amit bhandari interviewing brian brown for liberty market towers

Liberty Market Tower – The Best Location in Liberty Village

Liberty Market Tower is launching to Platinum Brokers in late February and is a very exciting new condominium project.

Liberty Market Tower Aerial

Centrally located in Liberty Village and steps to the Liberty Market – Liberty Market Tower is steps to everything that makes Liberty Village one of the best neighbourhoods in Toronto.

Liberty Market Tower Rendering

We have been fortunate enough to interview Brian Brown numerous times in the past (for incredible sold out projects such as Panda Condos and XO Condos) and he continues to share amazing insights that help shape Lifetime Developments as one of the absolute best developers in Toronto.

In the video we discuss:

  • The importance of buying from a reputable developer
  • Lifetime Developments future outlook and their world class pipeline makes their future continue to shine bright
  • Brian discusses being the first developer to see a vision in Liberty Village with the launch of Liberty Market over 15 years ago
  • The growth of Liberty Village and the transition it has taken since they begun here
  • The explosive amount of tech jobs within Liberty Village and the positive impact that it has had on real estate values and rents in the area
  • The continued growth and demand of the neighbourhood
  • What makes Liberty Market Towers stand out from the other condominiums in the neighbourhood
  • The collaboration with a local artist to create unique designs through the building
  • The world class views including unobstructed views of Lake Ontario
  • How to get the red carpet treatment and Platinum Access with TalkCondo

Liberty Market Tower – Interview with Brian Brown

Liberty Market Tower – Transcript

Amit Bhandari: Hey there. This is Amit Bhandari of talkcondo.com and today we are with Brian Brown, who is the principal of Lifetime Developments to talk about an incredible new development in Liberty Village called Liberty Market Tower. Brian, thank you so much.

Liberty Market Tower Logo

Brian Brown: Thank you. Nice to see you guys.

Amit Bhandari: Nice to see you as well. So, Brian, there’s a lot to talk about because there’s so many layers of this development. So, what I’m going to do is I’m going to do bullet points as to what I want to talk about. So first off, I want to talk about Lifetime.

Brian Brown: Okay.

Amit Bhandari: Then I want to talk about Liberty Village as a whole and then I want to drill it down a little bit further into the Liberty Market community.

Brian Brown: Sounds good.

Amit Bhandari: And then I want to talk about the building itself.

Brian Brown: Okay.

Amit Bhandari: Wonderful. So, jumping right in. Lifetime Developments. So, in this current climate, it’s incredibly important and this is something that we’ve said multiple times across multiple interviews and we’ve said it multiple times as well, we’ve discussed that buying from a reputable developer is incredibly important, especially with what’s happened in recent times with regards to other developments, but it’s very important to buy from a reputable builder. A company that’s developed for many, many years, has strong, strong developments currently in existence, some of which are in the top 30, 20, 10 buildings in terms of performance across the city.

Amit Bhandari: So, I just wanted to get your take on Lifetime Developments and why that is. And the whole story behind.

Brian Brown: Lifetime’s been around for over 40 years. We’ve been focused on the downtown core for close to 20 years. So, as far as the condo boom in the downtown core, we were there from very close to the beginning of that transformation. Over the last 20 years, we’ve been involved in over 15 different projects. And what’s even more important is that when you look at what we’ve developed already and what we have in our pipeline going forward, the future’s quite bright.

Brian Brown: There’s a lot going on and a lot in the pipeline.

Amit Bhandari: Amazing. So, next thing I wanted to talk about is Liberty Village. Liberty Village is somewhere where Lifetime is very close to.

Brian Brown: Yeah, it’s almost a second home, especially for me because 15 years ago when we first acquired this property-

Amit Bhandari: Where the story began?

Brian Brown: Where the story began. It was a complete transformation. And when you look at the way that the community is today and the vibrancy and the activity, 15 years ago, it was really a very different neighborhood. East Liberty Street actually wasn’t a street yet. It was just a dirt road and it dead-ended before it hit Strachan. So, even our building, Liberty Market Building, which was the first building that we bought, it’s a commercial building. It was used for warehousing purposes and it-

Amit Bhandari: As were a lot of other buildings there, right? It was all [crosstalk 00:03:07].

