In 2015, Toronto Life magazine dubbed him one of the top 50 most influential people in Toronto. At the time, developer Sam Mizrahi of Mizrahi Developments had just finalized plans to build The One (named after its address at One Bloor West), an 80-storey skyscraper that will be second in height only to the CN Tower.
Now Mizrahi is bringing his big ideas to Ottawa with 1451 Wellington West, a 12-storey condo project at Wellington and Island Park that has been five years in the making. The building has been through a couple of design incarnations, resulting in the Ontario Municipal Board granting “landmark” architecture status to the distinctive copper-topped condo.
Sam Mizrahi flew into Ottawa on Friday, just in time to open the $1.5-million sales gallery designed to show potential buyers the quality they can expect at the ultra-posh location. The gallery, which includes a living room, library, study, kitchen, and powder room, showcases the finishings and attention to detail Mizrahi hopes will woo luxury aficionados.
Ottawa Magazine caught up with Sam Mizrahi for a quick interview and tour of the gallery, which is now open to the public.
The Mizrahi name is well known in Toronto, but I hear you have an Ottawa connection.
I do. My wife was born and raised in Nepean. We’ve been married for 13 years and we travel here a lot to see my inlaws and family. So I saw this corner [at Wellington and Island Park] and saw that there was an opportunity to develop a really timeless building here — one that was very different to what I had seen here in the past.
So you immediately knew that you wanted to build something different?
We wanted to build something that was a landmark, a flagship. Something that was going to create timeless architecture on a very important corner in the city.
Island Park Drive is a very important road for so many reasons historically — it’s a key artery. And I also looked at Westboro and Wellington and this whole community, and saw how you could walk to the stores, to cafes, to restaurants, to the park. It’s a residential neighbourhood that gives you all of the amenities of an urban spot.
When did you put the wheels in motion?
It was five years ago or so that we bought the corner and collaborated with the community and began getting all of the approvals and permits from the city. You have to be a patient person. But now that we’re at this stage, we’re very proud of the building.
Tell me about presentation gallery. The press releases say you spent $1.5 million to build this ‘home’ so people could truly get a feel for how the spaces will look and the quality of the finishings.
We built the presentation gallery to give a real feel for what the actual building is going to look like. Everything you see here — the baseboards, the moldings, the trim carpentry, the flooring — is actually what will be in the building. So you can see it and say ‘this is it!’
I hear you have a waiting list of 200 buyers for the 95 units in the building. Why do you think interest is so high?
I think it’s a combination of a lot of different factors and ingredients that make this so attractive. The location speaks volumes; the architecture speaks volumes. It’s also about being able to customize your home, which is something that is normally not done in the condominium market.
What does that mean? Customization?
Anything you want. You have a magic wand. You can move any room to be wherever you want. You’re basically custom designing your home to your specifications without any limits. The designer will work with you to choose the finishes, the colours, the materials. It’s a custom home with five-star amenities. It’s like living in a five-star boutique hotel, except it’s your own home.
In an interview with Toronto Life magazine a couple of years ago, you admitted to being somewhat of a micromanager. What do you mean by that?
I pay attention to every single detail on every project. I’m here often. I micromanaged this building and the customized finishings.
You flew in just a day or so ahead of the grand opening. What do you think?
I love it. I’m very proud of it. Of course I have a whole list of details that I want work on before I go.
What do you want people to be saying about 1451 Wellington West in 20 or 30 years?
Wow! I want them to say ‘wow’. It’s timeless. What we’re looking for is a building that stands the test of time. So it will be as relevant 20 years from now as it is when it’s first built. I want it to be seen as relevant even if it was built 20 years ago. People always look to the future, but I want this building to be truly timeless — if a building is truly timeless, the ‘test of time’ doesn’t apply.
So when people see it, they don’t know if it was built 50 years ago or yesterday.
Exactly. Look at Paris and when the buildings were built and how relevant they remain today. And they’ll still be relevant 100 years from now. So we’re looking to build things that are relevant today, yesteryear, and tomorrow. They have a classic design. And that’s what makes something a landmark.
Tell me about the penthouses — the most glamorous homes in any condo.
There will be six. And they have these rooftop terrace gardens. They’re like private back gardens in the sky. You have the privacy and intimacy of a backyard in the sky.
Is 1451 Wellington West a singular project or are you eying other locations in Ottawa?
We’re always looking at opportunities where we can benefit the community.
Of course you must be pretty busy with your massive project in Toronto.
Yes, The One at Yonge and Bloor. Construction starts this summer and it will be the tallest building in Canada. It’ll be a five-year build. We’re very excited about that.
What’s your timeline here in Ottawa?
We’re looking at occupancy in 2020-2021 — four years from now. We’re quite excited about how it’s going to change the landscape in a very positive way. I’ll be here most weekends to watch it coming together.