Tag Archives: In Conversation With

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In Conversation With: Michael Dipasquale

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In Conversation With: Michael Dipasquale

Dunpar Homes specializes in building high-end townhomes in vibrant neighbourhoods

Dunpar Homes has made a name for itself by cornering the market on luxury townhouse living.

For more than 30 years, Dunpar has been building high-end townhomes that are characterized by quality engineering, craftsmanship and timeless design.

Just ask Michael DiPasquale, the vice president of operations for Dunpar Homes. He’s been living in a Dunpar-built townhome for several years and embraces the easy lifestyle.

“I like the convenience of it, the low maintenance and because Dunpar builds infill projects in vibrant communities, my Etobicoke home is near everything I need.”

Dunpar was founded by John Zanini in 1981, who had been renovating older homes in the Cabbagetown area and admired the fine craftsmanship. He learned the techniques, which are now found in all of Dunpar’s homes. Zanini’s first townhomes were built near Dundas and Parliament Streets, which is how he came up with the name Dunpar.

The concept of building thoughtfully planned homes on commercial and industrial sites in prime areas has resulted in the company building more than 2,000 homes — all of them townhouses.

“When Dunpar selects a location for a community, we only choose vibrant neighbourhoods in sustainable communities with easy access to shopping, schools, parks, highways, transit and green space,” Zanini says.

DiPasquale, who has been with Dunpar since 2009, agrees. “Townhomes are ground-related so you have the best of the easy maintenance of condo living without the cramped feeling you can get in a highrise tower.”

Q: What kind of people are purchasing townhomes?

A: Townhomes have been on the housing scene for decades, but they used to be considered an entry point to home ownership. Now, however, with the changing marketplace and higher housing costs, they are a viable alternative for most homebuyers. We’ve been selling to all kinds of people — young families, professionals and empty nesters.

The empty nesters are coming from detached homes and are looking for less space and an easy lifestyle. We also offer the option of installing elevators so they can age in place. However, the young professionals and families are looking to move up from a condo or apartment and want more square footage.

Q: What are purchasers looking for in a luxury townhome?

A: These are educated and refined purchasers and they are looking for elegance and craftsmanship. We build an upscale product with stone and brick exteriors, bay windows, cedar shake roofs, dormer windows and topfloor master suites with luxurious ensuite bathrooms.

We hit on a winning brand but with each subsequent project we refine and improve the design process. For instance, eight-foot ceilings on the upper floors became nine feet. It’s an evolutionary process, but we’ve made no big changes over the years. Dunpar has been doing it right from the beginning, so there is just some tweaking as we go along.

Q: Will Dunpar remain a townhouse builder only, or are there plans to expand the portfolio?

A: Up to this point, it has been townhomes only. However, we are about to bring to market an eight-floor midrise building in Etobicoke at Prince Edward Drive and Dundas Street West, just a couple of blocks east of Royal York Road. The units will be a luxury product in keeping with The Kingway neighbourhood where they are located.

We’re also planning back-to-back townhomes, which will feature rooftop patios. The smallest unit is 1,600 square feet.

Q: How can prospective purchasers get a feel for your product?

A: We’ve kept a couple of units in an older project to use as a sales office. Buyers find it hard to visualize space from a floorplan and they want to see and feel the finishes, so by setting up in an actual unit, purchasers can see the quality of the product and use of space and our well thought out designs. There are very few new homes being built that are over 2,000 square feet — especially infill projects — so our buyers are happy they can see just how great these units are to live in.

We also think about how the space will be used and make sure there are electrical outlets and cable outlets placed in the appropriate place, for instance. We think about everything — there are gas hook-ups on the decks for barbecues and all of our units have two-car garages. Of course, our buyers can also customize their unit. For example they can take a three-bedroom second-floor plan and change it to a two-bedroom.

Q: What do you do for fun?

A: Golf. And travel. My wife and I also consider ourselves to be foodies, so we enjoy trying out all the great Toronto restaurants. We’re close to GO Transit so we can get into the city very quickly.