Brian Brown: Yeah. It was originally built in the 1940s so it’s a beautiful building. It was in neglect at the time, but it was a beautiful building that we managed to restore and then converted it into a very attractive commercial property. So, it went from large spaces with very few employees to now close to a hundred different tenants in the building and many hundred people coming and going through the building.

Amit Bhandari: I want to pause on that because what I want to do is I want to sort of break down Liberty Village because of its importance. Not just from within the surrounding years but from the city as a whole. It’s a very important little hub and it’s known for its live-work-play sort of vibe that you get and the things that you can do. I want to put a hold on live obviously for now, but I want to focus on the work aspects because Liberty Village is home to some very large institutions, some very large companies.

Amit Bhandari: Uber have an incredible help center there. Uber. Softchoice is located there.

Brian Brown: Live Nation.

Amit Bhandari: Live Nation. You have Universal Music Canada that are building an entirely new headquarters with state of the art facilities. So, where do you see Liberty Village going from here? I mean, in terms of-

Brian Brown: Again, when you look back at where it was and where it’s going, it’s night and day. I mean, we started off with a lot of startup companies, a lot of tenants that wanted very small spaces, and it’s really changed over the last I’d say five years is where we’ve noticed the biggest transformation.

Amit Bhandari: And the tech boom as well, right? It’s in conjunction.

Brian Brown: It’s the tech boom. It was the growth of the internet and a lot of the creative agencies, whether it be graphic design or interior design or even marketing and advertising. A lot of those types of companies were looking for these kinds of spaces where they could get 12-foot ceilings and they could get concrete floors and the factory windows.

Brian Brown: They wanted a place that spoke to who they were and had the character and coolness that they wanted to attract and that’s what Liberty Market building was. It was a tremendously successful commercial property. When we launched it and started the renovations, we gutted the whole building, we restored the floors, we polished all the concrete. The building was painted with cream paint and aluminum siding, so we got rid of all that and brought it back to its former glory.

Brian Brown: It was originally built as a munitions factory back in the 1940s and when you walk along the property, you’ll actually see some of the railroad tracks that was used to bring the materials into the building to build the brand gun and other munitions at the time. So, we’ve tried to find a nice balance between keeping the heritage feel of the building, but at the same time bringing in the modern amenities and services and making sure that it was attractive to today’s commercial tenants.

Brian Brown: It doesn’t matter if you’re a creative agency or if you’re a law firm, we have everything in the building.

Amit Bhandari: I was just going to say, because it’s not just Liberty Village as a whole, and Liberty Market Building is not chock-full of very large companies, but there are independent companies like lawyers. There’s a lot of lawyers. There is a lot of accountancy firms there as well. The reason why I wanted to bring this up and it’s such an important factor is because, from an investment standpoint, you want to be in a neighborhood where there is this big tenant pool and Liberty Village as a whole and then you narrow it down further into Liberty Market Building, it has a lot of that tenant pool.

Brian Brown: The most successful projects that we feel are ones that are where you have that integration of all the different uses.

Amit Bhandari: Yes.

Brian Brown: If you have a neighborhood that’s just pure residential, then there’s nowhere to go to at night. So, you need that balance between the live, the work, and the play, something that we’ve been very focused on trying to make sure that our six-acre complex was going to be able to provide. It’s been a phase development. We’re at the final phase today, which is very exciting for us.

Amit Bhandari: And a little bit of sadness as well.

Brian Brown: Well, a little bit of sadness because we’re still trying to find the next thing in Liberty Village because it’s such a great neighborhood.

Amit Bhandari: But it’s so rare too. Not many new developments tend to come in Liberty Village anymore.

Brian Brown: Liberty Village, especially the area that we’re in, which is the area East of Hanna Avenue, was primarily a master plan community. It was a brownfield that was worked on by the city for years and Liberty Market Building happens to be outside of that master plan. And so what’s interesting is that the master plan has been completed. Liberty Market building, we’re in our final phase. So, really there’s very few opportunities to in the future buy residential in Liberty Village. This will be definitely one of the last residential buildings.

