Tag Archives: In Conversation With

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In Conversation With… Bob Finnigan, Principal and COO Housing, The Heron Group of Companies

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In Conversation With… Bob Finnigan, Principal and COO Housing, The Heron Group of Companies

Homebuilders and their associations are only as good as their executive leadership. Bob Finnigan, currently COO Housing at The Heron Group of Companies, who was recently named CHBA Member of the Year, has led them all – local, provincial and national bodies. With such unique and extensive expertise, Finnigan shares his insights on recent industry and government initiatives, and what’s to come to address issues facing the industry and homebuyers.

Condo Life: You were recently named CHBA Member of the Year. How does that feel, as an established industry veteran with so many years in so many important capacities?

Bob Finnigan: When they first made the announcement, my initial reaction was, ‘Wow, this person has done a lot of work.’ Then I realized it was me! It’s a very nice surprise, and I’m very honoured for being recognized in this way by my peers. I have been volunteering for a long time, and the years have passed very quickly – so the workload seems normal to me – but when it is highlighted, you realize that, in fact, your efforts do make a difference.

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CL: What do you think was the chief reason or accomplishment that earned you such accolades?

BF: I would think that in addition to the years of previous work, including serving on the boards as president of all three levels of homebuilders’ associations, it was the additional efforts I had put in over the last year to ensure that the items I have been working on will be seen to fruition. Those of us who serve on the boards do so in order to better the industry on an ongoing basis. We all feel strongly about what we do, and we know what needs to be changed to continually improve the situation for builders and homebuyers.

CL: How are you applying this now award-winning expertise in your current capacity?

BF: The award is great, but essentially, nothing has changed for me where my work is concerned. My passion is still to bring new houses to people who are proud to call them home. In a way, the work on the associations is an extension of what I do every day at Heron and Herity.

CL: Ontario recently unveiled its Housing Supply Action Plan. What’s your assessment of it?

BF: I applaud the provincial government for moving this way. It is definitely a step in the right direction, but a lot of things have to happen before the program will work. My assessment is, let’s see how it rolls out. Things change all the time, and we have already seen the program evolve with new announcements. As long as we keep moving in this direction, the results should be positive and good.

CL: What are its key strengths, and where does it come up short?

BF: Its key strengths include cutting red tape to make it easier to build a variety of types of housing in the right places, and hopefully making housing more affordable in the process. Paperwork and layers of permits, approvals and development charges add greatly to the cost of new homes. This plan looks at the situation in a pragmatic way. Up until now, the choice of homes in specific areas has been restrictive. Obviously, the government has been listening to what we in the industry have been saying for years. Now, it will be interesting to see how long the rollout and implementation take.

CL: In its budget in March, the federal government, by many industry accounts, failed to truly tackle some of the key challenges in the housing industry. What do you think Ottawa should have done, and should focus on making happen, going forward?

BF: The federal government’s mortgage stress test that came into place in January 2018 has been a huge problem for homebuyers across the country. A lot has changed since then, and in the two markets the stress test was designed for (Vancouver and Toronto), it has certainly cooled things – but it also had strong negative effects and hurt the rest of the country.

Sales are down in many markets, and even if they are not, people who could have purchased prior to January of 2018 with the very prudent lending rules the banks had in place, are now shut out of the market or have to get additional financial help. Even worse, many have turned to unregulated lenders that don’t have to adhere to the rules, and that charge a much higher rate than regulated lenders. The potential homebuyer loses both ways. We had hoped that the government would recognize these market changes and look to relax the stress test for longer-term mortgages – five years or more – but it did not.

In addition, we asked that they reinstate the 30-year amortization period, again making the qualifying payments easier to afford. It does not create any additional risk; it just allows more people to realize the dream of homeownership.

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What Ottawa did do was to announce additional RRSP funds that can be taken out to purchase a home, which is very good, and also a CMHC program that will help bring homeownership within the financial reach of some purchasers. The concern with the CMHC program is that it is complicated, the specifics of which have not been fully disclosed yet and won’t be until the fall, and it is capped, so is limited in scope.

As such, we continue to call for the stress test reduction and the 30-year amortization as an instant and no-cost solution to the many Canadians wanting to get into homeownership. If they did this, we would see many more Canadians come into the market.

CL: Between the federal and provincial government involvement, plus more on a municipal level, and actions such as BILD’s Building Answers public awareness campaign, the homebuilding industry is really involved with all stakeholders. Where is all this going? What’s next? What else needs to happen?

BF: All three levels of homebuilders’ associations are working more closely than ever before. Of course, technology helps keep us connected on a nationwide level so we are all on the same page, wherever we are in the country. We all have the same concerns, but on different scales. One thing we agree on is that housing affordability is the number one issue facing young Canadians. Our collective associations’ goal is to drive this message home to all three levels of government. The province seems to have gotten onside with that goal, with the recent Housing Supply Action Plan. Municipalities still need to work harder to make Development Charges more reasonable and to cut red tape. The federal government has different pressures to deal with, but making it more difficult for people to purchase with actions such as mortgage stress test is totally counterproductive.

AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE…

When I’m not at the office: I never sit still. I try to lead a healthy lifestyle. I play hockey, golf, ski, bike, work around the house. I love it all. I also love to travel, which helps to keep me active.

The accomplishment or achievement I am most proud of in my career in homebuilding is: I’d have to say working with my colleagues at Heathwood, Heron and Herity – a group that has stayed together for decades. To me, these people are family members, and it shows in the communities we build. I am also extremely proud of helping to establish The Mikey Network in memory of our late friend and colleague Mike Salem. That we have helped to save many lives in his name is a true privilege.

What’s next for you, personally or professionally? While I am not on any association board officially, I am still active in the industry by serving on the board of Tarion and helping out when asked. What’s next for me both personally and professionally is to continue what I’ve been doing for years – a good balance of work and play!

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In Conversation With… Jared Menkes, Executive Vice-President, Menkes Developments

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In Conversation With… Jared Menkes, Executive Vice-President, Menkes Developments

Few builders are as active in condo development in the GTA as Menkes Developments Ltd. Charged with the construction, sales, management and customer service of nearly 6,000 condominium units is Jared Menkes, executive vice-president, Highrise Residential.

Condo Life spoke to him for his insights on the company’s key projects and more.

