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Wide sidewalks key to help commercial real estate weather the pandemic

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commercial real estate

An economic rebound in commercial retail amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic may be right under our feet – in the sidewalks we walk on. The key, however, depends on how wide they are.

The positive effects of wide sidewalks as opposed to narrow ones are easy to see, according to Val Rynnimeri, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture. Commercial streets that have them are experiencing a faster return of people and therefore business than those that don’t.

Perhaps the best example, he says, is Baldwin Street in downtown Toronto. Home to a concentrated cluster of bars, restaurants, and cafés that have taken advantage of wide sidewalks with long rows of patios, the stretch between McCaul and Beverley streets is surprisingly vibrant.

Baldwin Street is home to a concentrated cluster of bars, restaurants, and cafés that have taken advantage of wide sidewalks with long rows of patios.

This development, which resembles an outdoor mall, is a possible template for how Toronto and other cities go forward as the pandemic continues.

“That might be the most COVID-friendly street in the city: big sidewalks, places to spill out onto and a nice backdrop [of residential homes],” Prof. Rynnimeri says. “That’s what retail in a post-COVID world should look like.”

With health officials saying that virus transmission is less likely outdoors than indoors, many Canadian cities have adopted temporary measures to allow businesses to extend their operations onto streets. The problem, however, is that not many streets – or sidewalks specifically – are designed to handle such a shift, even in the short term.

Many Canadian cities have adopted temporary measures to allow businesses to extend their operations onto the streets.

Prof. Rynnimeri says that with COVID-19 likely persisting for some time, commercial real estate operators and developers are going to be forced to adapt to this reality. Projects that are currently under development may need to consider the role that sidewalk widths play, not just over the course of the pandemic, but also in the long-term prosperity of an area.

Wide sidewalks played a historic role in establishing downtown Toronto as a retail destination, he adds – particularly the section of Queen Street West between Spadina Avenue and McCaul, just a few blocks from the retail and restaurant cluster on Baldwin Street.

Queen Street started becoming a hub in the late 1970s after a host of discos opened up further north in Yorkville. Hipster crowds looking for an alternative migrated south where they found the Horseshoe Tavern, the Rivoli, the BamBoo, and other bars with their ample sidewalk patio spaces.

The crowds they drew eventually led to a variety of hip businesses such as clothing stores and record shops popping up, which established the area as some of the most valuable commercial real estate in the city.

“That was really the beginning of Queen Street as a place to go to,” Prof. Rynnimeri says. “It was about being able to spill out into the street.”

Michael Hannay, a principal with Toronto-based design firm MBTW Group, says businesses that have been situated on wide sidewalks have indeed traditionally benefited, especially in the case of restaurants and bars with patios.

But despite that, they’re all going to have to contend with the inevitability of worse weather.

“Come winter, the advantage of how wide your sidewalk is goes out the window,” he says. “Streetscape design isn’t going to be a factor at all because an enclosed, heated patio is indoor space. It’s not going to be a factor for much longer.”

Queen Street started becoming a hub in the late 1970s after a host of discos opened up further north in Yorkville.

Other urban design experts suggest that’s where innovation is needed.

A number of winter-prone countries and municipalities have experimented with various cold-fighting technologies over the past few years. The Netherlands, for example, has been building heated bike paths in its cities. Vancouver, meanwhile, created a system that drew heat from sewers to help warm the Olympic Village in 2010.

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“We do need to think creatively and be willing to experiment,” says Shauna Brail, associate professor at the Institute for Management and Innovation at the University of Toronto. “This is the push we didn’t know we needed.”

Prof. Brail points to work done by Toronto-based architecture firm Partisans for Google sister company Sidewalk Labs on “building raincoats,” unveiled last year, as an example of the innovation that cities will need more of, in part to keep commercial real estate alive.

The “raincoat” is essentially an awning consisting of hexagonal plastic panels that attach to the front of a building. Its purpose is twofold – to protect the building from the elements and to provide a sheltered space for outdoor activity, such as a patio.

