Tag Archives: Interview

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In Conversation With… Michael DiPasquale, Chief Operating Officer Dunpar Homes

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In Conversation With… Michael DiPasquale, Chief Operating Officer Dunpar Homes

From building much needed townhomes in the GTA, to a recent focus on luxury rental properties, and now to developing a full mixed-use neighbourhood around a shopping mall rejuvenation… This is Dunpar Homes, a builder evolving with the times. We spoke to Chief Operating Officer Michael DiPasquale to learn more about these interesting moves, and more.

HOMES Magazine: Dunpar’s Kingsway Village Square on Prince Edward is an interesting project in that it’s boutique luxury rental. Why did you choose to go that route with this project, as opposed to an ownership-based offering?

Michael DiPasquale: There are a few factors that led us to a luxury rental product. Years ago, the project was on sale as a joint-venture with another developer, but the sales levels weren’t achieved. After a few more years went by, we took a look at our portfolio and the number of projects we have in that neighbourhood and came up with the idea of creating synergy and shared amenities between them. This thought process brought us to a luxury rental community, as we saw the rental achievements start to improve over time, meaning it became viable as a long-term rental project.

HM: Why in that neighbourhood?

MD: The Kingsway neighbourhood speaks for itself. It’s a highly desirable and very beautiful neighbourhood. Dunpar has been part of this community for many years. We also saw a need in this neighbourhood for rental units that coincide with the prestige of the community.

HM: Does this project signal a move to more rental properties for Dunpar?

MD: Yes, this will be project-based, and whether each is viable in the long term. We do plan others in that neighbourhood that will work together with this first project; this is why we called it Kingsway Village “Square.” We didn’t want to compromise on amenities, and since we have multiple projects in this area, we can have amenities done really well to share between the buildings, instead of compromising similar amenities in each building, for example, fitting only a lap pool or small gym.

HM: How are you positioning and marketing this property, in terms of target demographic and rental rate?

MD: This building is positioned for the Kingsway neighbourhood. The unit layouts are much larger than the average condo being built in Toronto. We expect this to cater to “downsizers” who live in the area, want to sell their property but remain in the neighbourhood. But, we also expect it to be mixed with young families as the unit sizes are very efficient and large, giving families as much space as possible to live. There are wonderful schools nearby that are very desirable for parents. It also serves to provide many people who cannot afford houses in the Kingsway neighbourhood, to live in and participate in the community without having the upfront equity required in a purchase.

HM: What if people really love this building and their unit? Is there an option to buy?

MD: No, there is no option to buy. This is a rental building. What actually distinguishes us compared to other condo rentals, is that many condo rentals are owned by individuals (instead of a corporation). Many tenants are getting kicked out when that owner themselves moves in, or wants their son or daughter to move in. Well, a corporation does not have children and cannot use this to get people out.

HM: What are some of Dunpar’s other more interesting projects underway?

MD: We are continuing with our townhouse history in the Lake Shore Village project in South Etobicoke, as well as Streetsville Centre in Mississauga, which is located right across from the GO station. We will continue to provide opportunities to live in existing neighbourhoods with transit access. Dunpar is also building its first commercial/industrial condo units at Jutland Square, creating a new and vibrant employment community with the same design guidelines that have made our townhouses so successful and timeless.

HM: What’s the status of your Streetsville Centre community?

MD: Construction is starting very soon with the underground services and a few townhouses, one to be used as a model home. We had some unfortunate delays, but a lot of activity will start in the next few months, and into 2020, we’ll be under full construction.

HM: You have a new community in Oakville coming up this year. What type of community will it be, and where, exactly?

MD: This is located off of Sixth Line near the QEW. It will be a smaller collection of luxury townhomes, with many units overlooking the beautiful Sixteen Mile Creek.

HM: And beyond that, what’s next for Dunpar?

MD: Dunpar has many lands throughout South Etobicoke that it has accumulated over the years. We will continue to serve this community with townhomes, as well as our foray into luxury rentals in the Kingsway neighbourhood. Much more to come in different pockets, as well.

One of the largest upcoming projects is the renovation and rejuvenation of the Sheridan Mall neighbourhood in Mississauga. We own the mall and all the surrounding lands. We are in preliminary stages, but we plan on building a vibrant, cool and future-proof mixed-use neighbourhood that utilizes the best parts of the mall while incorporating all different types of residential into this community.

AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE…

When you’re not at the office, you: My wife and I enjoy the booming restaurant and food scene in Toronto. We’re out trying new type of food or fusion-type restaurants, as those have taken off in the past few years. I also enjoy golf, and a bunch of us at Dunpar really enjoy rock climbing. We climb in gyms here in Toronto, as well as the mountains down in Arizona.

Your greatest inspiration in the homebuilding industry is: Quality over quantity. I enjoy being a part of an industry that has tangible results and part of a builder/product which I am proud to play a part in producing. I live in a Dunpar home, because it’s a great unit in a great location. There are no townhomes like them. The uniqueness and thoughtfulness we put in our projects is what keeps me going.