Condo Life: Mobilio is an interesting new project Menkes has underway – offering both condos and townhomes. What is the inspiration for this project, and what will be its differentiating features?

Jared Menkes: The GTA continues to experience the phenomenon known as the “missing middle,” whereby neighbourhoods lack the diverse housing options that make them more balanced, and – most important – affordable to the average family. The new community will deliver architectural diversity, while simultaneously fulfilling the area’s fundamental need for more density. It will be the first project in Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC) to blend a mix of housing types on one site, striking the perfect balance of housing, greenspace and amenities, many of which will be shared between the condos and townhomes.

CL: What is the status of the project, in terms of number of housing type, unit and home sizes?

JM: With more than 1,000 units of low- and highrise living, Mobilio will feature a mix of highrise condominium towers, and two- and three-bedroom townhouses, including some with rooftop terraces. This community is one where we are able to accommodate all different types of buyers – first-time buyers, new couples, empty nesters and retirees all have options to buy.

CL: Vaughan Metropolitan Centre is seeing a lot of development at the moment. Where do you see this going in the next three, five or 10 years?

JM: Vaughan is already the largest employment centre in York Region and will continue to be the destination of choice for the 905, especially with the development of VMC. By 2031, VMC alone will be home to 25,000 residents, 1.5 million sq. ft. of new office space and 750,000 sq. ft. of retail. And with the addition of the subway line added to the area, VMC will continue to become a downtown connected to Toronto’s downtown. Connectivity will also continue to be a major draw to Vaughan, with access to the TTC, VIVA and such close proximity to Hwys. 400 and 407.

CL: Family-friendly condos and amenities are an increasingly important part of the market. What types of new features is Menkes introducing with its projects? For example, developers are including libraries, bike parking, pet-wash stations and even music practice rooms in their projects…

JM: When it comes to amenities, I try to think about everything you would want or get out of living in a single-family home, and incorporate it into a condo. People like to entertain large groups, so we have sophisticated party rooms with kitchen and bar areas. If you like to barbecue, we offer a landsc aped terrace equipped with barbe cues. You enjoy a quiet night in? We have state-of-the-art theatres and game lounges. And if you want to stay active, we have fitness centres with separate weight, virtual and yoga studios.

When it comes to entertaining kids, we’ve offered all kinds of cool amenities such as hobby rooms, music rooms and play rooms with amazing interactive features.

We have really considered every member of your family right down to your pets. Mobilio will include a convenient pet-washing st ation. I am also very excited about the park aspect of this project. We will have the linear parks that connect all the projects together on this block and on future blocks that provide trails and exciting ways for families to stay active.

CL: And at Mobilio, what features there will speak to the neighbourhood or expected buyer profile?

JM: More and more people are looking to invest in walkable suburban communities near jobs, schools and other amenities, so they can experience more of an urban lifestyle in the 905. Mobilio is a short dist ance from Vaughan’s transit hub, and Vaughan is currently the only municipality in the GTA aside from Toronto that offers connectivity to the TTC subway system, GO Transit and regional transit services.

Also, this kind of versatile development will allow people to stay in the same community through every stage of their lives, should they choose to. For instance, families could potentially have their aging parents live close by without moving in with them.

CL: What kinds of things are you personally bringing to Menkes that perhaps previous generations didn’t focus on?

JM: I wouldn’t say there are things that I can offer that other generations didn’t, but I will say that as a previous condo owner with a young family, I can appreciate the need to make smaller spaces more livable for families and the need for amenities that cater to children. My experience living in a condo with two kids and a dog (at that time) helped shape of lot of Menkes’ recent condo projects.

AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE…

When not at the office or in the field, I: Explore the city with friends and family.

My greatest inspiration in this business is: Getting the opportunity to work with my family and getting to work on true city-building projects that will shape our city for generations to come.

If I wasn’t involved in the development industry, I would: I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Real estate is in my DNA. I love the opportunity I have to work on the types of projects that we get to develop. Every single one is a new challenge unto itself.

PORTFOLIO

87 Peter Street
King and Peter Streets

Fleur
Church and Shuter Streets
Under construction

Harbour Plaza
South Core Financial District, Toronto
Complete

IN.DE
Dundas East near Dundas Square

Mobilio
Vaughan Metropolitan Centre
Register now

Sugar Wharf
Toronto Waterfront
Under construction

The Eglinton
Yonge and Eglinton

menkes.com

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In Conversation With Vince Santino, Senior Vice-President, Development Aoyuan Canada

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In Conversation With Vince Santino, Senior Vice-President, Development Aoyuan Canada

Condos are king in Toronto and, increasingly, elsewhere in the GTA, and one shining example is M2M, an 8.6-acre master-planned community from Aoyuan at Yonge and Finch in North York. When complete, M2M will be a fully-integrated, live-workplay neighbourhood with 1,650 residences, a community centre, daycare, 180,000 sq. ft. of retail and office space and a new public park.

Developer Aoyuan International set out with a master plan and smartly designed suite layouts to provide a variety of living options for families at different stages of life.

Vince Santino

We spoke with Vince Santino, senior vice-president of development for Aoyuan Canada, for an update on this signature project, and what might lie ahead for the company.

Condo Life: How are things coming along at M2M?

Vince Santino: Sales of our first phase began in June 2018 with a very successful launch, selling out the north tower. We released the south tower in February 2019, and the response was the same. We’re very pleased with the results to date. People want to be in North York.

We’re on track to begin construction in late Q2 of this year, or early Q3, and we’re looking forward to receiving our first homeowners for our first phase, which includes both towers and our lower suites, in late Q2 of 2022.

CL: What is it about North York that is so appealing?

VS: For one, it’s still within the 416, and when buyers are looking for a condo, they’re looking for convenience and being close to amenities. North York offers it all. Where we are situated, it’s very close to transit, the TTC and GO Transit, but also very accessible to all the major highways.

CL: Who are the typical buyers for this project?

VS: We’ve seen a lot of end users. They’ve been the majority of our buyers, whether they’re young couples, young families or downsizers… many of them have grown up and raised families in the area. They love it and don’t want to leave.

CL: What have you learned about development – delivering on your customers’ needs and wants – since launching this project?

