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Condominium Profile: The Claridges
Aging in (a Great) Place
By James Russell | Other articles by James Russell
AGING IN PLACE:
Definition: a person making a conscious decision to stay in the inhabitation of their choice for as long as they can
Back in the early 2000s, the developers of the Claridges envisioned it as an 'Aging in Place' condominium, a concept that was gaining prominence as the world took note of the growing proportion of senior citizens.
"When it originally opened it was (the demographic of residents) certainly what I would call 'senior seniors' and when I moved in eleven years ago it was still pretty much that. I think 70% were over 80," says Pamela Smith, a member of the board of directors (the "Board") for the past five years and President since January. It was because of the building's worldly-wise demographic that the contractor connected the Claridges, via a passageway, to their next-door neighbour, Amica Bayview Village, one of a chain of retirement residences owned by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. "The intention was that you could move into Amica when you needed more care. It hasn't happened an awful lot. I count about fifteen of our residents who have actually moved into Amica," says Gordon Proudler, one of the directors of the Claridges' Board. The Claridges' mature lifestyle designation continues to this day. "Over the years there have been a few families [with children] living in the building but right now I think there is only one child," says Pamela who adds, "and there have been a few occasions when they (owners) have rented to university students."
Located at 12 Rean Dr. in the Bayview Village community, the Claridges (TSCC # 1841), is nestled on the southwest corner of Rean and Thomas Clark Way, mere steps from the TTC and Bayview Village shopping centre. Mr. Clark was the farmer who once owned the huge swath of North York, from Bayview to Leslie, on which the Claridges sits.
Zohir Handy, a resident of the Claridges for seven years and one of the Board's directors for the past five says of his decision to move to the building, "It was largely the location and the fact that it is walking distance to the mall and the grocery store… and I think it was halfway between my sister's place and my son's place." Zohir was instrumental in founding the Bayview-Sheppard Neighbourhood Alliance (BSNA), a not-for-profit group that represents nine of the area's condominiums. The BSNA focuses on rezoning applications, bylaw and density enforcement and infrastructure matters, all with the aim of not only maintaining but improving the quality of life for residents and the Bayview Village neighbourhood.
"I've been in the building since day one, I think I was the third resident to move in. There were no carpets in the hallways," says Gordon who goes on to mention that it was two years from the time he put his name on the 'wish list' to purchase a unit to the building's completion. During that wait he created a website for other buyers and populated the site with photos and construction news. "I guess I've been a Claridges' man for fifteen years," Gordon says with a smile.
The Claridges' nine floor mid-rise contains one-hundred and twelve units consisting of one- and two-bedroom suites with dens and a single three-bedroom unit. "The smaller units weren't selling originally ….and so the building was altered to incorporate large suites which has caused us some problems I might add. You can't just move a wall without creating some plumbing, electrical and various other woes," says Gordon.
Residents of the Claridges not only enjoy exclusive use of their in-house lounge, library, outdoor garden, and patio but, through an agreement with Amica, residents may us their neighbor's indoor pool, theatre and fitness studio.
For a condominium where folks come to slowly ‘age in place’ there’s nothing leisurely about the residents at Claridges, their active Social Committee organises a number of weekly scheduled activities including bridge, rummy cube, mahjong, and scrabble. "Occasional activities include bus trips and speaker presentations which have included pain management, foot care, green bin recycling, and estate planning,” says Marion Wallace, who is on her second term on the Board and serves as the Social Committee’s liaison. Claridges’ weekly ‘Meet and Greet’, says Marion, “Are very, very well attended,” then adds with a hint of sadness, “It’s one of the things that the residents miss the most – that interaction” (since Covid). Their devoted ’Knit and Chat’ group of residents have knit and subsequently donated, over the past year, close to four hundred hats to charities such as the Rotary Club, Eva’s Place, Women’s Habitat of Etobicoke, and Out of the Cold. Residents often donate wool to the group.
