In Conversation With: Patrick O’Hanlon
Kylemore Communities is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Eight years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting the indomitable Patrick O’Hanlon for the first time over lunch at Auberge du Pommier, a sophisticated restaurant that specializes in fine French cuisine. He ordered the “grilled cheese sandwich.”
It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
O’Hanlon is never one to mince words; he speaks his mind and that is a quality that I — although not all — appreciate. It’s the Irish in him.
Born in Dublin and raised in Toronto, O’Hanlon has a degree in urban planning from Ryerson University. Following school he went to work for the Region of Peel and then moved on to Bramalea Ltd., which at the time was one of the largest building and developments companies in the GTA.
“Working at Bramalea was a good training ground,” O’Hanlon told me. “I didn’t speak for the first five years. Yes, really,” he assured while acknowledging my scepticism. “I was a human sponge and I just listened and learned.”
From there, O’Hanlon joined Gordon Stollery in Angus Glen Development, and then founded Kylemore Communities with Stollery and Frank Spaziani.
“It’s that word ‘quality’ again,” said O’Hanlon. “I couldn’t have done better for partners than Gordon and Frank.”
The Angus Glen master-planned community, which follows new urbanism planning principles and which began in 1997 with highend homes around the 36-hole championship golf course of the same name, has now expanded to over 1,400 residences, including The Brownstones, a collection of townhomes along the south course, and The 6th, a midrise condo building also overlooking the south course, home to the 2015 Pan Am Games golf tournament.
Today, O’Hanlon and Spaziani work alongside the next generation of the Stollery family, represented by Cailey and Lindsay, to bring Gordon Stollery’s vision for Angus Glen to fruition.
Angus Glen Community, which includes The Shoppes of Angus Glen within walking distance of most of the homes and where Kylemore is now headquartered, won the prestigious Places to Grow Community of the Year award from the Building Industry and Land Development Association in 2013.
Q: Who would you consider a mentor?
A: David Ptak, who was vice president of Bramalea’s Residential Group when I worked there. Working for Bramalea gave me a strong foundation. What I learned most from David were the words “quality, quality, quality” — not just in the context of building materials or workmanship but also the quality of the people you work with and the people you count as friends and business partners. I couldn’t have done better for partners than Gordon and Frank.
Q: What’s on the drawing board for the future?
A: We’ve got two really big exciting projects coming: the redevelopment of the York Downs Golf and Country Club and Langstaff Gateway, which is a huge mixed-use development.
Q: Let’s talk about York Downs first. What is the plan and the timeline?
A: It’s still currently being used as a golf course, but we purchased the 400 acres for $412 million. Our initial plan submitted to the City of Markham has 2,400 homes in a new urbanism style like Angus Glen. This is a joint venture partnership with Angus Glen, Kylemore, and Minto Communities.
The new parks, green spaces and schools will be positioned so that they can be conveniently accessed by the wider community.
However, there is still a lot of work to be done before we can bring the full plan forward.
Q: Now, Langstaff Gateway. I remember you talking about this the first day I met you, eight years ago.
A: Oh yea, it’s really exciting! And I’m very enthusiastic about working with Peter Calthorpe, an urban planner who is a champion of new urbanism and walkable cities.
Langstaff Gateway — located south of Highway 407 and east of Yonge Street — is just industrial land now, but the vision is to build a massive live/work/play master-planned community designed by Calthorpe. He calls it the most transit-oriented site he has ever worked on.
Actually, it really is a literal gateway to everywhere in the GTA and beyond. It’s at the intersection of three main public transit lines: GO, the TTC subway, York Region transit and VIVA rapid transit services. As well, Highway 407 and Highway 7 are right there and the new 407 Transitway will move people quickly to Pearson airport.
Transit is just one of the key principles of new urbanism that are being applied to the 47-hectare site. Peter’s preliminary plan also calls for all residential, business and retail building to be within walking distance of each other and we’ll probably integrate “people movers” into the site. It will be the densest new project in North America.
We’re proposing to build stacked townhomes, six- to eight-storey midrise buildings, and residential towers up to 50 storeys.
Q: Tell me about how Kylemore gives back to the communities it builds.
A: I believe in the importance of strong communities, where people can live and work and grow together. As a company, we have a policy of social responsibility and are involved in a number of initiatives that create positive impacts on our local residents.
To that end, we created Kylemore Kares and we host several events throughout the year to raise money for local charities. These include our annual Kylemore Kares Charity Golf tournament, the Kylmore Hockey With Heart tournament and our annual holiday toy drive, to name a few.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I become a real Canadian, lace up some skates and play hockey. My position is goon. I’m the nicest guy in the world until I step out on the ice. Then I become Patrick O’Hooligan. I also golf — I’m pretty good — and can often be found kicking a soccer ball.
- Brownstones at Angus Glen
- The 6th at Angus Glen
- Kennedy Manors