During the pandemic, employees and students alike discovered that their world had
suddenly shrunk to the dimensions of a Zoom screen, where colleagues, teachers and
friends appeared in stacks of highly-pixelated rectangles.
Soon, commentators were describing this remote existence as “the new normal.” As
offices closed or downsized and city residents fled urban cores, it certainly seemed that
the dramatic shifts in the economy and society could be lasting. But for experienced
developers such as Sam Mizrahi, it was only a question of time when the older, deeply
rooted patterns of behavior would begin to reestablish themselves.
It’s one reason Sam Mizrahi, the Canadian developer of The One, the skyscraper that
will debut as Toronto’s tallest building — and home to some of the city’s priciest condos
— never gave up on the luxury residential market in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
As the tides of pandemic recede, workers and residents are in fact returning to the city
core. In some cases, businesses are becoming less flexible with remote work and are
compelling presence in the office, at least for part of the work week. In the case of
residents who fled the city, many have outlived their grass-is-greener phase, and realize
how much they missed life in a thriving metro area.
This trend is having profound effects not just in big cities like Toronto, but also in the
suburban and rural areas where city exiles established their remote existence.
For example, during the first months of the pandemic, home prices in Ontario’s
picturesque cottage country skyrocketed, pricing locals out of the market as high-
income newcomers furiously bid up prices. Now, as these fleeting squires head back to
the GTA in convoys of Subarus, prices are dropping and local buyers are reclaiming lost
The fact that many post-pandemic emigrants are willing to take a loss on their remote
properties is one indication that the allure of urban centers remains strong, at least in
For some, permanent relocation to idyllic places like Kawartha Lakes or Ancaster turned
out to be less enchanting than the seasonal visits of memory. Beyond the quiet splendor
were some occasionally inconvenient realities: The WiFi was spotty. Everything closes
early. There’s not a venti latte anywhere to be found. And only the crickets are having
fascinating conversations late into the night.
“We have seen this a lot, not only in our data but in the anecdotes we hear from friends
and leaders in real estate, finance and urban planning,” says Mizrahi.
Mizrahi identifies this phenomenon as a factor in the continued strength of the luxury
residential market in the GTA. Despite the Bank of Canada’s interest rates hikes that
are depressing sales volume in many segments, luxury home buying remains robust.
The same buyers who could afford an expensive rural property are luxury buyers in
urban markets, as well. And they are not willing to let price stand in the way of their
return to the kaleidoscope of activity a metropolitan life offers.
This revival of traditional, pre-pandemic patterns is paying dividends for developers who
bet on locating luxury residential projects in hubs of social activity. According to Mizrahi,
this has always been an important consideration for his company when seeking
“We realize that we are not just designing a building, but a lifestyle,” he says. “It is so
important to take a holistic approach to luxury residential development — ensuring that
a location is not just near to the office but also ideally placed for maximum enjoyment of
cosmopolitan experiences, from entertainment and dining to social engagement.”