Spa wars bring a new edge to condos as buyers look for health and wellness facilities at home

Alternative therapies

Who’s up for an icy plunge to soothe afternoon muscles? Or a stress-busting session bathed in blue light? How about an opportunity to breathe easier in salty air?

Spa wars are heating up as condominium developers include a range of enticements for potential purchasers who include their well-being as a priority when looking for a home. Among the offerings for aching bodies and jangled nerves: Zen gardens, infrared saunas, hot-and-cold plunge pools and Himalayan salt rooms, which one designer predicts will be the wellness luxury of the future.

Among those leading the charge is Curated Properties, builders of a 22-storey condo tower called AKRA Living near Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave.

“In a post-pandemic world, investing in wellness is no longer nice to have, it’s a fundamental feature of how people like to live,” explains Jesse Speigel, senior vice-president of development.

He drew from personal experience with spa-type amenities dating back to childhood when he would race from the sauna to a hole in the ice at the family’s Georgian Bay cottage. These days he pours his post-workout body into an icy shower.

“It sounds a little bit masochistic, and it is shocking the first time, but your body adapts quickly,” maintains Speigel, extolling the boost to his muscles’ recovery.

No surprise then, that dual plunge pools will be on tap at AKRA where residents can enjoy healthier living in communal herbal and Zen gardens, private fitness rooms with UV air filtration, a spa with infrared saunas and integrated red light and halotherapy. (Not all alternative therapies are scientifically proven.)

The Zen meditation garden at AKRA Living, a condo tower being built at Yonge and Eglinton, is designed to provide "peace in one of the densest areas of Toronto," says the developers.

Across town at Dufferin and Dupont Sts., the spa circuit, meditation room, pool, fitness center and lush outdoor spaces at Almadev‘s newest tower, Galleria III, are welcome wellness amenities to purchaser Riel Sammy, his wife and one-year-old son.

“We’re trying to do everything possible to maintain good health over time,” says the 35-year-old brand strategist, describing himself as “very” health-conscious.

Working from home part of the week, he’s aware of the need to disconnect at day’s end. Without a physical and mental separation, “you’ll lose all track of your sense of self,” Sammy maintains, applauding Galleria III’s therapeutic, relaxation and fitness amenities “right at your doorstep.”

And that’s key, according to Kathy Chow, team lead for interior design for developer Canderel. Being able to pursue health and wellness activities daily without leaving your building is becoming a must-have, she observes.

As the market becomes more competitive, “developers are challenged to come up with more unique spa and wellness amenity offerings to attract homebuyers,” she says.

One of Canderel’s newest projects, Foret Forest Hillincludes an outdoor secret garden “as a therapeutic escape from the busy city life,” says Chow, whose own firm is called DesignGenics Inc.

Bridge House, a new block of three towers in Port Credit's Brightwater community, will offer a rooftop swim spa with sun deck overlooking Lake Ontario.

She describes having easy access to things like fitness studios with smart technology, saunas and eucalyptus steam rooms as “life enhancing.”

Back at AKRA Living, under construction on Erskine Ave. near Sherwood Park with sales launching in mid-September, residents will have “the best environment … (for) healthier, happier lives,” according to Curated Properties.

Communal areas and the design of its 211 units — studios to three-bedroom suites — were inspired by the five categories of health, fitness, nutrition, sleep and mindfulness, Speigel explains.

“The entire building was centered around this concept,” he says, noting residents will enjoy “tangible benefits” from both indoor and outdoor amenities “in one of the densest areas of Toronto.”

The meditation garden, for example, is designed to provide a peaceful escape from “the sirens and constant construction of Yonge and Eglinton,” he says.

Speigel was among those who took a public ice-water dunking on Sept. 6 as part of Curated Properties’s fundraiser for Sick Not Weaka charitable foundation that aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Almadev's new condo project, Galleria III at Dufferin and Dupont Sts., will have a spa circuit including plunge pool, sauna room, shower and steam room.

Condo-dwellers may also warm up to cold plunges, based on a deep dive by market research and consulting company, Grand View Research. Health-conscious consumers looking for alternative therapies to treat inflammation and sore muscles are helping to drive global sales of tubs and ice baths, the firm reported this summer.

AKRA’s amenities are “not your typical tower offerings,” points out the creative mind behind them. Boris Mathias, partner at Toronto-based Chapi Chapo Designsays they drew on their experience designing luxury resort and hotel spas such as Ritz-Carlton and The Four Seasons to create public and private spaces that will “balance the craziness of the city.”

Some of those retreat-type features include an “intimate” yoga studio, the potential for a massage room and an experiential shower with jets that alter the water flow.

“You feel like a true rain is falling on you,” Mathias explains, adding residents will also derive “calmness” from the building’s natural materials, indirect lighting, textures, finishes and palette.

West of Toronto, another condominium developer is touting what they call Port Credit’s first rooftop swim spa. It aims to boost personal health “mentally, physically, and emotionally,” says Christina Giannone, vice-president of planning and development for Port Credit West Village Partners, the team behind the 72-acre master-planned Brightwater community.

AKRA Living's spa, called AKRA Rituals, will include hot and cold plunge pools, infrared saunas and an experiential shower with chromotherapy.  They're "not your typical tower offerings," says interior designer Boris Mathias.

The newest block of three towers, Bridge House, will share a “chic and serene” sixth-floor amenity space with a rooftop swim spa, sun deck, lounge and sauna within a fitness centre.

“Moments to relax and decompress are more important than ever in our fast-paced world,” Giannone says. “Who wouldn’t want to relax in a swim spa overlooking the gorgeous parks and blue waters of Lake Ontario?”

Some of the new health-and-wellness condo offerings include:

halotherapy, or salt therapy, involves breathing in air with tiny salt particles. Often done in spa-like salt rooms, halotherapy is considered an alternative treatment for lung and breathing problems such as asthma, bronchitis and cough. Himalayan salt is one of the varieties used.

Chromotherapyalso called color or light therapy, is a type of alternative health treatment that uses different colored lights to improve some mental and physical health conditions.

Hydrotherapy employs hot or cold water, usually in pools or tubs, to treat inflammation, pain and muscular soreness and chronic health conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.


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