BY MARILYN WILSON, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN October 29, 2015Doug Casey merits his great reputation. So does his latest development project, The Merit.
A sparkling blend of thoughtfulness and design savvy, Casey laments: “A lot of buildings are just boxes now,” and he strives to introduce buildings of architectural interest to the market.
Several of his projects — The Continental on Cleary Avenue, Hudson Park on Kent Street, The Gardens on Bronson Avenue and The Merit on Lisgar Street — have an Art Deco influence, a fabulously unique design move for our conservative condo market. Why this style? It is classic; Casey compares it to a navy blue suit.
Casey is inspired by the marriage of art and architecture, citing travel as an influence on his projects. Of particular interest are Berlin, Barcelona and Tokyo. He admires Kyoto Gardens, the work of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art in Scotland.
When it comes to Ottawa condos, “a lot of people build shelter,” Casey explains, adding that we are used to “mediocre” design.
“I don’t want to just sell the sizzle, I think we’ve got the steak.”
At The Merit, Casey and his team have focused on details from everything like thicker window glass to filter out festival sounds from Confederation Park to custom Art Deco door handles in the lobby. Other great features are cleverly designed layouts with powder rooms far from living and dining rooms and nine-foot-plus ceilings, a feature Casey believes every building should have.
It’s not only Casey’s approach to design that overflows with creativity; names — of his company, buildings and the units within — are also carefully orchestrated.
On the meaning behind Charlesfort: Casey and his wife purchased a painting by Canadian artist Charles Comfort, former curator of the National Gallery of Canada who painted with the Group of Seven. He and his wife looked Comfort up in the phone book, called and spoke with his wife. A few days later, they received an autographed autobiography in the mail. This was around the time Casey was developing his company and searching for a name; he decided to seek a name in Comfort’s book. He chose Charles for its regal connotation and the fact that Casey shares a birthday with Prince Charles (Nov. 14). Fort came from the security its name connotes.
I also ask Casey how he derived the names of his units. In our city, unit names typically trigger images of Canadiana and New York or Ottawa street or area names.
At The Merit, unit names such as Kelly, Fraser, Nichol and Meech are an homage to Casey’s high school teachers from Lisgar Collegiate; sweet and apropos given the building’s Lisgar Street location. Casey speaks fondly of these teachers: like the nurse who wrote him an excuse note to get him out of a test he wasn’t prepared for, or the teacher who gave a tearful dramatic reading of In Flanders Fields, reminded of the love she lost at war.
Casey’s thoughtful naming gesture shows the kind of guy he really is — kind and caring. “All the details are really important to us,” he says.
He likely developed this eye for detail in his previous career as a chartered professional accountant. To the old real estate adage “location, location, location” we should add “details, details, details” to express Casey’s true condo sense.
Marilyn Wilson has been selling real estate for more than 25 years and owns Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc. Brokerage, an Exclusive Affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. She can be reached through dreamproperties.com.