PORTFOLIO ACTIVE PROJECTS

  • Trafalgar Ridge, Oakville
  • Streetsville Centre, Mississauga
  • Lakeshore Village, Etobicoke
  • Heritage Gate, Mississauga

COMING SOON

  • Townhomes in Oakville
  • Midrise in Etobicoke
  • Luxury rentals on Ossington

DunparHomes.com

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In Conversation With: Barbara Lawlor

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In Conversation With: Barbara Lawlor

Don’t let Barbara Lawlor’s calm exterior fool you; she thrives on the competitive nature of selling real estate, especially in the GTA’s hyper-driven market.

“I love a good fight,” she says. “It’s the Irish in me!”

Plus she’s a really fun dinner companion! Something about those sparkling Irish eyes and striking red hair that makes Barbara stand out in the crowded real estate field — although she is not only a broker, but also a Real Estate Institute of Canada Fellow. And now, she is the 2017 winner of the prestigious Riley Brethour Award.

Lawlor, the president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc. — one of the most successful real estate companies in the country — provides sales and marketing expertise to new home and condo projects here in Canada and overseas.

Lawlor won the Riley Brethour Award during the annual Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) Awards. It’s an honour she is especially proud of because the award celebrates not only outstanding achievement in sales and marketing, but also for exemplary leadership and for being an outstanding role model for other industry professionals.

“Winning the Riley Brethour Award means I follow in the footsteps of an amazing roster of industry professionals who were honoured in the past,” Lawlor says. “I am humbled and gratified to be acknowledged by my peers in this way.”

Lawlor, who was born and raised in Dublin, had a first career as a model, actress and singer, working professionally from the time she was just 12 years old. During her teens, she sang with an Irish group called Maxi, Dick and Twink and also cut a solo record.

It was while she was touring North America that she landed a television show in Toronto. “I just kept coming back to Toronto, so I guess it was meant to be,” she says of her permanent move to this city.

Q:Who would you consider your mentor?

A: Many people have inspired me over the years, but the role of “mentor” definitely goes to Pat Baker, founder of Baker Real Estate Incorporated. During the 1980s and early 1990s, I saw a bright future for condominiums in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area. I looked around at who was making strides in the industry, and Pat was at the top of the list. I approached her and joined her team in 1993. She has been a constant in my life since then.

I respect Pat as a businesswoman, and I have learned a lot from her over the years. Her business acumen and professionalism continually inspire me and help to mould my leadership style. She holds the philosophy that people are everything — something I learned early on from my father. Pat set the example of caring about our clients, their buyers and each other. Baker Real Estate is very much a team, and like Pat, I listen to my team members and consider everything they say when I make decisions.

I am grateful for the opportunity Pat gave me, plus she is great fun!

Q:What has made you the proudest?

A: Oh my, I would have to say being honoured with this year’s Riley Brethour Award from BILD is my proudest achievement. This pinnacle award is for excelling in leadership, which is something near and dear to my heart. I first learned about leadership from my father, Regimental Sergeant Major Henry Dixon, who was honoured with the Nobel Peace Medal in Ireland. He stressed to me that in business and in life, people are everything.

When I met Pat Baker, I was thrilled that she also held the people-first attitude toward business. Through my father and Pat, I saw firsthand what a dedicated work ethic could achieve. A leader must work hard, establish credibility, engage in open communication and care about everyone around her. A true leader brings out the best in her team.

Winning the Riley Brethour Award means I follow in the footsteps of an amazing roster of industry professionals who were honoured in the past. I am humbled and gratified to be acknowledged by my peers in this way. Thank you, BILD, Pat Baker and Dad. And by the way, I still remember how to salute!

Q: What is the hottest new trend in condos today?

A: I would have to say families in condominiums. The appeal of raising children in a condo in an urban setting has long been the norm in major cities around the world, and we are finally catching up here.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and a condominium is an inviting, engaging and safe community that lends itself to family living. A condo is essentially a vertical community where neighbours get to know each other in the shared areas such as elevators, hallways and amenity spaces.

Parents are phenomenally busy nowadays, so they appreciate that the condo lifestyle provides them with more quality time to spend with their kids. Even empty nesters opting for condos appreciate having wonderful amenities under their roof to share with their grandchildren when they visit. Condos are close to parks, museums, schools, entertainment venues, shopping, public transportation and more, which makes accessing these local amenities convenient. And remember, condominiums offer built-in security, with the concierge providing eyes on the street. To address the increased demand, developers are including more two-bedroom + den and three-bedroom designs into their suite mix, as well as kid-friendly amenities such as kid zones. Some even offer daycare facilities.