A variety of hip businesses such as clothing stores and record shops established the Queen Street area as some of the most valuable commercial real estate in the city.

Alexander Josephson, an architect, and co-founder of Partisans, says the raincoats were experimental prototypes that may not end up being deployed because of intellectual property issues associated with Sidewalk Labs, which pulled out of Toronto earlier this year.

Nevertheless, he expects to see more of these types of experiments – on how to make streets more like malls, regardless of the weather – now that the pandemic is forcing a more liberal approach to city planning and how commercial real estate is used.

“It’s a watershed moment in the decolonization of Toronto streets,” he says, referring to historical, long-standing puritanism – especially as it pertains to alcohol regulation – in how city government views property. If there’s a bright side to the pandemic, it’s that novel ways of using streets and properties will now get more consideration.

“It took COVID and an economic crisis for us to let go,” he adds.

Importance Of Commercial Cleaning Services

As an employer, it’s important to take care of your company. This can be done by making sure that your employees are clean and free of diseases at all times. This can be done by ensuring that the office is cleaned and sanitized before they go to work every day.

However, commercial buildings are generally more difficult to maintain because of the amount of waste and debris that often needs to be cleared. One of the best ways for businesses to maintain a clean and hygienic environment within the building is by hiring commercial cleaning services, such as City Wide.

Here are the important benefits of hiring commercial cleaning services:

  • Ensure a hygienic workplace, reducing the possibility of a disease outbreak.
  • Professional commercial cleaners are trained and experienced in keeping the area clean and hygienic, ensuring that your employees are well-protected.
  • Build a good professional image for your clients and investors by having a clean and orderly commercial space.

In addition, here are a few tips that’ll help you find out whether the cleaning company that you’re planning to hire has done a good job or not.

  • First of all, look at the customer testimonials. If a company has many positive reviews, they probably provide good service. It’s always recommended to do a background check on a company before hiring them because if there are any legal issues, then you need to know about them as well.
  • You also need to make sure that they have all the licenses that they need to carry to do their job effectively. When looking for a company to do your cleaning, you should look at their history and check whether they have been in business for several years.
  • Another way to find out whether the company’s background checks are up to scratch is by checking whether the company offers a guarantee on their work.

 

 

 

Source: – The Globe and Mail

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Booming real estate market reaches rural N.S. – CBC.ca

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Realtors in rural Nova Scotia are adjusting quickly to a new way of selling houses as buyers from places like Ontario and B.C. snap up properties without seeing them in person.

Christopher Snarby, the co-owner of Exit Realty Inter Lake, sells properties from Chester to Queens County and estimates he’s sold 12-15 of them sight unseen since May.

“People have been desperate and they can’t get here to see it, and they know things are moving quickly so they just kind of have to make a choice,” Snarby told CBC’s Information Morning on Monday.

“And not everybody’s comfortable with it, but certainly I’ve had a number that have been.”

He admits selling a property virtually can be a challenge. 

“It’s hard to describe a smell or feel of a house, but it really does become our responsibility to try to convey as much information as we can,” Snarby said. 

October was a record-breaking month for property sales across the province with inventory low and prices continuing to soar, according to the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors.

Bobbi Maxwell said half of her buyers right now are from outside the province and won’t see their houses in person until they arrive. Most are middle-aged people who can work from home and are looking for a place to retire at some point.

“We’re starting to see more people … migrate this way because they want the solitude, the peace, the quiet, the safety and the beauty of the beaches,” said Maxwell, a realtor with Viewpoint Realty Services who sells properties around Barrington and Clyde River in Shelburne County.

“We’re not as hot as the metro [market], but it’s definitely been one crazy market for us as well.” 

Record October across N.S.

The Nova Scotia Association of Realtors compiled data for the month of October that shows 1,427 units were sold across the province, up more than 30 per cent from October 2019.

The average sale price was a record $304,590, rising just over 21 per cent from the previous October. 

In Yarmouth, there were 24 residential sales in October, up 41 per cent from last year and in the Annapolis Valley, 203 properties were sold, up 30 per cent since last October. The average sale price also went up in both areas last month. 