VS: People want convenience. Even though they’ve made the decision to move into a condominium space, they want amenities that they don’t need to necessarily get into a car to get to. And they want choice, in the type of suites, with efficient design where space isn’t wasted, and to maximize utility at a price they’re willing to pay. They’re happy to pay for a bigger suite… our larger suites, our two-bedrooms plus den or three-bedrooms… we’ve designed them very efficiently. So, for a younger family, or someone who’s downsizing, they don’t feel like they’re sacrificing by getting into a condo.

CL: At M2M, you’re not just building a condo, you’re building an entire community, all with easy access to transit, which is increasingly key these days. How import ant are all of these inclusions in appealing to family living in condos?

VS: We’ve got more than 100,000 sq. ft. of office space planned, 8 0,000 sq. ft. of retail… that gives any family all the necessities, literally at their doorstep. Our site is complemented by really good restaurants, shopping, proximity to schools, universities, and we’ve got a future daycare conveniently located within the development that gives the younger families a key service that helps reduce the stress of the day-to-day commute and a busy family life.

The community centre, along with the public park that we’re going to construct as part of the development, provides families with options for better quality of life year-round, just footsteps from you. And because you’re in the 416, you’re close to transit, reducing your commute time, all of that time can be spent enjoying these amenities, spending that time with your family. It isn’t always so conveniently accessible in other developments, so this is really a one-of-a-kind opportunity, because of the sheer size and the amenities we’re providing.

CL: How do you foresee the condo market in that area performing in the next three to five years?

VS: We’re feeling very, very bullish. If you look at what’s been happening in the midtown area, Yonge and Eglinton, and up to Yonge and Sheppard, this is just a natural progression. We’ve seen a lot more launches in North York in the last year, and more coming into the market this year, and the area is starting to undergo a renascence, and over time people are going to continue to choose to be in North York. It tells us that buyers still want to be within the 416, but they have no problem not necessarily being in the downtown core, as long as they can get to it and the rest of the GTA conveniently.

CL: Affordability is a key concern for homebuyers in Toronto. How is Aoyuan addressing that issue, in how it plans and delivers its communities?

VS: The reality is, in the last little while, traditional lowrise homes have become more unaffordable and more out of reach for families. For us, providing well sized, even of the smaller units, are designed with the utility and growing families in mind. It provides people with an alternative. As for M2M itself, delivering those things, all in a masterplanned community, and not just a couple of towers in the middle of nowhere, it’s a great example… we’re trying to give people everything they need, moving into a space that isn’t perhaps traditional for younger families.

We’re taking the opportunity to intensify in an area of the 416 in North York where people want to live because of all of the existing amenities, and all those other elements. It gives our customers a lifestyle that offers it all, really – easy access to schools, transit, universities… people don’t feel like they’re giving up a lot, but the value they get by living in this area makes the affordability challenge a little easier to bear, especially for a young couple or young family moving into their first home.

CL: For some, affordability is a key reason for choosing a condo, but what are some of the other reasons families might consider a condo in the city, versus a lowrise home in the suburbs?

VS: A condo in the city helps with the cost of transportation, as it’s a significant expense for any household, so with the option of public transit, it means families may not need to purchase a vehicle, or a second vehicle. You’re reducing the commute time, and for families working in the city, it allows them more time to spend with their children, parents or grandparents. The city provides families with a lot of choice – where they shop, work and play – and there’s everything around, especially where we are in our setting.

CL: What have you learned – be it about development in Toronto or family-centric condos – from M2M, that you will use in future projects?

VS: Listen to the needs of your buyers. It’s refreshing to try things that maybe haven’t been at the forefront of condo development in the past. There’s a significant segment that wants living in the sky to provide the options, flexibility, amenities and opportunities that in the past attracted families to traditional lowrise homes, and the more we’re able to build those amenities in the sky, it becomes more and more attractive.

CL: What’s next for Aoyuan in the GTA?

VS: The future is bright for us here. We’re not limiting ourselves to condos only, and it speaks to our mantra of building a healthy lifestyle in trying to build complete communities. We’re looking at all kinds of other opportunities across the GTA.

Certainly, we’ve got Phase 2 at M2M coming, and we’re going to continue to build on what we’ve seen has been very successful for Phase 1, but we’re not limiting ourselves to one building form or type. We’re looking at a lot of opportunities, in and around the 416 and the 905 as well. Stay tuned.

PORTFOLIO

M2M Condos
Yonge and Finch
Now selling

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In Conversation With Niall Collins, President of Great Gulf Residential

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In Conversation With Niall Collins, President of Great Gulf Residential

Fresh off a milestone 2018 filled with multiple industry awards and groundbreakings at signature projects, Great Gulf is poised for another, well, great year in 2019.

From landmark highrise developments in Toronto, to expanding its footprint south of the border, Great Gulf has no plans to rest on its laurels.

Niall Collins
Niall Collins

We spoke with Niall Collins, president of Great Gulf Residential, to get his take on what lies ahead for this leading developer.

Condo Life: Great Gulf’s tagline is, “At Great Gulf, we do more than just build — we transform.” Please elaborate on what exactly that means.

Niall Collins: We are continuously researching new opportunities to add more value to our products. Investing in innovation is at the core of our business.

CL: Last year was a huge year for Great Gulf – winning Highrise Home Builder of the Year at the BILD Awards, then Builder of the Year at the OHBA Awards of Distinction. What are you doing for an encore in 2019?

NC: Great Gulf is launching three highrise residential projects in Toronto. We’re also starting construction in the spring of La Clara, a luxury condominium building in West Palm Beach; we’re currently building a 10-storey mixed-use, multi-family development in Washington, DC’s vibrant Union Market District; and we’re registering Monde by Toronto’s waterfront.

One-hundred per cent of Great Gulf homes and midrise buildings are being manufactured by H+ME Technology. The entire production process at H+ME Technology is entirely controlled through the complex computer design of every single element of home structures, which are CSA approved.

357 King West
357 King West, at the corner of King Street West and Blue Jays Way in Toronto.

CL: You had three major groundbreakings in late 2018 – 357 King West, 8 Cumberland and Home at 48 Power. How is the sales pace going for these projects?

NC: Sales are ongoing for all three projects.

CL: And how is construction coming along?

NC: Construction is progressing well with shoring and excavation work well underway on all projects.