Amit Bhandari: Yeah, if not the last.

Brian Brown: If not the last.

Amit Bhandari: So, we’ve talked about the work aspect and the huge tenant pool. I want to talk about something you’ve very briefly touched on in terms of a nightlife, the play aspect, because it’s the play aspect that ultimately draws people in droves, especially to Liberty Village on certain days as well. Let’s say a TFC game is on. But the play aspect in the neighborhood is phenomenal.

Amit Bhandari: I mean, it’s known for its restaurant scene. It’s known for its bar scene. It’s known for the public space, TFC games. If you could just touch on that aspect as well.

Brian Brown: So, when the TFC games get out, our building is kind of a hub.

Amit Bhandari: Well it’s in the center of Liberty Village, right?

Brian Brown: We’re in the center of the employment. So, where the employment is West of Hanna Avenue, all the residential is East, we’re right at that borderline. So, everyone kind of gravitates towards the center and we’ve got multiple restaurants, whether it’s sushi or a pub. We’ve got pretty much everything at our building or even the more healthy restaurants like Garden Gangster and others. We have fitness at the building. So an F 45. We have a dentist, we have a physio clinic. So, looking at the retail, looking at that component and that’s where people are looking for the play.

Brian Brown: We’ve got about 150,000 square feet on our complex alone, which provides for all the amenities that you need. So, when you’re looking at Liberty Market Tower, you’re not just looking at the amenities that come with the floors within the building, it’s everything that comes on the complex.

Amit Bhandari: And it’s not just the complex, but it’s the neighborhood as a whole as well because the neighborhood is ultimately an extension of the amenities, the public space and whatnot.

Brian Brown: We’ve got some of the best restaurants in the neighborhood. We’ve got some fantastic ones on our property too, but walking within the neighborhood … it’s really a walkable neighborhood and that’s a very key element. So, whether you want to stay in Liberty Village or you want to go to Exhibition Place, which is five minutes away, or you want to walk up to King Street or Queen Street, it’s right there.

Brian Brown: And transit wise-

Amit Bhandari: Oh, I was just going to touch on that. Accessibility is going to be the next thing.

Brian Brown: You’ve got the go station at Exhibition Place.

Amit Bhandari: Literally there.

Brian Brown: Like five minutes. It’s the easiest thing to get to, which is also important for those people that want to live in Liberty Village but may be going elsewhere for employment but also for employment purposes, bringing people from outside, from the suburbs, into the core. It’s an important part of why Liberty Village has been a very attractive location for head offices. You’ve got the TTC along King Street, you’ve got TTC running along East Liberty Street, so there’s an actual stop immediately in front of our building. Again, if you just want to drive, you’ve got the Gardiner Expressway right there too. So, it’s got all the connections that you could possibly hope for.

Amit Bhandari: It’s a perfect mix. And this is why we are very excited because it’s not very often you come across a development that itself is a mini-community and it has all these different live-work-play aspects. But then the greater community itself is known for live-work-play as well. And the cherry on top is the accessibility portion. And why that’s so important from say an investment standpoint is you need to be able to invest in a building where, or a location where, people want to live there and people are drawn to there for whatever reason it be. Be it the live, be it the work aspect, or be it the play aspect. And I think that checks all the boxes. This location checks all those boxes. So, I wanted to talk about the community again because you had mentioned that it’s a 15, 16-year-old story. Liberty Market building. Commercial building.

Amit Bhandari: You went with commercial first, which is really interesting.

