Homes with timbre in Langford

Homes with timbre in Langford

The Piano speaks to the aerial view of its site plan, and to the instrument at its entrance

Homes feature triple-glazed windows for both soundproofing and energy efficiency.

Photograph by: Submitted. PNG

This could be a story about two relatively new immigrants to Canada and their success as residential real estate developers.

Or it could be a story about what happened to a certain piano after its owner — who loved and played it for 60 years — died.

But perhaps the best story is a combination of the two.

It’s the story of how the developers cleverly incorporated a cherished piano into The Piano, their development that is the talk of the town in Langford on Vancouver Island.

The Piano seems an unlikely name for a housing project, but it reflects the creativity of the developers, a husband-and-wife team who are passionate about design and innovative building techniques.

When they were thinking of an appropriate name for the project, Parsi Development founder and president Moji Shahab noticed the similarity between the site plan and a piano.

“If you look at it on the website, it looked like the keys of the piano,” he explains, referring to the side-by-side rectangular lots separated by black lines.

But more than that, Shahab and wife Noushin Ashtiani, an intern architect and project designer, loved the analogy of a piano.

“With a piano you can compose a melody,” says Shahab. That melody includes many different parts, just as The Piano has many different features, from heated crawl spaces to rooftop patios. “That could be the melody of life,” he adds philosophically.

The Piano will comprise 50 detached homes on compact, easy-care lots evenly spaced along two rows. Over the course of several years, and while working on another project in Langford, Ashtiani says she and her husband gathered ideas for The Piano.

They wanted it to be modern and technologically in step with society, especially with young people, which meant building “smart” homes occupants can control with their smart phones. In such homes, owners can regulate their electricity usage, for instance, even when they’re not there.

“They can control it with their smart phones, so when they go out, or go on vacation, or go to work, they can always monitor that over the smart phone and actually command the house to get colder when they are not in the house and have the temperature come back up when they’re coming home,” Ashtiani explains.

She says this feature is common in Europe, but relatively new in Canada. In Langford, a community that attracts younger families because of its more affordable housing, The Piano and its modern features will be strikingly different from the norm. “It’s good to have something that gives them a little push, to think that there is a future coming, you know what I mean?” she says. “That’s why we decided to design this project a little bit more modern.”

Not every buyer at The Piano may want to pay for those features immediately, but Ashtiani says every home will be wired for them, “so in two years or three years, they can add this without having to put a whole bunch of holes in the wall.”

The same goes for the amenities on the third-floor rooftop patios of each home. Buyers can opt to add a natural gas-fired barbecue and a hot tub because the homes are being built to support them.

Another out-of-the-ordinary feature is the heated crawl space between the ground and the first floor using insulated concrete forms, so “the slab on the first floor is not a cold slab you’re walking on,” Shahab says.

“It’s basically a heated floor.”

The developer is also using triple-glazed windows for soundproofing and energy efficiency.

“These are all manufactured in Calgary and they are specified for Alberta weather,” says Shahab, who has clearly learned about the differences in weather in different parts of Canada since moving to Victoria from Iran in 2000.

The houses have six different floor plans, each with a musical name, such as Flamenco, the smallest at 1,400 square feet and least expensive at $474,900. At the other end of the range are Harmony and Symphony, both at 2,630 square feet and priced at $574,900. In the first phase of the development, now underway, 10 homes are being built in four different floor plans.

Perhaps the most attractive feature for first-time buyers is the potential for a legal suite on the first floor of the larger homes. Shahab says someone can buy one of those homes, rent out the one- or two-bedroom suite with yard, and pay less in mortgage payments than renting in Langford, where a two-bedroom home with yard goes for $1,200 a month.

“This is what we call affordability. You have the option of a secondary suite, you can rent it for any purpose, live and work, an office, and still your payment is less than renting,” he says. (A mortgage calculator is included for each floor plan on The Piano’s website, so potential buyers can easily see the monthly cost of a five-year fixed-rate mortgage at 2.99 per cent, with an amortization of 25 years.)

The first-floor suites will be just as attractive as the two upper floors of the homes, according to the couple. For instance, suites have nine-foot ceilings, high quality appliances, and quartz countertops. “It’s the quality of a house, not a suite,” Ashtiani adds.

Homeowners who choose to live on the top two floors shouldn’t feel deprived by the lack of a yard, says Shahab, because the rooftop decks will provide lots of outdoor space, about 500 square feet each. So while owners get to relax or entertain up high, the tenants get to cut the grass? “Exactly!” he chuckles.

Homes with timbre in Langford

And both future owners and tenants will be delighted with the location if they enjoy walking or biking. Half the properties back on to the Galloping Goose trail, a multi-use trail that winds from downtown Victoria to Sooke. “Just pick up your bike,” Shahab says, “and in a fraction of a moment you’re on the Goose, can be in downtown in 35 to 40 minutes, or go the other way to the ocean.”

The developers haven’t advertised The Piano project, but Shahab says everyone in Langford knows about it. That’s not because of the design or the features, but something a lot more unusual — an upright piano at the entrance.

After deciding to name the development after the musical instrument, the couple figured it would be fun to have one on site. They found a used piano online, one that had been treasured by a woman for 60 years. When she died last year, her daughter decided she didn’t have room for it and was willing to give it to The Piano.

Last fall, Shahab and Ashtiani painted it red, built a platform for it, placed it on the corner of the property that’s across from an elementary school, and enclosed it inside a tent with a heater. They also put a sign on it. “It reads ‘Let’s play the piano,’” says Shahab. “And that’s in memory of Mrs. Margaret Brydon.”

At first, he admits, they were worried about vandalism. “We were locking it every night, but then we notice that people come and make notes, they come and clean the piano, a neighbour comes and tunes the piano, we left it open and nothing happens. And it’s so nice, you’re working there and all of a sudden someone is playing the piano.”

Project name: The Piano

Location: The Piano is on Happy Valley Road in Langford across from Happy Valley elementary school and adjacent to the Galloping Goose Trail, less than a 15-minute drive to Victoria’s Inner Harbour and minutes away from Victoria General Hospital

Project size/ scope: 4.5-acre, multi-phased, residential development. Homes range from 1,400 to 2,630 sq. ft. Larger units have been designed to be easily and legally “suite-able.” Ultimately, 50 homes will be offered over a two-to-three-year build-out

Price: Single-family homes $474,900 — $574,900

Contact: Moji Shahab, president Parsi development, 250-888-7010

Developer: Parsi Development Ltd.

General Contractor: Parsi Development Ltd.

Occupancy: First occupancy by end of October 2014

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