Claridges’ five-member Board is made up of Pamela Smith, President; Ed Cartwright, Secretary; and Directors Zohir Handy, Gordon Proudler and Marion Wallace, who serves as the Social Committe's Chair. “Our board has always been really committed to working together, to getting things done. We may disagree on what needs to be done today or how it needs to be done but there’s no question of the commitment of this board,” says Pamela who adds, “There’s been a few heated discussions, but we’re pretty good that once a decision is made, whether or not it is unanimous, and most of our decisions are pretty unanimous, then that’s it.” Officially, the Board meets monthly, but ‘single purpose meetings’, to discuss an individual issue, occur frequently, although they typically last less than an hour.
In addition to The Clarion, the Claridges' impressive, ten-page, monthly newsletter, the Board and management communicate with residents via the building's six, cork notice boards and on occasion, employ door-to-door notices. "We're now looking into a board portal or building website. We have also talked about LED boards. We're really trying to step up the communication," says Pamela.
The Board is justifiably proud of their commitment to continuous learning as every member has not only completed the Condominium Authority of Ontario's (CAO) twenty-one module Director Training Program, but the group also participates in frequent webinars to ensure they are up to date on issues relating to the condominium world. One of the latest webinars dealt with electric car vehicles. "It's something a) you have to look at and b) what's the most efficient and cost-effective way of moving forward," says Pamela.
Not covered in any of their training courses however is how to resolve the administrative and financial challenges presented by their 'orphan' street. The Claridges' main entrance faces Thomas Clark Way, a street built fifteen years ago during construction but never 'assumed' by the City and only officially named two years ago. "We (the Claridges and its neighbours) have to share the cost of keeping Thomas Clark Way repaired and ploughed out in the winter," Pamela explains.
As with any fifteen-year-old building, maintenance is a constant budget line item. "We just finished waterproofing all of our balconies and doing any repairs that were needed….a three-year project. We are about to embark on a project regarding waterproofing in the garage. That will be a real challenge," says Pamela. And then there are the unexpected expenses. "Occasionally the City comes along and tells us that we have to do something whether we want to or not," says Gordon, "Two things I can think of: one is, after the Superior Propane explosion (July 2021 in Barrie) the City inspected some of the oil loading facilities (used by their emergency generator) and decided that they needed upgrading. That was a very expensive undertaking – double lines instead of a single line – double walled tanks and this type of thing. The other one I can think of is the back check valve – another expensive installation but mandated by the City to prevent contamination of our water supply."
Within the next year, the Board plans extensive refurbishments to the Claridges' interior which will include new carpeting and wall covers. "Enhancements and modernisation of our entry and security system," is also on their to-do list says Ed.
Since the Claridges was completed in 2007, the Board has experienced the typical turnover of managers and management companies but compounding the Board's interview process has been the Claridges' inability to provide their property managers with an office as neither the architect nor the builder incorporated a dedicated workspace into the Claridges design, an oversight the Board will correct during the upcoming renovations. "Our designer of choice has spent a lot of time and has done a design (that creates an office) that we are quite pleased with. Of course, the challenge moving ahead is that (building) the office cannot be carried by the reserve fund," says Pamela who is hopeful the Board can keep the office's construction cost under the 10% threshold.
To help minimise the amount of waste sent to landfill, the designers of the Claridges incorporated tri-sorters on every floor. Additionally, the Board and management provide residents with reusable bags to transport their recycling downstairs to the building's recycling room. The Board has also appointed a resident who acts as their 3R Ambassador, a City of Toronto program that engages volunteers in apartments, condominiums, and co-ops to help promote the vitally important 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle).
In William Shakespeare's the Tempest, Act 2, Gonzalo, the honest and trusted advisor to King Alonso, proclaims, "I would with such perfection govern, sir, to excel the golden age." Mr. Shakespeare could well have been speaking about the good governance practiced by the Claridges' Board and the commitment they have made to ensuring their 'golden' resident's comfort while 'aging in place'.