CL: 357 King West is interesting in that, being in a downtown location, it includes a bike storage, dedicated bike elevator and wash and repair area. What are some similar inclusions at some of your other new projects that speak to how purchasers live, specific to that area?

NC: We’re a vertical city and should respond to purchasers’ needs. First-time buyers, families and those downsizing will have different requirements. We are building larger units to accommodate families. Home Condominium provides expansive rooftop amenities that people value, creating the experience of outdoor space.

Great Gulf executive team
The Great Gulf executive team at the 8 Cumberland groundbreaking.

CL: What is the status of the project at the Mirvish+Gehry site at King and Duncan – such as name, notable features and launch date?

NC: The Gehry project will feature the tallest residential tower in Canada at 92 storeys, with the second tower at 82 storeys. It is notable because it also represents the coming home of famous architect Frank Gehry. We are currently working through the building program and will have details available in the near future.

CL: We understand you have a luxury condo planned for the Yonge and St. Clair area? What can you tell us about that?

NC: We are planning a launch this year for the Yonge and St. Clair development. The project, with exterior and interior designed by Siamak Hariri, will feature large luxury units ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 sq. ft. and include large balconies and terraces.

CL: What’s next for Great Gulf, in terms of upcoming projects?

NC: Great Gulf currently has 18 highrise projects being developed across North America. We’re working towards completing permit design and process to start construction on three highrise residential buildings in Dallas and Atlanta.

PORTFOLIO

  • 357 King West 357 King St. West, Toronto, Now selling
  • 8 Cumberland 8 Cumberland St., Yorkville, Toronto, Now selling
  • Monde Queens Quay and Lower Sherbourne, Toronto, Under construction
  • One Bloor Yonge and Bloor, Toronto, Now selling
  • 401 King & Spadina 401 King St. W., Toronto, Coming soon
  • Yonge & St. Clair 1421 Yonge St., Toronto, Coming soon
  • Mirvish & Gehry Condos King St. and Duncan St., Toronto, Coming soon
  • Spadina 101 Spadina Ave., Toronto, Coming soon
  • Home 48 Power St., Toronto, Coming soon

 

greatgulf.com

RELATED READING

Great Gulf and partners break ground on Yorkville condo 8 Cumberland

Great Gulf breaks ground at 357 King West

 

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In conversation with… Deena Pantalone of National Homes

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In conversation with… Deena Pantalone of National Homes

With a mission that You are the blueprint, National Homes is laser focused on what new-home buyers want, the things they love and how they want to live. Having built more than 5,000 homes across the GTA, with increased focus on the highrise market, National doesn’t just strive to build quality new homes. Just as critical is exceptional customer care, and a market-leading embrace of technology every step of the way.

We spoke with Managing Partner and Director of Marketing & Innovation Deena Pantalone to get her insights on just how National connects with today’s discerning homebuyers, and what lies ahead in 2019.

Deena Pantalone

HOMES Magazine: As Director of Marketing & Innovation at National Homes, how has what you do changed over your time in the role?

Deena Pantalone: The largest change has been the evolution of our marketing to digital communications, and smart phones in particular. My role has expanded from Managing Partner and Director of Marketing, to Managing Partner and Director of Marketing & Innovation over the years, as I am constantly looking for innovative ideas to set National apart from everyone else, whether it be in our designs, technology or our customer service. We want to be at the forefront.

We are focused on keeping up to date with state-of-the-art technology and seeing how it can apply to National Homes. Keeping an open eye and mind approach to any new property technology and be willing to explore and implement if it will benefit the homeowners, potential buyers and us.

HM: Technology is an increasingly important part of home building these days – in everything from construction to sales and marketing to what customers expect in home tech. How prevalent is National involved in keeping up with these trends?

DP: Technology is central to everything we do at National. As homes and families get more and more integrated with the new digital revolution, National Homes is in the thick of it all – bringing ever more bright ideas that help our homebuyers stay on top of their lives. More choices. More options. More devices. At the end of the day, it’s about making our homebuyers’ lives easier, smarter and richer.

We do market research and workshops to determine what our buyers would like to have in their ideal homes and how they would feel if we implemented certain things, because it goes back to our core values – You are the blueprint.

We hold cutting-edge events such as our Blueprint Workshop at the IBM Innovation Space, which brought together 70 participants in discussions, presentations and interviews, learning about innovative products from building and design professionals and sharing their thoughts in a thinktank format. This way, our customers have a direct input into ideas that are reflected in our home designs. Because our philosophy has always been that, as a customer, you are the Blueprint.

We’ve brought virtual reality into our sales offices so buyers can walk around and explore their future homes, and we’re constantly looking for ways to be energy efficient and more sustainable.

 

 

National Homes Focus Group
Pantalone leading a customer focus group discussion

HM: And in the next five to 10 years, what will be the biggest change or opportunity in these areas?

DP: Property Technology is expanding at an exponential rate. That means your home will be smarter tomorrow than it is today. We will be seeing more of smart buildings, cities and communities, driverless vehicles which will affect the way that homes are designed.

Right now, smart home technology is just in its infancy, so in five to 10 years, everything will be connected not only in our homes, but our construction processes and development work.

HM: How important is social media at National Homes, in terms of connecting and communicating with customers – particularly Millennials, who have grown up in the digital age?

DP: Digital communications are key to everything we do today. Prior to a sale, it starts with social media on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Houzz and Facebook. We search out the latest innovations in architecture, design, technology from around the world and share them with our community. And, of course, we also speak to our followers about upcoming neighbourhoods and other news.

HM: National is building in a variety of communities in and around the GTA. Where do you see the next hot market – in terms of either geography or product type?

DP: There’s no question that affordability has become the biggest issue in the GTA housing market, and land prices are right at the heart of the matter. Everything starts with the needs of our customers, and if price is even more of an issue today, then we have a responsibility to find answers.

This is why we are bringing on new communities in Brampton, Courtice and Burlington, where lower land prices can make homes more affordable. And we are expanding our product design mix to include midrise condominiums that give people better prices.

National Homes Forest Phase 2
Forest Phase 2 Model Home

HM: What can your customers expect from a National home?

DP: Our customers can expect a home that is designed with their needs in mind. We put an enormous amount of effort into research, workshops, focus groups and questionnaires.