A sure sign that families in condos is a major trend is the recent publication of The Condo Kids — Adventures with Bob the Barbary Sheep by Jackie Burns, who highlights the lives children lead in condos. Jackie felt there was a lack in the children’s literature marketplace for these kids.

Q:What is the next up and coming neighbourhood?

A: In Toronto, we have seen tremendous growth in the west end. Etobicoke, for example, almost joins Mississauga, which is highly developed. I find Toronto’s east end to be the up-and-coming frontier for master-planned condo development. We are already seeing fascinating success for places such as Leslieville, Riverside and, of course, the Canary District. I see this trend continuing, and it makes sense. The east end is still connected to downtown and is mere minutes to Lake Ontario, the Gardiner Expressway and DVP. In addition, purchasers find exceptional value in the east end, where there is still a lot of land left for development. The east end has a lot of legs to grow!

Q: Where do you see the real estate market headed in the next 20 years?

A: In 20 years’ time, I see the continuing popularity of condominiums. People already immigrate here in massive numbers, and that attraction will grow in time. We are known for our peaceful coexistence with residents of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures. Toronto also continues to win international awards for quality of life, business environment and even natural spaces. Toronto is definitely a City of the Future!

I also foresee a huge influence of technology in design. We will build smarter buildings with advances in energy efficiency, home automation and green elements. The ease of maintaining these buildings’ exteriors and amenities will increase, making them more comfortable and sustainable for everyone. Greening is important in order to create a cleaner, better world for future generations.

Topping it off, architecture will know no bounds, as we will see undreamed of buildings in the future. It will be an exciting time for real estate in Toronto and the GTA!

Q:What do you do for fun?

A: I love to travel. My husband is Portuguese and I’m there a lot. I love the beautiful beaches, the wine, the music. It’s all exceptional!

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In Conversation With : Moninder Khudal

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In Conversation With : Moninder Khudal

The founder of Shyamora Luxury Homes and Diam Developments started his life in Canada delivering pizza.

Moninder Khudal and his wife, Raman, arrived in Canada in 2001 from their home in India armed with their university degrees — his an MBA in finance and marketing, hers in dentistry — they knew it would be important to gain Canadian work experience before they could work in their selected fields.

Urged by his father to move to Canada, and not knowing anyone in the Toronto area, Moninder worked as a pizza deliveryman while his wife worked at a McDonald’s restaurant. They both put in long days to not only gain that much-needed experience, but also to support their growing family.

Only three months after arriving in Toronto, Moninder’s father passed away. “It was a devastating loss,” Khudal recalls. “We had to return to India to take care of the arrangements.

“But there are reasons for things. If we hadn’t moved to Canada before my father passed away, we probably would have never come here; and it was my father who encouraged us to emigrate in the first place.”

After returning to Toronto, Khudal returned to his job at the pizza shop, working long shifts. It was his hope that he could save enough money to bring his mother to Canada.

“For one year I worked 18 hours a day, opening the store at 9 a.m. and closing it at 1 a.m. on weekdays and at 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday,” Khudal says.

Khudal then went on to work at Brampton Toyota, and in 2002 was its top volume producer.

Khudal — who easily puts people at ease with his affable personality — is a natural salesman.

“I enjoy people and building relationships,” he says. “Business and personal relationships are important to me and I like getting to know people and hearing about their experiences.

“This gives me more understanding about people and has made me a better person and a better entrepreneur.”

When Khudal, who is now 42, started looking to buy a house, his real estate agent suggested that, with his MBA, he should consider working in the mortgage business.

And he did just that. Now he owns a real estate brokerage firm — Homexperts Real Estate Inc. — and a mortgage brokerage company called Financial Ties.

“It was only natural, then, to start a development company,” Khudal says with a chuckle.

Q: How did you go from selling homes to building them?