Christopher Snarby, co-owner Exit Realty Interlake, said people are moving to communities on the South Shore for the relative affordability, friendliness and proximity to the ocean. (Robert Short/CBC)

On the South Shore where Snarby works, sales in October were up about 30 per cent from last year and the average residential price was just over $291,000, an increase of 36 per cent over last October. 

The booming market is a major win for sellers but can be frustrating for buyers

“We’re not usually accustomed to that many bidding wars in our area, but now … most properties have gone into at least two or three offers and the time frames are a lot quicker as well,” Snarby said.

In the past, houses would sit on the market for six months to a year and now they’re gone in weeks or days, he added.

Rural internet still a challenge

Even though people are eager to move to Nova Scotia for its friendliness and relative affordability, Snarby and Maxwell said they are routinely asked about internet service.

“It’s really funny because people are more concerned about the internet than they are health-care services,” Maxwell said.

She said newcomers are good news for rural areas like Shelburne County that have struggled with out-migration. 

Bobbi Maxwell hopes the tide is turning for communities like Shelburne, which have seen an out-migration of residents in recent years. (Robert Short/CBC)

But she said there could be challenges, too. 

Many new buyers say they eventually want to build their own homes but finding skilled labour in the area isn’t always easy, she said. 

“I think we’re going to have a lot of growing pains because with the demand, we’re very short on tradesmen like plumbers and electricians and carpenters,” Maxwell said.

“I really am hoping that a lot of the people who are moving here from away are bringing in new skills or new motivation to want to … become career oriented or focused and become tradesmen in our area.”

Snarby said some of his clients are selling homes in the $800,000 range in Ontario and buying a property in rural Nova Scotia for around $200,000, leaving a healthy amount for their retirement fund.

 “And at the end of the day, if they’re not comfortable with their house or if it’s not quite the right one, they can put it back on the market and there’s a good chance it’ll sell,” Snarby said. 

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Pandemic-induced demand for more space pushing up cottage prices, real estate firm says – CBC.ca

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Home prices are increasing in Canada’s cottage country as more buyers look to move there full-time, according to a report released Monday by Royal LePage.

Prices of single-family recreational homes rose 11.5 per cent to an aggregate of $453,046 in the first nine months of the year, the real estate brokerage said.

The data from Royal LePage comes amid an overall uptick in home prices this year, after COVID-19 lockdowns stymied the spring buying season.

A rush of demand and a limited supply as the economy reopened this summer and fall meant that home prices were up 15.2 per cent last month in Canada compared to a year ago, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

Royal LePage chief executive Phil Soper says the number of cottages, cabins, chalets and farmhouses on the market have also dwindled amid the increased demand, at least through September.

“Inventory levels are the lowest I’ve seen in 15 years,” said Heather FitzGerald, a Royal LePage agent in Moncton, NB, in the report.

While local buyers have moved away from cities and closer to nature, FitzGerald also noted an increase in buyers from Ontario and Quebec.

Corey Huskilson, another Royal LePage agent quoted in the report and based in Halifax, said buyers from outside of the Maritimes, “who expect to be working remotely for the foreseeable future, are flocking to the area.”

Real estate agents in 54 per cent of regions told the brokerage that there was a significant increase in buyers looking to work remotely at a cottage as a primary residence.

Eric Leger, a Laurentians-based agent, said in the report that Quebec’s lockdown periods “sparked an urgent desire for many city dwellers, in need of more living space, to relocate to the suburbs and cottage country.”

Retirees a factor, too

Agents in other provinces noted similar trends, with one agent noting that Alberta-based buyers are competing with people across the country for properties in Canmore.

“Highway developments have reduced the drive from Saskatoon to 1.5 hours, which makes working remotely more possible for those who still have to go into the office a few days a week,” said broker Lou Doderai in the report.

The report says retirees have also bid up cottage prices, with agents in 68 per cent of regions saying more retirees are buying cottages this year compared to last year.