Our customers can expect exceptional customer service. Our Customer Care program has been designed to make the entire home purchasing experience a positive one. Some of the highlights include a New Home Workshop and seminar to prepare you for the homebuying process, the National Care Kit, a wealth of information on how to care for the finishes inside your home, innovative framing walk-throughs, detailed customer surveys and a homeowners’ portal communication hub where they will find everything they need to know about their home.

HM: Please finish the following statement. For National Homes, 2018 was a year of:

DP: Innovation. From the home designs we have been developing for our new communities, to the products and technology we are incorporating into our homes, this year we have been pushing the boundaries behind the scenes to ready ourselves for the launch of our next communities.

HM: And 2019 will be a year of:

DP: Introduction and implementation. In the new communities we introduce this year, all the research and development we have been working on behind the scenes will start to be available to our new buyers. And that makes this coming year a very exciting time for us.

Portfolio

  • THE FOREST, detached homes, Bradford, Final phase coming soon
  • STATION TOWN, townhomes, Markham, In registration
  • THREE RIVERS CLAIREVILLE, townhomes, Claireville, In registration
  • COURTICE, townhomes, In registration
  • BURLINGTON, townhomes and condos, In registration
  • BRAMPTON, townhomes, In registration

nationalhomes.com

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In conversation with Jim Ritchie of Tridel

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In conversation with Jim Ritchie of Tridel

It’s always a pleasure to spend time with the smart and insightful Jim Ritchie, executive vice-president of sales and marketing at Tridel, one of Canada’s largest and best condominium builders. In its eight decades, Tridel has built more than 80,000 homes, and that’s something to celebrate!

Tridel was founded by Jack DelZotto in 1934, when he built his first single-detached home near Dufferin and Bloor Streets. Jack, who arrived in Canada from Italy in 1927, was a stonemason by trade who worked in the mines in Timmins before coming to Toronto. (He helped lay the bricks at the Park Plaza Hotel. How’s that for history?).

Jack’s three sons — Angelo, Elvio and Leo — were brought into the company, and continued to grow the organization into what it is today. The name of the company evolved to Tridel (after the three DelZotto brothers).

The DelZottos have always been known as innovators and built their first rental apartment complex in 1961, featuring twin towers, a swimming pool, a recreation centre and landscaped grounds — quite luxurious for the times — the forerunner of today’s modern condo.

Today, the DelZotto brothers and their lifelong business partner Harvey Fruitman — along with their families — have carried on the tradition set by Jack of complete communities, environmental awareness and technical innovation. And it has grown.

As Ritchie tells me, Tridel manages every part of the development of a condominium project.

“We handle the entire process — land purchase, planning, approvals, marketing, selling, building, customer service and management. Overall, we control the customer experience from purchase to residency.”

In fact, in addition to Tridel, the Tridel Group of Companies consists of Deltera (construction services and management), Del Realty (real estate brokerage), Del Property Management (condominium property management), DelSuites (long-term furnished executive accommodations), Del Condominium Rentals (full-service condo rentals), Delmanor Retirement Living (seniors’ accommodations), Delcare (long-term seniors’ care facilities) and Del Management Solutions (residential and commercial property management).

Q: Did Tridel make a conscious decision to move from ground related housing to apartments and condominiums?

A: The transition from single-family homes to building rental apartments was an evolution. Tridel built a rental apartment complex complete with amenities and landscaping, which essentially became a model for the condominium we know today.

In 1967, when condos became a legal entity in Ontario, Tridel embraced the concept and started developing its first condominium the following year.

Q: What are your thoughts on the condo market in the GTA?

A: Toronto has the largest new condo market in North America. The market was outstanding in 2017, which was an exceptional year fuelled by many factors. But that record-breaking year couldn’t be sustained, and with a number of government interventions, including new mortgage rules, the market has levelled somewhat as compared to previous years.

We see consistent and long-term growth in the GTA housing market, especially with a strong economy and continuing growth in population. But it’s really very difficult to make predictions.

The success of the industry is predicated on relative affordability and more recently condos have become very popular because of the increasing cost of other forms of housing — 25 per cent of the cost of a home is various fees and taxes.

Q: What is Tridel’s philosophy of building condo communities?

A: We are city builders — actually all highrise builders are city builders — and at Tridel we put more focus on architecture and the public realm. Architecture matters and consumers understand that. Today’s consumers are well informed on these matters.

But it’s not easy, there are no easy projects anymore. No longer can we raze a parking lot and build a condo. There just aren’t any of these types of sites left. And creating real communities, which means mixed-use developments, brings more complexity.

Q: How have you seen suite design and amenity space changed over the years?

A: Architecture matters to Tridel and that includes suite designs that can optimize the use of space, and user-friendly amenities, which have changed over the years and now include more family-oriented spaces.

Evermore at West Village in Etobicoke offers some of the most current amenities and suite designs, including two- and three-bedroom suites for family living with larger entrances and bigger laundry rooms with more storage.

Some of the more in-demand amenities include shared workspaces and study pods, kids and youth zones and large outdoor terraces.

We’ve also found that putting the larger units in one area of the building — at Evermore they are in the podium — means that families can live near each other and that creates a sense of community.

Q: Tridel has a reputation for being in the forefront of green technology. Has that always been the case?

A: Tridel has always been on the leading edge of new construction methodology and energy-efficient building practices. These include the fundamentals of building design, including the building envelope and mechanic al systems. In 2005, we brought our first LEED building into the marketplace, and now we lead sustainable residential condominium development in Canada.

Q: What new innovations does Tridel have in the works?

A: I’m very excited by Tridel Connect, an innovative range of integrated smart home features, which we recently rolled out very successfully at our Ten York community. Some of the features of Tridel Connect include the ability to set the temperature, security alarm and receive notifications about community events through an in-suite wall pad or remotely with a smartphone app. Suite locks are also dig ital, opened with a personalized code, and additional codes can be programmed for service people, like a cleaner or dog walker.

You can also use the wall panel to connect visually with the concierge and select common areas, and you can open common-area doors with your smartphone, so no more key fobs. That also applies to the garage door, where a camera uses license plate recognition to provide entry.

We had this technology developed about six years ago, but we wanted to make sure we had worked out all the kinks before announcing it. It will be included in many Tridel condos going forward.