A: It was, for me, the next step. I started building luxury custom homes and continue to do so as Shyamora Luxury Homes. We build all over the GTA, mostly infill projects, with prices between $3 million and $4 million. When the opportunity came along to go into production building, I created Diam Developments as a sister company to Shyamora.

Q:Tell me about the names of the two companies.

A: Shyamora is a combination of the first two letters of my name, my wife’s name and my children’s names. It was my wife’s idea and it is brilliant. So, SH is for Sharanbir, YA for Yashbir, MO for Moninder and RA for Raman. Diam is Latin for invest and I thought it fit my business philosophy quite well.

Q: What is on the drawing board at Diam?

A: We’ve recently started construction on our first condo, On The Danforth, which sold out very quickly. It’s a 10-storey building with 135 units and prices started in the mid $200,000s, which made it extremely affordable. It’s also located on a great strip of Danforth Avenue near Woodbine.

We’re really excited now about our new project, Radiance in Innisfil and we’ve received approval from the town to build 100 townhouses. Building in Innisfil makes sense when you look at home prices, which are 30 to 40 per cent lower there than they are for similar products in Markham and Richmond Hill. With the South Barrie GO Transit station only 13 minutes away, getting into the GTA is easy. The beaches along Lake Simcoe are an easy walk, too.

Radiance is ideal for first-time buyers and young families looking for affordable townhomes, as well as empty nesters.

They are designed by OneSpace Architecture in a modern style and will feature large decks and optional rooftop terraces. They range in size from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet and you can configure them with up to five bedrooms. Prices start at in the upper $400,000s, which is a very good price for the quality of the home. At Diam, I am proud to say, we’re sticklers for details and make sure every home is built to the purchaser’s satisfaction.

We’ve also acquired five acres of land in King City near Canada’s Wonderland. It will be a huge project that I hope to have finished within the next four to five years.

Q: What has made you the proudest?

A: That’s easy: my family! They matter the most. When my father — who was my mentor and my inspiration — passed away I felt there was no one to have my back. It really makes you realize just how important family is. I love what I do but I love my family more. Money is just a by-product.

PORTFOLIO

SHYAMORA LUXURY HOMES
Luxury custom homes in Mississauga and Oakville
Manors of Kleinburg
Shyamora.com

DIAM DEVELOPMENTS
Manors of Kleinburg
Radiance
Diam.ca

HOMEXPERTS REAL ESTATE INC.
Real estate brokerage
HomExpertsRealEsate.com

FINANCIAL TIES
Mortgage brokerage
FinTies.com

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In Conversation With: Patrick O’Hanlon

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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.

York Downs

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.

PORTFOLIO

  • Brownstones at Angus Glen
  • The 6th at Angus Glen
  • Kennedy Manors

KylemoreCommunities.com

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In Conversation With – Bob Finnigan

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In Conversation With – Bob Finnigan

By Gale Beeby

Affordability the biggest issue facing homebuyers, says the president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association.

Bob Finnigan is one of those rare people — well spoken, well dressed, hard working and with a heart as big as a barn; in a word, a gentleman.

But when it comes to housing affordability, Finnigan has a few things to say and he says them with the passion of a person who cares about homeowners.

Canadians — particularly those in the GTA — are facing an affordability crunch for new housing that has left first-time homebuyers behind, says Finnigan, the new president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA). “It’s the culmination of a lot things, including a growing disparity between incomes and home prices and constrained land supply on top of Ontario’s Places to Grow policy, which demands higher levels of density everywhere in the province, not just the major cities.”

Home prices in the 1950s and ’60s, cost about three times the income of a single wage earner. In the GTA now, house prices are six to 10 times higher than the income of a two-income family, according to CHBA.

On top of that, 94 per cent of Canadians want to buy lowrise housing (detached, semis and townhomes) but can’t afford it, according to data collected by CHBA.

“Until we get a constant stream of lowrise housing in the GTA, new product is going to be priced at a premium. There are a lot of people chasing a few homes,” Finnigan said, noting that over 300,000 people come into the country each year — 100,000 into the GTA.

Adding to the price of new homes is a supply issue caused by the Ontario government, Finnigan says, lack of serviceable land, complicated building codes, regulation and approval process delays and developments fees, which cost a total of $6 billion annually across the country.

