The pandemic changed things. Many, many things. We all know, we were all there (let's not relive it, k?).

And while some aspects of daily life and work routines struggle to return to their former selves -- offices, we're looking at you -- others are finding success precisely because they're the way they used to be.

The pre-construction sales centre is one such amenity enjoying a resurgence of in-person attention. But gone are the days of simple, single-room experiences centred around a three-foot tall model of the future build (complete with finishing options clad to the nearby walls).

No; being present for something, the pandemic and its restrictions has taught us, deserves its own re-consideration, it's own new and sophisticated offering.

The showroom for new Toronto development The Bedford by Burnac is perhaps the best current example of such a step up.

"I’ve been doing this for 15 years, I’ve probably toured sales offices all around the world -- London, New York, Dubai -- I’ve never seen this concept in Toronto before... It feels like you’re in an art gallery touring the property," says Tim Ng, Principal and Founder of ADHOC STUDIO and BLACKLINE, who worked on the project with Austin Birch, including building out renderings.

Img 9843 1024x984The 'gallery' at The Bedford Sales Centre, highlighting the architectural evolution of the building

Ng compares the traditional sales centre experience to the likes of Costco or Walmart, in that anyone can go wherever they want in the space, in whatever order the choose. The Bedford, on the other hand, is like a "luxury shopping experience," he says. One in which the client is guided through several curated rooms, each with its own purpose, direction, and focus.

"Things have changed [in the market], the landscape is much more competitive now. There’s a need to separate yourself," says Jamie Sarner, Partner at Austin Birch, of The Bedford's commitment to presenting an other-worldly sales centre experience. Actually, scratch that -- it's not "other-worldly," it's the world of The Bedford that's being presented. From the custom Paolo Ferrari light fixtures that meet you in the sales centre's lobby, to Audax's inspiring undulations and unique curvatures that run through the rest of the building, every aspect of the experience has been taken from what will one day be the final product.

The Bedford's sales centre is such a delight because it borrows from the future -- a future that just so happens to be an uber-luxury condo build.

28 min 1 768x1024The Porter's room at The Bedford/Joel Esposito

"If you half-ass it, using a simple trailer [for the sales centre], it won’t resonate too well," adds Ng, noting that "the digital tools leading up to the physical space are just as important." And while he's right, nothing exists well in this world anymore without an equally strong digital version to compliment it, there's a sense of calm you can only get from being in person at The Bedford.

"It's a one-on-one experience," explains Sarner. "No one is allowed to book appointments at the same time; there are just three sales associates who are even allowed to give a tour." The intention of such a customized experience is to have the tour come across as more informative than salesy. A single appointment can take as much as three hours.

"People are exhausted by the virtual experience. They’re missing that human-focused interaction when it comes to purchasing something," says Kassaundra Dobson, Broker of Record, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices (BHHS) Advisory Realty and VP of Operations, when discussing the value of sales centres with STOREYS.

Recently, BHHS built out a sales centre in Fort Eerie for Discoverie Condos, something Dobson says is rare for the Niagara region. "We built the coffee bar station in the same finish as ‘standard level’ options for the condos, the feedback has been really great."

Discoverie condosDiscoverie Condos Sales Centre in Niagara

While sales centre costs, in general, can run anywhere between $250K (think: "pop up") to nearly $1M for an upscale permanent version, Dobson highlights the importance of companies and brands establishing themselves in the communities they're planning to build in, especially if the sale will be a longer one (think months, not weeks).

Dobson also points to Camrost's Raglan House on St. Clair W as a recent example of a sales centre that understands what it's bringing to a neighbourhood. "It’s important [they] establish themselves and have a place for people in the community to go for information."

The collective point all these sales centres seem to be making is to offer something different, something beyond the ordinary expectations of what a sales centre used to be. You might say, after the pandemic, that the success of current-day sales centres is simply delivering something over and above, well, a literal place to sell. The evolution of the space, transformed by both market demands and buyers' desires to connect with something beyond just the haptic feedback of a smartphone, has been in many ways a return to (human) form.

The prioritization of the sale experience, rather than the sale itself, is the reason for the latest model's success. Intentionality is beautiful, it seems. Yes, even in pre-construction condo sales.

Lead photo by Joel Esposito