PORTFOLIO

  • Evermore at West Village, Eva Road & Hwy. 427
  • Aqualuna at Bayside, Queens Quay & Sherbourne
  • Auberge on the Park, Leslie & Eglinton
  • Auberge II on the Park, Leslie & Eglinton
  • Bloor Promenade, Bloor & Islington
  • Bloorvista, Bloor & Islington
  • Islington Terrace, Bloor & Islington
  • Bianca, Dupont & Bathurst
  • Via Bloor, Bloor & Parliament
  • Via Bloor 2, Bloor & Parliament
  • Aquabella at Bayside, Queens Quay & Sherbourne
  • Ten York, York & Harbour
  • Alto and Parkside at Atria, Sheppard & Hwy. 404
  • Trio at Atria, Sheppard & Hwy. 404
  • Parfait at Atria, Sheppard & Hwy. 404
  • Aqualina at Bayside, Queens Quay & Sherbourne
  • Aquavista at Bayside, Queens Quay & Sherbourne
  • Alter, Church & Carlton
  • 101 Erskine, Yonge & Eglinton
  • Avani 2 at Metrogate, Kennedy & Hwy. 401
  • Selene at Metrogate, Kennedy & Hwy. 401
  • SQ2 at Alexandra Park, Spadina & Queen
  • FORM, Queen & McCaul
  • Scala, Leslie & Sheppard
  • Sherwood at Huntington, Bayview & Lawrence

Tridel.com

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In conversation with David Bunston, president of Georgian International Land Corp.

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In conversation with David Bunston, president of Georgian International Land Corp.

By Gale Beeby

Georgian International started as a small aeronautics company, founded in part by Jamie Massie and David Bunston. The company has grown since it was founded in 1984 and now Air Georgian operates 19 aircrafts on scheduled passenger and charter flights, is a partner with Air Canada Express and also performs aircraft maintenance, management and training services. Based at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, it is now ranked as its fourth largest user by traffic frequency.

That’s a success story.

And from that storied beginning, Georgian International has taken off with automotive and real estate businesses, as well.

Bunston — who is executive vice president, real estate, for Georgian International, as well as president of Georgian International Land Corporation — has been friends with Massie since they were kids. He also carries a pedigree as a third-generation member of a real estate family.

He’s also a really nice guy.

Georgian’s commitment to quality and craftsmanship — as well as unique designs — has landed Georgian numerous awards, including being awarded the Best New Home Community in Canada by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association for Braestone Estates in Horseshoe Valley in 2016.

Georgian International took a very holistic approach when developing Braestone and the result is a unique. What Georgian calls Remarkables are amenities that have grown naturally out of the community’s own landscape. That includes a 566-acre working farm that includes a fruit orchard, berry patch and Christmas tree farm. Other Remarkables include are horseback riding, Nordic skiing, a maple sugar bush, beehives, a pond that is used for ice skating in the winter, a toboggan hill, a treehouse and a hilltop observatory called Starfall.

Also in development are Windfall at Blue and Mountain House at Windfall, both located in the Town of Blue Mountains.

Q: How did Georgian International move from the aviation industry to real estate?

A: We were well positioned to add real estate development to what we do — there is still a lot of runway left. Aviation is, obviously, a large part of what we do, but real estate is becoming a bigger part of our focus. Jamie Massie and I were childhood friends and over the last 30 years our friendship has evolved into a partnership.

Although I grew up in the GTA, I had a lot of connection to the area of Collingwood and Blue Mountains, where as a family we spent a lot of time. It’s an area that is close to my heart.

Q: Whose idea was the holistic approach to the development of Braestone?

A: It really was a team vision. In the early days we knew we had a unique property and that we could create something remarkable and do something different and capture the imagination of buyers.

Braestone is unique in that it appeals not just to the 705 area, but also the 905. It’s close to the GTA but still remote and we embraced the architectural style of the farmhouses, barns and sheds that are common in Oro-Medonte. Each of the lots are 3/4 to 1 1/4 acres lots.

As exciting as Braestone is, I’m excited by all three of our current projects — Windfall and Mountain House condos, as well.

Q: Who are your buyers?

A: Geographically, most of our buyers don’t see themselves living in this area until they come and see it. It’s a great place and once they experience it, they want to spend the rest of their lives here, and that includes parents, kids and grandparents. The multi-generational aspect of our buyers is quite unique.

There is a great sense of community here and we appeal to those who embrace an active lifestyle. Georgian has continued to keep the management under their banner, and we organize a number of social functions to get residents involved and connected.

We are committed to Simcoe County and Collingwood and the Town of Blue Mountains are our backyard. It is more accessible to the GTA than other resort areas, and there is so much to do — it’s an interesting place to be during all four season.

Q: Do you think that the real estate market is going to slow down?

A: We haven’t seen any pull back in market activity, but here we are still benefitting from the high prices of homes in the GTA, where many people are feeling disenfranchised. Plus the traffic congestion and other issues facing large urban areas and sending people out of the GTA in search of community.

I believe in Simcoe County, its got lots of growth potential and we are well positioned to take advantage and create other remarkable communities.

Q: Georgian is known for its philanthropic endeavours. How does that align with the company’s philosophy?

A: We believe we should invest in the community and the people who support it and not just by writing a cheque. The executive team and our employees are encouraged — and do — volunteer hundreds of hours to community initiatives. We embrace the importance of community and philanthropy.

Portfolio

GeorgianInternational.com

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In Conversation With: Alan Hirschfield

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In Conversation With: Alan Hirschfield

Design is fragile, but it is the most important element in a liveable community, says the driving force behind The Uplands in Courtice

By: Gale Beeby

Every once in a while, you might meet someone who makes so much sense you wonder how it is possible that most people don’t think that way.

Alan Hirschfield is one of those people.

I had the distinct privilege of sharing lunch with him at the Richmond Hill Golf Club earlier this year, where our wide-ranging conversation touched on so many topics that we barely got a chance to discuss his newest project, The Uplands in Courtice. So, we had to talk a second time and — strictly — only about The Uplands.

Hirschfield, who was born in South Africa and has lived in many countries around the world — including nine years in the United States — was an architect and founder of UD+D Incorporated, an urban design and development consulting firm.

He is also the driving force behind High Street Courtice Inc., the development company behind The Uplands, which will include many housing forms — including townhomes and condos — all designed with a modern flair.