“Retiring baby boomers have been putting upward pressure on prices and reducing inventory for the last few years. Retirees are now finding themselves competing against remote workers,” said Bob Clarke, an agent in Ontario’s Muskoka region, in the report.

“The most common question used to be ‘is the property West-facing?’ Now my clients’ biggest concern is internet quality.”

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Booming real estate market reaches rural N.S. – CBC.ca

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Realtors in rural Nova Scotia are adjusting quickly to a new way of selling houses as buyers from places like Ontario and B.C. snap up properties without seeing them in person.

Christopher Snarby, the co-owner of Exit Realty Inter Lake, sells properties from Chester to Queens County and estimates he’s sold 12-15 of them sight unseen since May.

“People have been desperate and they can’t get here to see it, and they know things are moving quickly so they just kind of have to make a choice,” Snarby told CBC’s Information Morning on Monday.

“And not everybody’s comfortable with it, but certainly I’ve had a number that have been.”

He admits selling a property virtually can be a challenge. 

“It’s hard to describe a smell or feel of a house, but it really does become our responsibility to try to convey as much information as we can,” Snarby said. 

October was a record-breaking month for property sales across the province with inventory low and prices continuing to soar, according to the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors.

Bobbi Maxwell said half of her buyers right now are from outside the province and won’t see their houses in person until they arrive. Most are middle-aged people who can work from home and are looking for a place to retire at some point.

“We’re starting to see more people … migrate this way because they want the solitude, the peace, the quiet, the safety and the beauty of the beaches,” said Maxwell, a realtor with Viewpoint Realty Services who sells properties around Barrington and Clyde River in Shelburne County.

“We’re not as hot as the metro [market], but it’s definitely been one crazy market for us as well.” 

Record October across N.S.

The Nova Scotia Association of Realtors compiled data for the month of October that shows 1,427 units were sold across the province, up more than 30 per cent from October 2019.

The average sale price was a record $304,590, rising just over 21 per cent from the previous October. 

In Yarmouth, there were 24 residential sales in October, up 41 per cent from last year and in the Annapolis Valley, 203 properties were sold, up 30 per cent since last October. The average sale price also went up in both areas last month. 

Christopher Snarby, co-owner Exit Realty Interlake, said people are moving to communities on the South Shore for the relative affordability, friendliness and proximity to the ocean. (Robert Short/CBC)

On the South Shore where Snarby works, sales in October were up about 30 per cent from last year and the average residential price was just over $291,000, an increase of 36 per cent over last October. 

The booming market is a major win for sellers but can be frustrating for buyers

“We’re not usually accustomed to that many bidding wars in our area, but now … most properties have gone into at least two or three offers and the time frames are a lot quicker as well,” Snarby said.

In the past, houses would sit on the market for six months to a year and now they’re gone in weeks or days, he added.

Rural internet still a challenge

Even though people are eager to move to Nova Scotia for its friendliness and relative affordability, Snarby and Maxwell said they are routinely asked about internet service.

“It’s really funny because people are more concerned about the internet than they are health-care services,” Maxwell said.

She said newcomers are good news for rural areas like Shelburne County that have struggled with out-migration. 

Bobbi Maxwell hopes the tide is turning for communities like Shelburne, which have seen an out-migration of residents in recent years. (Robert Short/CBC)

But she said there could be challenges, too. 

Many new buyers say they eventually want to build their own homes but finding skilled labour in the area isn’t always easy, she said. 

“I think we’re going to have a lot of growing pains because with the demand, we’re very short on tradesmen like plumbers and electricians and carpenters,” Maxwell said.

“I really am hoping that a lot of the people who are moving here from away are bringing in new skills or new motivation to want to … become career oriented or focused and become tradesmen in our area.”

Snarby said some of his clients are selling homes in the $800,000 range in Ontario and buying a property in rural Nova Scotia for around $200,000, leaving a healthy amount for their retirement fund.

 “And at the end of the day, if they’re not comfortable with their house or if it’s not quite the right one, they can put it back on the market and there’s a good chance it’ll sell,” Snarby said. 

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