB: We believe, as we’ve practiced for the last 63 years, that everybody wants to own a home. Everybody is in a different stage in life, so people own a home and they downsize from it, people own a condo and they upsize to a home. At some point in your life, you’re most likely going to be in a home. I don’t know where it’s going to be, it depends what your budget is, and it depends what your needs are location wise.
There’s such a gap in the marketplace for this middle-of-the-road product, which is why the stacked townhouse has been invented. We see the future as being this middle-of-the-road stacked townhouse product. As far as low-rise goes, everybody wants a house and there’s not enough land.
BBH: Up to this point, you’ve been exclusively mid-rise and low-rise homes. Would you ever consider high-rise?
JB: Yeah. Woodbridge is condo, and Finch is condo. We’re in the mid-rise market, so we’re moving that direction. Is it something we’d consider? Of course. We have a brand and we have a reputation. It’s about finding the right product and the right project that we feel comfortable enough to be successful in doing. So absolutely, we’re looking at high-rise.
BBH: Tell us more about Generation Wycliffe. We were wondering if you could talk a little more about that legacy.
JB: It’s very interesting and it didn’t happen by accident. We’re going into third generation Wycliffe home buyers. There are people who bought a Wycliffe home in the 50s or 60s, and their kids bought a Wycliffe home. Now, the next generation who are in their 20s and 30s are buying a Wycliffe home. We’re seeing this right now, especially in Woodbridge. In Woodbridge we’re actually seeing third generation Wycliffe homeowners.
There are two purchasers in Woodbridge who are in their late 20s to early 30s and they happen to be neighbours in another Wycliffe community in Woodbridge that their parents bought in the early 80s. They grew up next door to each other. They bought homes next door to each other in the Fairground Lofts in Old Woodbridge Village. That really is a generation Wycliffe story that we’re proud of.
BBH: My final question is a little lighter: what’s your favourite show on television right now?
JB: You know what, I’m a news junkie. When I have time to watch television, which isn’t very often, I am watching CNN and Fox News late nights I’m also catching up on Homeland and Dexter. I’m also forever committed to the Sopranos. I could watch every episode a thousand times.
Thanks for buzzing with us Jared!