High Street has embraced a design forward approach and is the development manager for two $100 million projects, in addition to a 110-acre lowrise and midrise development in Wellington.

Hirschfield’s experience in the architectural world has enlightened him to one hard fact: Canadians have always had a more enlightened and modern take on the world. However, he notes, Canadians have not been offered much more than the same old, same old, and when they see something unique, they embrace it.

Q: How do you envision the design of homes evolving?

A: Local people are driving design, and that’s the way it should be. Canadians haven’t being offered much, just more of the same. When I lived in the U.S., I thought that Americans were trying to do history cartoon style. You know, overly done Tudor and Victorian-era homes that just seemed, well, cartoonish. Trying to make the dead look good.

Unfortunately, that sensibility exists here as well, but when Canadians were offered something different, they sucked it up and bought. People are now seeing a greater variety of housing styles

— an explosion of available and timeless designs.

There seems to be a historical gap in architecture here. There were the great old architects and then a gap, but now I see some great young architects doing really interesting things and the public is totally accepting.

There is a really big change in the kind of people who are doing development, a changing of the guard, challenging the previous order. That’s a really good thing.

As a company, we don’t want to do work we don’t like ourselves. It takes five to 10 years to get approvals, so we need to love what we do. There is a new philosophy to development, the City Beautiful Movement.

As Toronto was built out, in order to make it work the lots got smaller and individual house styles became unworkable on those tight lots — it became a cacophony. But people still need — and want — individuality.

There was also a need for different kinds of housing, traditionally in different areas of the city. But not anymore. Families don’t want to be separated by housing form. People are now buying a townhouse or house for themselves and a condo for their kids, which they will eventually retire to. And they want them all together, not in different areas. No longer is the house in the suburbs and the condo in the urban core.

As a philosophy, I think showing how condos and townhomes work together on one site is critical, tying them together by design.

Q: How modern do you think you can go and still be acceptable by the buying public?

A: Our designs are modern but still look like a house with pitched roofs. How modern can we do it in a suburban environment? Quite modern, but comfortably modern. And we’re doing modern designs with traditional materials because we have hard weather conditions here, so it just makes sense to use tried and true materials. The materials we use are chosen not only because of their great looks, but for longevity as well. It can still look good and hold up to the outside elements. Design is fragile, but it is the most important element in a liveable community.

Q: How has building design changed over the years?

A: First, designers are responding to what they see and hear. The buyers know what’s available and they’re not willing to take cookie-cutter anymore. Good designers do good work and good construction. For instance, we’re using fiberglass front doors. They insulate better and look good longer.

We’re also responding to new public knowledge of design, energy-efficient homebuilding techniques and warranty requirements.

Q: Tell me more about The Uplands.

A: It’s a master-planned community of townhomes and condos overlooking the Farewell Creek Valley with absolutely stunning views and direct access to the trail system in the valley. The townhomes are spacious and feature smart home designs with contemporary exteriors of brick, stone and stucco and the condo building will mirror those design elements.

The architecture is being handled by Naylor Architect Inc. and Turner Fleisher Architects Inc., with landscaping by Strybos Barron King and interiors by Johnson Chou Inc.

It’s a great team and I’m thrilled to be working with them.

Q: What’s on the drawing board?

A: Something I’m really very excited about, but can’t talk about in detail just yet, but it will be a $500 million master-planned community in Etobicoke that will include townhouses, multi-tower highrises, a seniors residence, retail and office space.

Stay tuned!

MyUplands.ca

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In Conversation With: Dave Wilkes

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In Conversation With: Dave Wilkes

The new President and CEO of BILD

By Gale Beeby

Dave Wilkes has the municipal election at the top of his mind.

The new president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) believes that it is imperative for his industry to inform the candidates and the public about the main issues surrounding housing. And he wants to remind everyone that the GTA is growing, and growing fast.

“There are two numbers everybody should remember: 9.7 million and 2041.

“Those numbers represent the population of the GTA in 2041. All that growth is good for the economy, but the municipalities in the GTA have got to start thinking about rezoning for all that growth and make sure that we can live, play and work in communities that work.

“I am impatient to do more,” said Wilkes, who grew up in Scarborough and was most recently the senior VP of the government relations and the grocery division at the Retail Council of Canada.

Needless to say, Wilkes has a passion for government relations.

“We’re going to be very aggressive in the coming municipal election, which will be held on October 22. We want to make sure each candidate is educated on housing issues. We’re going to ask them to sign a ‘Housing Pledge’ and hold all-candidates meetings and virtual town halls so the public knows where each candidate stands on the issues of affordable housing.”

BILD has 1,500 members, including builders and developers, renovators, manufacturers, suppliers, trade contractors, service and professional companies as well as financial and legal providers.

Q: What are some of the things BILD is going to undertake in the upcoming election?

A: Well, I have a column in a number of GTA-area media outlets (including this magazine), so they will be focused on the issues surrounding the election as they pertain to housing. It’s not just about development charges and the various land transfer taxes, it’s also about the types of housing that we need to build in order to house the 100,000-plus migrants into the GTA every year.

Q: Beyond the election, what else do you have planned?

A: I want to tell the story of the GTA. BILD can certainly take a leadership role in telling the civic building story. We have already produced one video and plan on making many more. (You can see “Creating a Community – The Challenge” on BILD’s YouTube). It’s not just about creating housing, but also healthcare, road, greenspace, education and parks.

We need to speak louder — I need to speak louder — and use every opportunity to get our voice out there and make an impact on consumers and come up with real world solutions.

Q: What is going to be the focus of that messaging?

A: Well, first we have to determine what we should own; everything can’t be a priority. Land availability, the cost of developments and proper infrastructure are our priorities. And we need to align those policies across the regions so that we can have smart growth into 2041.

BILDGTA.ca

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In Conversation With: Darren Steedman

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In Conversation With: Darren Steedman

By Gale Beeby

Don’t let the affable manner and big smile fool you; Darren Steedman takes his role as chair of the board of directors at the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) very seriously.

Still, it’s hard not to like him.

Steedman, who is vice president at DG Group Development (formerly Metrus Development), has his work cut out for him with a mandate that takes on several local and provincial policies, including the review of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), the Growth Plan the proposed inclusionary zoning scheme, and development charge reviews.

