“I come from a real estate family, I’d definitely say real estate is in my blood,” says Zev Mandelbaum, the COO of Marlin Spring Developments. It’s not an embellishment — the family has been involved in the industry for over 60 years, founding new businesses and amassing more assets with each generation.
Here’s a quick rundown: In 1952, Zev’s grandfather started H&R Developments, which quickly became one of the largest home builders in the GTA. His four sons each inherited a part of the business, establishing companies in their own right, including Davpart Inc., H&R REIT, Lindvest and Lanterra Developments. Zev Mandelbaum, along with his two brothers-in-law, eventually left Lanterra to create their own company, known as Marlin Spring Developments.
Marlin Spring’s ever-growing portfolio includes The Mack, West Beach Condos and two parcels of land in Markham that will be developed into townhome and single-family home communities. Their latest project, Canvas Condominiums, is generating a lot of buzz in Danforth Village. The eight-storey building designed by Graziani & Corazza will feature one- and two-bedroom suites, priced from the mid-$200,000s.
BuzzBuzzHome caught up with Zev to learn more about Canvas, his role in the family business and the future of Marlin Spring Developments.
BuzzBuzzNews: You are a third generation real estate developer. Could you tell us a bit about your family’s history within the industry?
Zev Mandelbaum: For the last 60 years our family has been heavily involved in real estate within the GTA. My grandfather started a company after coming out of Auschwitz and moving to Toronto, called H&R Developments. It became one of the leading developers in Toronto, with a slew of projects ranging from commercial, to residential, to industrial.
Over the years, my father and three uncles transitioned into taking over parts of H&R. David Hofstedter took over industrial, which became Davpart Inc., and it’s one of the largest industrial managers in Toronto. Tom Hofstedter founded the commercial aspect of the company, H&R Reit. He’s the CEO of what is now the second largest REIT in Canada, with a market cap of $6.2 billion and about $17 billion in assets. George Hofstedter took the lowrise part of the company and turned it into Lindvest Homes, which builds all over the GTA. My father, Mark Mandelbaum, took the high-rise arm, along with his partner Barry Fenton, and created Lanterra Developments. It’s one of the most prominent condo builders in the city, building well over 1,500 condos every year, with around 15,000 condos in total.
My brothers-in-law [Benjamin Bakst and Elliot Kazarnovsky] and I previously worked for Lanterra. We were advised to create our own company, and together we started Marlin Spring, which stands for Mark and Lindy Offspring — the names of my parents. We all have different roles in the company. Benjamin is our CEO, Elliot is the CFO and I am the COO.
BBN: What business lessons did you learn from your father and grandfather?
ZM: My father and grandfather were very focused on integrity. It wasn’t about getting every last dollar off the table, it was about having integrity. Being an honest, good developer. They were known as people who could deliver good, sound, sustainable products. You could trust them.
BBN: Has your heart always been set on real estate, or did you ever consider doing something else?
ZM: I actually went to school for finance, and graduated with a finance degree. My original idea was to go into finance and do wealth management. I started working in wealth management originally, but I then realized that my heart was in real estate. Since I was a child, I have been going to job sites and taking part in meetings with my father. I really am built for real estate development.
BBN: What did you do prior to co-founding Marlin Spring?
ZM: I was part of Lanterra Developments, charged primarily with the retail division and growing Lanterra’s commercial [assets]. I was doing AAA leases for all of Lanterra’s commercial, as well as developing further commercial. I was also very involved in the building and acquisition side, working closely with my father, as I still do today.
ZM: The retail we were doing was primarily focused on street level retail in condo buildings, so we were already involved in the condo industry. For me, going from retail to residential was marrying the two worlds. Eventually, I became very into layouts, building design, condominium practices and how corporations work. Next thing I knew I said, ‘You know what, I really want to move to the residential side and develop buildings, and create a division for the future.’
BBN: What sets Marlin Spring apart from other GTA developers?
ZM: Marlin Spring is not a new company. Our name is new, but we’ve been around for 60 years by way of our family, our background and our experience. We have resources that are vast, access to industry leaders and top consultants — all because we are part of this big conglomerate of real estate development.
We’ve learned from our mistakes, we’ve had access to seeing those mistakes that came before us, and are now able to come out with a product that is truly complete. We’ve witnessed many, many years of real estate development and numerous projects from start to finish.
We are also young, energetic and design-forward. We like to create projects in areas of the GTA where we see lots of room for growth.
BBN: Your latest project, Canvas Condominiums, is located on Danforth Avenue. What makes this neighbourhood a worthwhile investment?
ZM: I first started looking for properties in the area because I was truly enamoured by the east end of Toronto. It delivers something that no other part of Toronto has, which is tremendous access to transit and retail. The people who live there are very hip, and it’s a family-friendly environment. When I was looking around, I saw street art, coffee shops, boutiques — and I realized that this is the next up-and-coming neighbourhood. Wherever you are on the Danforth, you can hop on the subway and be downtown in ten minutes. Or, you can take the GO Train to access all corners of the GTA.
There’s so much that the Danforth, Greektown and the Beach have to offer — and Canvas residents will be well located. With amenities, retail, neighbourhood festivals and easy access to downtown, it’s one of the best places to live in the city.
BBN: What type of layouts will be available at Canvas Condominiums?
ZM: Canvas Condominiums has something that other projects don’t have, which is 285 feet of frontage along Danforth. With most projects along the Danforth, they become narrow, deep units, as opposed to wide, shallow units. Our layouts are wide/shallow and feature lots of sunlight, as well as views of downtown and Lake Ontario. There are patios on most of the floors, which provide optimal unit layouts and exposure.
ZM: We have a yoga studio, fitness centre, party room and a chef’s kitchen with a dining room. There’s also a rooftop patio, which features a barbecue area, fireplace lounge, bocce court and a sun deck. You put all these amenities in one building and you really have everything you need.
BBN: What has the response to the project been like so far?
ZM: So far the response has been tremendous! We’ve had over 1,000 registrants in a short time, even before we released the renderings.
If you look at year-over-year sales prices for the east end, they’re as high as anywhere. You can’t even get a semi-detached today for a decent price. It’s a smart place to invest and has potential for high growth. There are zoning laws in place that will never allow for tall buildings, so there will never be a tower there to take away your value. It’s mostly low to mid-rise condominiums that are going up. To be able to get in at the price point we’re offering is very rare in Toronto, especially with the retail, transit and access to the amenities that we have. Canvas Condominiums is not just the best place to invest, but also the best place to live.
BBN: Any sales updates to report?
ZM: We have not officially launched yet, but we’re planning on starting sales in September. We’re in the middle of constructing the sales office right now, but everything is on schedule.
BBN: What’s next for the company? Any other projects in the pipeline for 2016/2017?
ZM: We have quite a few things, actually. We have West Beach Condos coming soon at Queen Street East between Coxwell and Woodbine Avenues. It’s also in the east end, on the 501 streetcar line and right near the Beach and Woodbine Park. We have about 92 units coming to the market, most likely in November. In addition to that, we have a luxury townhouse project coming to Markham this year with 150 units. Once we get to 2017 we’ll tell you all about the exciting projects lined up for that year [laughs].