Inside design: Brad Lamb
Toronto real estate expert Brad Lamb, of Brad J. Lamb Realty, has sold
more than 14,500 condominiums worth $3.5 billion over the past 20 years. His show, Big City Broker (HGTV), has exposed millions to the underbelly of condo and loft sales and development in urban centres. Here, he shares
his insights on the future of Canadian cities.
Style at Home: You’ve said that if we want Canadian cities to be world class, we have to get over our disdain for density – which comes naturally to us in a country with such vast unpopulated areas.
Brad Lamb: If we want Canadian cities to compete with New York, Tokyo and London, they’ll have to grow. But they have to grow up, not out. If you look at how people live in major European cities – Paris, Prague, Rome, London – you’ll see that they live in apartments, not houses. That’s where we’re heading. There’s an expectation – and it’s a governmental one – for Toronto to become a city of seven million, and that’s just one Canadian city. In order to do that, we need unabated growth. But where will all those people go? We can’t sprawl anymore.
S@H: Why, theoretically, can’t we continue to sprawl, building out, away from the city core?
BL: People move out of cities so they can have more space. Yet a suburban home sits on the same real estate that a high-rise condo could sit on, so the resources for 150 families are being used by one. Then, consider the water being consumed to water the lawn, the pollution being created to mow that lawn, the emissions of all those cars carrying people to jobs in the city. The future of mankind – and the planet – belongs in cities where we can get rid of cars, walk everywhere and live on top of each other to conserve resources.
S@H: What do you think is standing in the way of that vision?
BL: When I moved [to my current office on] Toronto’s King Street West five years ago, it was a ghost town. We saw the potential for a neighbourhood. In the past four years, several thousand homes have been built. You can’t build homes for thousands in an urban area unless you go up. But Toronto is still a low-rise, sprawling city, and the biggest problem is the inability of its citizenry to understand density. They’re so afraid of it. People get stuck. The bylaws may say six floors – why go to 10 floors? There’s an economic requirement to build 10 floors; we have to go up. If we’re going to succeed, we have to look beyond our fears.
S@H: So describe the Canadian city of the future.
BL: In five or six years – and we’ve only got five years until all the land runs out – our major cities will be like Tokyo or New York. As for the look, well, I hope it will be a mix of historic buildings and new, modern façades. People who don’t understand modernism want history; they want us to build something that looks 200 years old. Good architects want to build in the style of their time, which is modern. You can’t ask talented architects to copy. We need to let them express themselves; that’s the only way we’ll get something fresh and exciting.
We asked Toronto condo king Brad Lamb for his key dos and don’ts of new-condo purchasing.
DO try to specify where you’d like electrical outlets to be, as well as junction boxes. “Lighting plans are sometimes flexible. Request where you want them to be located, but be prepared to be turned down,” Brad says.
DON’T expect to change floor plans. “Builders have to create vertical stacks for gas and plumbing, so each floor has to be identical,” says Brad. “Besides,” he adds, “some of the most talented designers in the country have created those floor plans, so most of the time you can bet that they’re pretty efficient.”
DO keep in mind that builders move people onto floors as they’re completed. Until the top floors are finished, you may be living for some time in a construction site.