Finnigan points to a long delay in Whitby waiting for approvals as an example of the waste of time and energy required to reach the point where shovels can get into the ground.

“In 2006, when the growth plan was announced, bringing new lands into the urban boundary stopped for five years — and then it took five more for the region and towns to figure out all the new rules. Delays increase costs, which then, of course, adds to the cost of a new home. When Country Lane finally came to market, over 500 homes were sold in six weeks.”

Also, Finnigan adds, there is clearly a need for Ontario to facilitate the quicker release of the already approved development lands to ease the supply shortage.

Affordability in the GTA is also greatly affected to higher costs of living, including property taxes, utilities and transportation costs.

“It’s about time we stopped taxing new homebuyers and share the costs of infrastructure among the entire community,” Finnigan says of development charges, which can add thousands of dollars to the price of a new home.

The CHBA is also suggesting that the GST be removed from municipal development charges on new residential developments, calling it a “tax on a tax.”

“I’d also like to see tax breaks for purpose-built rental housing, especially ‘secondary suites’ — rental units in lowrise homes — which are not allowed in most municipalities.

“This would certainly address some of the issues of affordable housing and also help homeowners finance their homes.”

Read his article here

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In Conversation With : Jonathan Goldman

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In Conversation With : Jonathan Goldman

It’s really no surprise that the president of Stafford Homes loves his job; it’s a family affair.

Any discussion with Jonathan Goldman about his life is peppered with the word “passion” — for the building industry, for his father and grandfather, and certainly about the homes he builds.

“What we do matters,” says Goldman, who at 36 already has a lot of experience under his belt. “Everybody needs shelter and we try to provide the best possible shelter possible.

“I am incredibly passionate about what I do. I love the city and I love construction and design.”

Goldman is president of Stafford Homes, which, along with its sister company The Goldman Group, is over 60 years old. Jonathan is the fourth generation of Goldmans to work in the industry.

Goldman spends seven days a week either in the office, on construction sites or planning fundraisers for Mount Sinai Hospital, where he is a board member — just one of his charitable endeavours. It’s that kind of passion that has earned Stafford a reputation for building quality, energy-efficient homes.

When he and his father founded Stafford Homes, he served as vice president of sales and marketing and took the company into the modern era by creating a large social media and internet presence.

Real estate really does run in the family. In 1954, Samuel Goldman — a bricklayer and carpenter — came to Toronto from Russia where he and his son, Murray, built their first home. They continued building homes throughout the 1950s and ’60s, learning the craft of building and the creative development of neighbourhoods.

Gary, the son of Murray, joined his father at The Goldman Group in the 1980s after spending some time in both brokerage and financial services before founding Stafford Homes with his son Jonathan.

Under their leadership, Stafford built several thousand homes and commercial properties.

Condo Life: Did you always know you’d go into the family business?

Jonathan Goldman: It’s in my blood. My father and grandfather are developers and my great grandfather was a builder and I’ve spent time on construction sites since I was a child.

By the time I graduated high school, I was working as a sales agent and I wanted to do it fulltime. But I took a few years to get a university education and every summer I went home to work in the real estate industry.

I also founded a large renewable energy company, building commercial solar projects, which I sold in 2011 so I could focus on the real estate business. I have carried on here with that sense of innovation. I know what works and what doesn’t. Our business is about details and they are important.

CL: Do you have anyone would you consider a mentor?

JG: Definitely Gary, my father. He’s as smart and nice as it gets and an amazing teacher. He has tons of experience and he’s very passionate about what he does. This company has so many hard-working people who are committed to making Stafford Homes a success. Those are the values that were instilled in me from a young age by my father and my grandfather. We care about our purchasers and we are proud of what we do.

CL: With the province’s Places to Grow policy and the Greenbelt restrictions, what future do you see for the real estate and housing market?

JG: It’s not a bad policy as a concept, with developers working with the city to grow at an appropriate speed. And whatever anybody thinks, our housing market is incredibly healthy. There is a reason why people move to Toronto every year and it’s because this is an incredible city.

The national government really needs to support the housing industry more as it is vitally important and a real economic driver. It supports thousands of jobs, indirectly and directly, and gives back huge sums of money. It’s a much bigger employer than the auto industry and they are constantly asking for bailouts and we are constantly being asked to give more and more to help support the cities, provinces and country as a whole.