Q: First, let’s find out a little bit about you. Where did you get your start and how long have you been in the industry?

A: I graduated from Laurentian University in 1998 with an economics degree. I started as a summer student with Metrus Development (now known as the DG Group as of April 2015) in 1997, doing anything and everything. They rehired me during the winter break and the summer of 1998 and offered me full-time work when I graduated. I applied to the Ontario Professional Planners Institute under the affiliated degree program and got my Registered Professional Planners Designation in 2004.

I recall very early in my life, heading into the office with my dad, meeting the guys, watching the draftsmen, helping where I could and even going on site visits. I have been around this industry my entire life and some would say that it’s even in my blood.

My father Allan Steedman, president of Schaeffer Consulting Engineers, is my mentor as a father and as an industry leader. This was where it began, where I started to figure out what I love to do, where I started to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up.

The real estate portfolios I manage are as far north as Barrie and as far south as Niagara Falls. I’ve worked on a number of projects, from brownfield, greenfield, residential (low, medium and highrise), commercial and employment.

Q: You’ve become chair of the board of directors with a two-year term. What are your mandates?

A: My top priorities while working with BILD staff are the province’s Growth Plan, the review of the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board), inclusionary zoning and affordable housing.

We will continue to work hard, get engaged and advocate for our industry on these critical issues that will shape our future.

As well, we will be preparing for both the provincial and municipal elections next year. It’s our chance to remind the province that it’s time to get serious about housing and that we will continue to advocate to make housing an issue.

Q: With over 100,000 people moving into the GTA each year, what do you think the biggest challenges are facing in the industry in creating safe and liveable communities?

A: We have a huge housing supply challenge in the GTA. There is not enough of it and there are not enough of the types of housing that people really want. To fix the infrastructure crisis we need to address several issues.

First, over the last 10 years lack of infrastructure has gone from being a challenge to a crisis, and that severely hinders our ability to develop land, build employment spaces and communities and increase housing supply.

We spend a lot of time talking about transit and transportation in the GTA because it is our most visible infrastructure challenge.

Across this region we are facing other infrastructure crunches that are impeding growth and development. Chief among them is insufficient water and wastewater systems and services. I’d be willing to bet that for most builders and developers in Ontario, lack of water and wastewater infrastructure is currently limiting our ability to build homes and develop land. In some cases, the necessary servicing won’t be in place at least for another decade.

To make things happen and to build more houses and employment spaces we need adequate water and wastewater infrastructure. The land might be out there but it is not shovel-ready.

It’s critical that government invests in the water and wastewater infrastructure needed to accommodate our growing population and explore viable funding models and solutions.

Second, the length of the approval process and the amount of red tape needs to be addressed. Over the past 10 years, we have seen a very lengthy approval process. A study completed in 2016 by the Fraser Institute found that development approvals in the GTA are delayed by an average of 18 months and play a significant role in the rapidly decreasing housing supply and add to the growing price of new homes.

And third, many municipalities across the GTA are operating with badly outdated zoning bylaws that don’t align with provincial policies.

Out-of-date zoning makes the already long approval process even longer. Municipalities are required to review their official plans every five years and update their zoning bylaws no later than three years after a revision.

It’s time for the province and municipalities to start enforcing this rule so that zoning bylaws can be used as an effective tool for implementing provincial intensification policies and help deliver the development that is needed to house our growing population.

Q: The province has been looking into disbanding the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) as a place for developers and builders to appeal decisions made by the municipalities. What are your thoughts on that, and what would you do instead of repealing?

A: BILD strongly supports the essential role of the OMB as an impartial, evidence-based, administrative tribunal that is responsible for handling appeals of land-use planning disputes. In this administrative authority, the OMB serves to ensure that provincial land use policies and objectives are achieved and that municipalities employ consistency in the application and implementation of land use legislation.

OMB reforms will create an environment where municipal councils will have no incentive to make tough but better decisions that will support provincial plans and good planning.

I would allow municipalities greater time to make a decision beyond the current standard (270 days), staff the OMB for mediation and full hearings and dire ct public funds to ensure that all parties at the hearing are fairly funded.

Q: DG Group (formerly Metrus Development) has a well-earned reput ation for planning and developing communities in a sustainable manner. What names does the DG Group build under and what is the philosophy behind that mandate?

A: We look at sustainable communities beyond simply the green nature of the statement. The ConDrain Group of Companies, which DG Group is a part of, is one of the few companies that operates in the residential, office, retail and ICI space. While we pride ourselves on building green infrastructure that lasts, we take pride in our communities and how they operate in real life conditions.

We ensure that our resident’s children can walk to school; we ensure that they have greenspace and parks for everyone to enjoy. We ensure that employment lands are vibrant and well designed for our client’s needs and our retail spaces that meet the demand of the community.

Q: What has made you the proudest?

A: What I love the most is touring one of our complete communities and watching the kids walk to school, playing in the park and enjoying the greenspace. I feel a sense of satisfaction seeing in real life the solutions to the issues that we came up against along the way and how we made it happen.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge so far?

A: OMB reform, Inc lusionary zoning and the Fair Housing Action Plan.

Q: What is your pet peeve?

A: The lack of priority housing has b een given by our various levels of government.

Q: What do you do for fun?

A: Anything outside; I hate being indoors. Camping is one of my favourite ac tivities. We did a two-week camping trip in our Airstream trailer to Quebec City, Halifax and the Bay of Fundy. My wife Kelly and I want to show the kids Canada. I also enjoy golfing, skiing and I play a little hockey. I love the Toronto Maple Leafs and I have great hope this is the year.

Waterdown Meadows by Aspen Ridge Homes

DG GROUP PORTFOLIO

  • New Barrie, Barrie
  • Bond Head, Bradford West Gwillimbury
  • Dreamfields, Bradford West Gwillimbury
  • Springdale Community, Brampton
  • Mayfield Village, Brampton
  • Cleaveview Estates, Brampton
  • Lakeshore Woods, Oakville
  • Mayfield Employment Centre, Brampton
  • Hometown, Guelph
  • Caledon East, Caledon
  • Humberside, Caledon
  • Credit Manor, Brampton
  • Waterdown Meadows, Hamilton
  • Confederation Heights, Thorold
  • Lyons Creek, Niagara Falls

DGGroup.ca

AspenRidgeHomes.com

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