Your greatest accomplishment outside the office is: I do my best to keep a balanced life as much as possible, while enjoying activities that make us happy. I don’t have many specific events to claim, other than a happy marriage and lifestyle that we are both very happy with, while surrounding ourselves with friends and family all the time. We keep very busy seeing everyone in our lives as much as we can, just because we enjoy spending time with them.

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Interview: Kimberly Sears of Menkes

A chat with Kimberly Sears of Menkes Developments

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A chat with Kimberly Sears of Menkes Developments

Kimberly Sears is director of condo rentals for Menkes Developments and oversees the company’s Rental Suite Management division.

Kimberly has a background in hospitality and more than a decade of experience in real estate investment management.

Condo Life: Menkes offers condo owners rental management services… What does that entail?

Kimberly Sears: Menkes Rental Suite Management offers a full range of landlord services to owners renting out their suites. We want to be there for our purchasers, rather than just walk away after delivery, and we noticed a real demand for landlord assistance from our purchasers.

CL: What are some of the services you offer?

KS: We offer condo owners a wide range of services, including assistance with leasing, tenant screening, accounting, insurance claims, sourcing affordable repairs and HST rebates. We also help coordinate moves. We have an online 24-hour portal with access to each unit’s accounting and statements. In some circumstances, we also help mediate difficult situations between owners and tenants, helping determine each side’s responsibility to the other.

Harbour Plaza Penthouse
Harbour Plaza Penthouse

CL: What’s the benefit to using these services over dealing directly with the tenant?

KS: Owners get the benefit of a professional and knowledgeable team overseeing their investment, like a financial planner does with an investment portfolio. We also extend full privacy so owners can remain anonymous should they choose. Owners can feel more relaxed about their investment. We’re also familiar with the trades, warranties and have access to some of the best service pricing.

CL: What are some of the biggest challenges that homeowners face when renting out their suites?

KS: Inexperience, lack of resources and time. Most people already work full time, and being a landlord is a huge commitment, so this allows condo owners to be more hands-off and enjoy what little free time they have.

Finding the right tenant can also be challenging, so we provide some guidance in that area and alert our owners of possible red flags to look out for. The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) in Ontario is very pro tenant and rather strict on the landlord’s rights and responsibilities, so you really want to ensure you choose the right tenant.

CL: What are some of the ways to avoid or overcome these challenges?

KS: Hire a professional service. You hire an accountant to do your taxes, a hairdresser to do your hair and a mechanic to fix your car, and purchasing a home is one of life’s biggest financial investments, so it’s definitely a good idea to work with a professional. Do you really want to take a risk on such a large asset?

CL: What’s something you think people often forget to consider when renting out their suite?

KS: It’s important to be aware that your tenant is not responsible for everything, so you need to assume general wear and tear to the unit. I suggest budgeting some of your rental income for maintenance and repairs – five per cent for units less than two years old, and 10 per cent for units that are three to 10 years old.

Try not to be short-sighted or stubborn when it comes to setting rental fees. Remember that vacancy can cost you more than a lower rent.

It’s also important to note that the rental rate is not established based on your monthly payments, but off the market, which changes monthly.

CL: What’s the biggest misconception about condo investors?

KS : People assume that condo investors are foreign investors, when more often than not, this isn’t the case. In our experience, 80 per cent of our management properties are owned by Ontarians. Quite often, these individuals are the average person; someone who saved up to make their first investment purchase, teachers planning a retirement or parents investing in a place for their children.

We are so grateful that people trust us with their biggest asset and we want to make it successful for them.

Visit Menkes Rental Suite Management for more information or call 416.775.7500.


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Cover Story: Molly Johnson

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Cover Story: Molly Johnson

Self-identification for women seems to be somewhat more complicated than it is for men. And for Molly Johnson, her list of accomplishments can’t be distilled into one word. Johnson is an artist, a singer, a songwriter, a mother and a philanthropist – to name a few.

Photo, Chris Nicholls

By Cece M. Scott www.cecescott.com

Molly Johnson is also a five-time Juno nominee, and in 2009 she received a Juno award for vocal jazz album of the year (Lucky). In 2007, Johnson was named as an Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition of her contributions to Canadian music, as well as for her work with the Kumbaya Foundation – an AIDS charity that she co-founded in 1992. She is also a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient (2012). Johnson has performed for the likes of Nelson Mandela and Princess Diana, and alongside many notable artists, such as Tom Cochrane, Anne Murray and Peter Appleyard.

THE JOURNEY

At the age of 59, Johnson’s career has spanned more than five decades. By the age of four she was appearing in musicals, including Porky and Bess at the the Royal Alexander Theatre in Toronto. Performing was a family affair, and her brother, Clark (age seven), and her sister, Tabby (nine), were in a number of productions alongside her. When Johnson and actress, Cynthia Dale, were both seven years of age, they appeared in South Pacific and Finian’s Rainbow, and a lifelong friendship ensued. “I remember the props, especially in Candy Man, the orchestra pit, the music, and my beloved Ed [Mirvish] and his beautiful theatre,” says Johnson.