The building industry will stay strong for years to come. It is a tough business but we deliver the homes that support the GTA’s growing population.

CL: What kind of housing are you involved in building right now?

JG: We’ve got a couple of great projects underway. At Downsview Park, we got the last remaining lands — 13 acres — and we’re building 205 freehold townhouse units with a very unique feature — backyards. That is a great feature for any growing family. The units will be 2,900 to 3,350 square feet with three to six bedrooms, starting around $900,000.

Avenue & Park is a luxury seven-storey building located at Avenue Road and Bedford Park Avenue. There will only be 36 suits — all over 2,000 square feet — priced at over $1.5 million. I’m also really excited by Forestview Towns in Pickering, which is being built now. They are open-concept three-storey towns with outdoor terraces.

CL: What do you do for fun?

JG: I work (he smiles). Well, I workout. I’m a triathlete so I train for those competitions. And I spend a lot of time with my family, which is really important to me.

PORTFOLIO CURRENT
• Downsview Park Towns, Toronto
• Avenue & Park, Toronto
• Forestview Towns, Pickering
• The SkyLofts, Scarborough
• Elements Townhomes, Ajax

UPCOMING
• Conlin Road, lowrise, Oshawa
• St. Clair Avenue, highrise, Toronto
• Avenue Road, highrise, Toronto
• Sheppard Avenue Towers, highrise, Toronto
• Downsview Park, lowrise residential
• Trafalgar Castle Lands, lowrise, Whitby
• Hunt Street, lowrise, Ajax
StaffordHomes.ca

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In Conversation With : David Hirsh

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In Conversation With : David Hirsh

Seeing potential where others see problems defines Brandy Lane’s mission to transform developed urban areas into thriving communities.

David Hirsh has an imaginative mind that lets him see the possibilities of transforming urban blight to urban delight.

“Thinking creatively really does work,” Hirsh, 58, said over lunch in an Italian restaurant near his home in North York. “In fact, our business depends on it. For over a quarter of a century we’ve pushed the envelope to design new residential products.”

Hirsh, who grew up in Downsview, initially wanted to be a doctor, a dream that was never fulfilled, mainly because his family couldn’t afford the high cost of a university education.

“Now I’m a builder with a cure for urban blight,” he says with a self-deprecating laugh.

It’s hard not to like David Hirsh.

His mission to bring new urban life to older areas can been seen in his company’s many developments, including Loggia on The Queensway, Liberty Walk in North York and The Station at Wilson Road and The Allen.

Village Mews, located at Rogers Road and Kane Avenue, certainly exemplifies Hirsh’s desire to create affordable infill projects in existing neighbourhoods.

Brandy Lane’s most recent project, The Davies, is a luxury 36-suite condominium with eight penthouses at Avenue Road and Cottingham, overlooking Robertson Davies Park.

“We constantly strive to find innovative ways to deliver top quality and build homes and amenities that ring true to our clients’ needs,” Hirsch said.

“For instance, our communities in Collingwood appeal to active enthusiasts who want to enjoy year-round activities. It’s for that very reason that we incorporated features such as an outdoor heated pool, community trails and a skating rink that doubles as a landscaped area during the warmer months.”

Hirsch explains that he sees every new community as an opportunity to create more than just a condo tower or a tract of new home.

“We recognize and embrace the fact that our neighbourhoods have a snowball effect on future homeowners’ lives as the impetus for ongoing growth in an area. The key to our success is understanding how changing demographics and homeowner needs affect what we do, and responding accordingly.”

Condo Life: Tell me a little bit about your background, where you grew up and went to school. I’ve read your adoptive parents wanted you to be a doctor. How did you come to work in the development industry?

David Hirsh: I grew up in North York, well, Downsview to be exact, at Keele and Wilson. I was adopted by Holocaust survivors who taught me a lot about life. I was raised to be successful, and that’s what drives me. As a kid my parents were relatively poor. My father was a carpenter and my mom stayed at home. They were ordinary people. But as a kid I was always daydreaming about how I would renovate the homes we lived in.