Brian Brown: We did. Yeah. At the time it was a warehouse so it was commercial usage, but we spent a great deal of time talking to the city and trying to convert the ground floor to retail use permissions. The second phase of the project was Liberty Market Lofts, which were live-work units. So, again, still having that work side of things. But those were 17-foot ceiling lofts, which allowed people to have their offices on the main floor and their living quarters on the second floor. And again, it was a very successful project and now we see a lot of condos because of how people are changing the way that they live and work. They’re now putting business centers in the amenities of those buildings. Liberty Lofts had actual meeting rooms that we put on the ground floors. It was really very-

Amit Bhandari: You were some of the first ones as well. You didn’t really hear about that. But nowadays it’s like one of the main-

Brian Brown: It’s more commonplace for sure. And then you look at the amenities that we’re bringing into Liberty Market Tower. We’ll still have a business center and we’ll still have a fantastic fitness club and an amazing lounge. And Anthony, whose gallery we’re in today, we’ve commissioned him to do all of the art that’s going to go through the amenities space. So, whether it’s in the lobby or on the eighth floor, you’ll see his art throughout.

Amit Bhandari: Oh, I was going to say there is a reason why we’re sitting on really funky chairs and some amazing paintings because he is being commissioned to do that, which is incredible. It’s amazing to see all the tie-in that you’ve done because this kind of stuff and the design of the building as well, it harks back to an older time period. You are staying with the heritage design. It’s like a perfect mix, perfect blend of live-work-play, but then there’s the great art scene in Liberty Village as well. So, you’re tying everything nicely in this really cool package.

Amit Bhandari: One other important thing that I wanted to touch on was the building itself is going to have its own amenities. And you touched on this earlier, but you will have access to Liberty Market building because I believe there is a direct connection between the two. If you could explain that to us as well.

Brian Brown: So, the building is a 28-story building with 281 residential suites, but that starts on the eighth floor and goes up to the 28th floor. So, below the eighth floor is new office and also new retail. One of the important things about the office is actually that we’ve leased two floors to WeWork and that shows you the growth and the interest that people have in opening their businesses within Liberty Village. So, WeWork is there for whether you’re a small group, you just want like a phone booth with a phone and an address or if you want a bigger space, they’re really catering to that group.

Amit Bhandari: It’s incredible.

Brian Brown: It’s a big symbol. It’s a big sign about the employment in the neighborhood.

Amit Bhandari: Yeah. I mean, it all ties in nicely because Liberty Village is known to house a lot of these top companies that we touched on earlier in the interview. But just to say that this demand is continuing and then you’re building eight stories worth of new commercial space, that the tenant pool is just going to be going to grow even further.

Brian Brown: Like I said earlier, the most successful buildings that we find that we’re involved with are the mixed-use ones. So, when you look at our developments, you’re going to see a lot of them will have commercial at the base or even commercial parking. So, commercial parking is something that is very lacking in the neighborhood. We’re providing 200 plus commercial parking spaces.

Amit Bhandari: The building is also directly connected to Liberty Market building as well. Like the commercial building?

Brian Brown: It is. Yep. So, when you look at the complex as a whole, it’s six acres, which is a substantial property within the downtown core. It’s three buildings. So, you’ve got the commercial building, Liberty Market building, you’ve got the live-work building, Liberty Market Lofts, and now you’ve got the live-work-play building, Liberty Market Tower.

Amit Bhandari: Incredible.

Brian Brown: And that total is about 900,000 square feet of mixed use.

Amit Bhandari: So, why don’t we talk about the building now?

Brian Brown: Okay.

Amit Bhandari: So, one thing I noticed straight away and you briefly talked about this before the interview is how there is a very distinct design in Liberty Village. We talked about it multiple times. How it harks back to some old-time, 1900s, 1930s, old industry. And you see still see elements of that. There’s that big chimney between the Liberty Market Tower and Liberty Market building, which is-

Brian Brown: Our boiler house building.

Amit Bhandari: Right. And I love the fact that you’re continuing this design element into this building as well. So, if you could talk about the building specifically now, you mentioned 281 units, 28 stories. Begins at eighth floor and goes up. But what kind of suite mix are we looking at? What kind of amenities specifically are we looking at?

Brian Brown: Sure. So, when you look at the demographic in Liberty Village, it’s changed over the last 10 years. So, whereas 10 years ago it was primarily one-bedroom units, today a lot of those people that bought those one-bedroom units are now looking for two-bedroom units.

Amit Bhandari: They’re staying as well.