Molly and her brother, Clark, at the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards. Photo courtesy of Molly Johnson and the Canadian Screen Awards

In addition to acting, Johnson aspired to be a choreographer, and attended the National Ballet School of Canada until the age of 15. While at the school, Johnson learned more about how to use, and enrich, her diaphragm as it related to modulating her singing. “I would creep into the back door of the Colonial where the brother and sister team of Shawne, and Jay Jackson of The Majestics were singing. I would watch Shawne sing her own songs, and she made her own clothes. And, I realized that I could make other things, too. I could make songs,” says Johnson.

Childhood photo of Molly and Cynthia Dale. Photo courtesy of Molly Johnson

Johnson became a guest singer of the disco group, Chocolate Affair, then went on to perform gigs with Billy Reed and The Street People. By the late 1970s Johnson was writing her own material and had formed the eclectic funk-rock group, Alta Moda. Her interpretive, smoky voice earned her the nickname – Diva of Queen Street.

Molly performing with JUNO award-winning bassist Mike Downes. Photo courtesy of Molly Johnson

PERSONAL PREFERENCES

Johnson doesn’t drive, and walks everywhere. She considers herself extremely fit for someone who doesn’t go to the gym, and says that her life is her gym. She does admit that she’s had to make some accommodations as she’s aged. “I drop my songs a semi-tone to accommodate my vocal range. I call it my old lady key,” says Johnson. “And while I miss a lot about my youth, I am really tired of the attitude that women are past their prime at 26. How can I talk truth and be authentic if I colour my hair? When I turned 50, I felt like I had arrived.”

Photo, Chris Nicholls

While fiercely private about her family, Johnson is extremely proud of her sons. Henry recently graduated from grade 12, and Otis is in his third year at the University of Ottawa. “They are both beautiful, kind, empathetic gentleman – that was my goal.”

Released this past spring, her new album, Meaning To Tell Ya, reflects Johnson’s attitude towards life, as well as her musical explorations. The title references the positivity that Johnson emanates in terms of her intention of wanting to ‘tell ya’ how brave you are, or how fabulous you are, or that when you walk into the room, you own it. The album is a mix of funk, soul, groove and jazz, and includes a Marvin Gaye song, Inner City Blues. The album was produced by Larry Klein (once married to Joni Mitchell). “I couldn’t believe that I had the opportunity to work with Larry,” says Johnson. “Marvin was the master of telling stories that are both relevant, and still very meaningful, in today’s world. That, in itself, is a strong message, not just about how far we’ve come, but also for how far we still have to go.”

PHILANTHROPIC BENT

Johnson is also a consultant and story teller for the TD Bank’s Black History Project (an initiative she co-founded with TD). She uncovers interesting, and impactful, stories that relate to Canada. “This country is rich with black history,” Johnson says. “In fact, Canada abolished slavery 76 years before the States.”

She recounts the story of Viola Desmond (featured on the Canadian 10-dollar bill). Desmond was a successful black Nova Scotian businesswoman who challenged racial discrimination by sitting in the main level of New Glasgow’s Roseland Theatre, an area supposedly reserved for white people. “Desmond was dragged out of the theatre and put on trial,” says Johnson. “Her stand against racial discrimination actually happened ten years before Rosa Parks took her stand.”

Johnson is advocating to have The Book of Negroes, by Lawrence Hill, included in the grade 11 curriculum.

In 2016, Johnson started the Kensington Market Jazz Festival – an extensive undertaking that involves programming 400 Canadian musicians in more than 12 venues. The 2018 festival runs from September 14th to the 16th. “It’s a community vibe with curated busking,” says Johnson. “Tom Mihalik, of Tom’s Place, is the patron saint of my festival. He also pays for piano lessons for kids in the neighbourhood.”

A huge supporter of both established, and aspiring, musicians, Johnson does not perform at the festival. “This is about others – my community and my talented friends.”

Photo, Chris Nicholls

“A good song can change your mood, and in fact, your whole day.”
– Molly Johnson

Johnson has upcoming concert dates scheduled in Canada, the United States and Europe. When not touring, recording or working on her many philanthropic initiatives, Johnson loves to hang out with her kids. Gardening is a favourite past time – both vegetables and flowers – especially the Oscar Peterson rose with its creamy white blooms.

The creative and inspiring people of Toronto, along with its diverse cultural, food and musical events, keeps Johnson centred. “Toronto is like a charm bracelet around the lake,” says Johnson. “And every charm is a neighbourhood with its own flavour.”

Feisty, self-deprecating, witty and always the optimist, friends tease her of being a Mollyanna. “I’m definitely a yes person. I like a challenge.”

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