I loved the old neighbourhood where I grew up. My friends and I used to bowl at the old York Bowl. Funny how life turns out because we tore York Bowl down in order to build The Station.

After high school I bought a haberdashery franchise. But it wasn’t for me so I went and got my real estate license and started as a resale agent but it didn’t go so well; incredibly high interest rates put a real damper on the market. I think I sold one house.

In 1992, I went to work for Great Gulf as a sales rep and then I moved to Senator Homes as their sales manager.

But I always need new challenges, and in 1986 I was asked to become a partner in a new company, Brandy Lane. I was so ambitious and aggressive as a young man (there is a little laugh following this statement). Brandy Lane expanded rapidly and we were building an average of 200 homes a year

CL: What have been the strongest influences in your professional life? When you entered the industry, did you have someone you would consider a mentor?

DH: Certainly my current partners, Zan Stern and Bill Glied; we’ve had a 30-year very partnership. They changed my life because they saw my ambition and recognized my abilities. And they’re more than just partners; they’re my friends, my family.

A true mentor to me is Angelo Breda from Senator Homes. I still channel him sometimes. I learned a lot from him. He was a great man, a real builder, a carpenter by trade who knew the business from top to bottom.

CL: Because of your history as both a lowrise and highrise builder, you’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry over the years. How has Brandy Lane changed with the province’s initiatives?

DH: In 1985, we were a different group at Brandy Lane. But in 1997 it changed dramatically. I wanted to move the company from building subdivisions to urban infill projects, unique products emphasizing urban intensification. We wanted to change an area and create a new lifestyle for the purchasers. There was a parting of ways with some of the partners who didn’t agree with this approach. So now, the words we live by are re-urbanization and intensification; we build mostly condos, midrise and highrise, as well as townhomes.

But infill renewal is not just for urban areas. We are very involved in introducing an urban form not previously built in Collingwood, which offers fabulous amenities and an opportunity for people to enjoy the incredible four-season lifestyle there. For some, a chalet or detached house isn’t always an option, and there is a better way. We’re building small buildings with condo units priced from $180,000. It’s a carefree lifestyle in a compact urban form. The city of Collingwood has been very easy to work with.

CL: With the province’s Places to Grow policy and the Greenbelt restrictions, where do you see the real estate and housing market in 20 years?

DH: The provincial guidelines demand compact urban growth and that is not a bad thing. I like what’s going on in GTA and I’m not wound up about the Greenbelt or Places to Grow. I believe in urban life.

This is world-class city, a city of neighbourhoods, and the demographics are changing. As a population, we are moving away from the suburban lifestyle because of urban sprawl and the commute times. People don’t want to spend two to three hours a day in their cars, and young people certainly prefer city life.

What we’re doing is finding sites with the potential to become great neighbourhoods, choice locations that have become neglected.

CL: What has made you the proudest?

DH: Loggia on The Queensway. It was the first project built under the guidelines of the City of Toronto’s Avenues and Midrise Buildings initiatives, which wanted more intensification along the city’s arterial roads, or “Avenues.” We faced a lengthy planning process but we were able to go with what the city wanted. Loggia is two midrise buildings joined by a floating podium with amenity space.

Loggia made me very happy for two reasons: an end user bought every single unit — it sold slowly but steadily — and it won an urban design award from the City of Toronto.

CL: What is your pet peeve? Development charges, the Greenbelt, Places to Grow, transit issues?

DH: I’m pretty optimistic. I am supportive of density and I would like to see easier accessibility to transit. I just wish everybody would stop arguing about it and just do it. And that dovetails into development charges. I don’t mind them but they should be tied to transit. If the transit issues were addressed and helped, the market would work better.

CL: What do you do for fun?

DH: I love to explore the city; I take walks and go to the theatre and restaurants. I love to cook and entertain as well. It’s a very nice life. My friends are my family. I’m also a student of architecture and urbanism. I don’t consider myself a workaholic because I love it, I love real estate. I put a piece of me into each project.

BRANDY LANE PORTFOLIO
• The Davies, Toronto
• The Station, Toronto
• Village Mews, Toronto
• Wyldewood Cove, Collingwood
BrandyLaneHomes.com
BrandyLaneHomes.com/blog/

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