MONCTON – The Managing Director Platinum Atlantic Realty says more than half of the 41 condos for sale at FiveFive Queen are spoken for even though the building is still under construction. He credits the use of virtual reality (VR) technology with giving buyers a vivid glimpse of what the units will be like when they’re completed.
“I think of it kind of like a suit,” said Bill Hennessey in an interview with Huddle. “I can go to Harry Rosen and buy a suit online and take all my measurements, it’s fine. What the VR does is it allows you to kind of try it on. Put the clothing on, and wear it and see what it feels like. When you’re in the space, it gives you such a realistic view of what the space is going to be like.”
Hennessey, who is selling the units on behalf of developer Spataro Holdings Ltd., says they’re also preselling a lot of the condos because of a demographic shift in the market. He says most of the buyers are Monctonians looking for a lifestyle change. They’re leaving high-maintenance homes for the convenience of condos. They also want to live downtown as the area becomes more lively, with new restaurants and events like HubCap Comedy Festival bringing people out even in the winter.
“There’s much more investment in the downtown and it’s catching a bit of a vibe…you know, the multicultural nature of the restaurants that have been opening. So with that vibe, the urban lifestyle is coming,” he said.
“A couple that we spoke with recently said they want to live downtown because they want to be able to walk to [everything]… whether it’s Gahan or the Pumphouse or the Farmers’ Market and Capitol Theatre. If you look at five years ago to now, it’s evolving at quite a good pace.”
FiveFive Queen will be a combination of a hotel, condominiums, a restaurant and apartments. The first three floors of the building will be dedicated to a 72-room boutique hotel called The Wesley, run by P.E.I.’s Murphy Hospitality Group. The group will also open a 240-seat Gahan House Restaurant & Brewery on the site. It will have a seasonal 120-seat patio.
The rest of the building will be used for residential purposes. There are 29 apartments for lease on the fourth and fifth floors, and condos for purchase on the sixth to eighth floors. They range in price from $229,000 to $780,000 for a penthouse. A separate parking structure will be built to accommodate guests.
Sales agent Martine Godbout said the mixed-use arrangement allows condo owners to access the same amenities as hotel guests.
“So if they had people over and they wanted to get appetizers or wine from the Gahan House they can call like room service,” she said. “The housekeeping for the hotel? You can also do that for the condo.”
With the building still under construction, Platinum Atlantic Realty allows prospective buyers to explore the building using virtual reality (VR) goggles at its office. Hennessey and Godbout said it allows prospective buyers to get a feel for the space.
Hennessey believes the technology will be used in residential home and office construction the way his company uses it in condominiums. In-house web developer Jérémie LeBlanc had combined two-dimensional designs for FiveFive from Architects 4 with VR hardware after rendering to 3D by a California-based company. Platinum Realty now also uses VR in the development stage of a building.
“We have a project right now where we’re renovating an existing building and we’re using VR technology to look at the design to make sure it’s what we’re hoping it’s going to be,” Hennessey said. “It’s a tool that we can use because it helps you visualize so much better than just looking at two dimensional drawings.”
Hennessey is aiming to sell the remaining condos before the complex opens in the fall.
He says more mixed-use condos like FiveFive will pop up in the future and that Moncton will also need more hotel rooms.
“[Moncton is] moving towards where it needs to get to, from an urban point of view, for an evolution,” he said. “You look at projects like the Hyatt that was just announced. These are companies that are investing a significant amount of capital into a market. We’ve done our own research about what we have at FiveFive, and we’re very confident that the market can absorb many [more hotel and condo projects like this].”