Brian Brown: Yeah. Because it’s such an attractive neighborhood and it gives you everything. So, whether it be they’re having their first child and they need a second bedroom or they just want a bigger space because they love the area and want to stay, that’s what we’re seeing from a demographic standpoint. Also, age range is very different. So, it used to be very young. But now with the more established businesses that you’re getting a much broader base of people that are wanting to live here, which is important from a rental standpoint.

Brian Brown: So, your pool of renters is much greater than it used to be.

Amit Bhandari: It’s diverse as well now.

Brian Brown: And way more diverse. So, for that reason, we do have some bachelor units. There’s a few of them within the building, but we also have one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom units. So, we’re really catered to a broad group, even families within the building. From a money standpoint, we really focused on that factor. So, one thing that we are very conscious of is that when people buy in a building, they really start to now pay a lot of attention to the amenities because they don’t think of their suite as just their suite. They think of their building as their home. And that’s what’s really changed over the last five years. And so when you walk into the lobby, it’s got to be a reflection of who you are and you have to be proud of it and you want people to have that experience when they come to visit you.

Brian Brown: It’s becoming harder and harder for people to entertain bigger groups in their suites. So, the amenity space is really an extension of their social area. So, whether you’re meeting somebody in the building or you’re bringing your friends to meet you at the building, you want to have those kinds of spaces. You want to have the outdoor barbecue. You want to have the lounge to hang out and watch large screen TVs. You want to have a fantastic fitness facility because it’s the lifestyle that you’re looking for within a building.

Amit Bhandari: Views.

Brian Brown: Views are going to be spectacular. That’s one thing. When you have the opportunity to elevate where the first unit is to the eighth floor and we know what’s South of us is just a two-story building, so on the eighth floor looking South, you’re going to see all of Exhibition Place, which at night lights up and it’s like one of the best parts of the city and then beyond is Lake Ontario. So, you’re on the lakeshore. I mean, it’s an opportunity to get a downtown residential suite in a location that really, there’s few opportunities.

Amit Bhandari: Yeah. I mean, even the North views, in my opinion, will be pretty spectacular.

Brian Brown: Me personally, I love North views because you see the city. You see the vibrancy of the whole neighborhood. It’s not totally low rise and homes.

Amit Bhandari: It’s very happening. It’s a very happening neighborhood.

Brian Brown: You see some incredible buildings to look at. And so the view, whether it’s North or South or even to the East or West, to the East, you’re going to see the same Tower. To the West, you see the rest of the city and more lake as well. So, it’s great.

Amit Bhandari: Incredible. So, we spoke about Lifetime, such a prominent developer now. Some world-class buildings in downtown Toronto.

Amit Bhandari: We spoke about how Lifetime has the experience building within this neighborhood going back 16 years now. This is going to be the third and final piece of the puzzle for that community. We spoke about Liberty Village as a whole, being a hotspot, not just for residential, but work, play. It’s home to some big, big corporations. And then we spoke about Liberty Market, the community. First time round you went commercial. You built out the whole commercial building with retail and corporations that are calling it home and then the second phase was Liberty Market lofts. And then the final piece to the puzzle is the condominium building we’re here to talk about today, Liberty Market Towers. Everything is tied in together with that whole live-work-play. And then you’ve got this incredible artist who’s going to be filling the amenity spaces and the public spaces with his amazing work.

Amit Bhandari: Is there anything I missed?

Brian Brown: I think we talked about quite a bit.

Amit Bhandari: Everything. Like the accessibility as well.

Brian Brown: One thing that’s very important to note is that Lifetime, the way that we operate is that we’ve got a very strong core group of brokers and agents that we’ve developed a very strong relationship with. And you obviously are one of those key people and access for your clients is what the benefits are from that.

Amit Bhandari: I was going to ask, if we have anybody that’s interested, what would they need to do?

Brian Brown: The best thing to do is to stay in touch with you.

Amit Bhandari: Awesome.

Brian Brown: Because you’ll be getting the information first from us.

Amit Bhandari: Really looking forward to it.

Brian Brown: Thank you.

Amit Bhandari: Thanks, Brian.

Brian Brown: Always great to talk to you. Thanks.