Emblem Developments aims to make its mark in condo development
Walking into Emblem Developments, the first thing that strikes me is the intersecting glass walls of the company’s 42nd floor Bay St. offices, which overlook the most expensive office space in Canada. I think to myself, this is no average builder. A writer in real estate for more than 20 years, I am more than intrigued, and want to learn more.
I’m greeted by a background out of the TV show, Billions, a calm white environment, reminiscent of an art gallery, combined with the high energy of a stock trading floor. Incredible original art adorns the walls, set against a myriad of people focused on their computer screens. I can’t help but wonder, who is Emblem Developments and why have I never heard of them?
As I sit in a comfortable boardroom overlooking the financial district of Canada, in comes the impeccably dressed Kash Pashootan, CEO and brand maven of Emblem Developments. He greets me warmly with a strong handshake and a genuine welcome. At first, I’m taken aback, maybe a little intimidated by his calm demeanour, and direct, let’s-get-to-it attitude.
Pashootan is the visionary and leader of Canada’s fastest growing entrant to the condominium development market. A space for those with a keen sense of what people want and need in an ever-changing landscape. I ask him why condominium developments? He warmly smiles, and with a tone of incredible confidence replies, “We recognized that this industry would be a growth market in Canada for many years to come. As the cost of living rises, the demand for living ‘up’ will become more pronounced. This landscape, combined with $1 billion-plus of capital our investment management arm, First Avenue, manages, means we are able to take advantage of this for the benefit of our clients and firm.
“Investors want and need to be able to pursue growth in their portfolio outside of simply the stock market,” Pashootan adds. “In 2018, the stock market was down double digits and our real estate investments were up double digits. March of 2020 we saw most stocks drop as much as 30 per cent, but our real estate holdings held steady. And that makes a blue-chip investor, like myself and my clients, sleep very well at night.”
First Avenue has been featured in Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, Hong Times and Washington Post, to name a few. The company has built its reputation on its long term portfolio performance during good and bad markets.
“Managing stocks will always be a core focus for us, but first and foremost is protecting and growing the wealth of our clients,” says Pashootan. “When one’s portfolio is able to pursue growth and not have it solely reliant on stocks, given our exposure to real estate, it achieves an effective portfolio approach that up until recently only billionaire families were able to access.”
Emblem Developments has sites ongoing across Ontario, with more than 1,600 condominium units currently under construction, pre-sale and planning, in four distinct markets – Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton and Mississauga.
“The expansion is at a rapid pace because, like most pension funds or REITs, we don’t require third party financing to acquire a new development site,” says Pashootan. “With more than $1 billion of permanent capital under our management we are able to move faster than our competitors. Which places us in a very enviable position.”
Emblem Developments has already started construction on Robinson Village in Ottawa, comprising 291 units of purpose built rental living. Style and design are the pillars the Emblem brand is built on.
“Regardless of the market we are building in, you will feel the soul behind our brand when you see the buildings or walk through them. Our brand comes through in our design and our finished product,” says Shamil Jiwani, associate director of real estate for Emblem Developments. “We are obsessed with exceptional design, recognizing that it is the main factor that determines quality of life for a homeowner.”
Emblem’s next project in Mississauga is no exception to this unique philosophy. The new project is aptly named Artform, and located south of Square One. Emblem has spared no expense in its creative design of a timeless, cool and luxury feel in the heart of Mississauga.
The icing on this project is that the new community will be set against the new Dundas Connects transit system, which links Dundas from Oakville to Toronto in one line.
“This is a unique and incredible opportunity for condominium buyers to get in on the ground floor of this change that is happening in Mississauga,” says Hunter Milborne of Milborne Group.
“Emblem Developments is a full-service condominium developer,” adds Raki Raoufi, vice-president of construction, Emblem Developments. “We will design, build and service all of our units, which makes us care a little more, give a little more and hope you come back for a lot more.”
Raoufi brings with her more than 20 years of highrise building expertise to the Emblem brand.
“The Mark of Exceptional Design” is the Emblem mantra, and it seems to be spot-on. It becomes evident very quickly that no corners are being cut with any facet of the company’s business, most noticeably the quality and commitment of the experienced professionals I spoke to.
“I love design,” says Pashootan. “There is no substitute for great design. I am passionate about Emblem creating spaces that give you that intangible feeling of you don’t know why, but ‘it feels right.’ That feeling is not achieved by what kind of floors you have or the colour of cabinets. It is achieved by how all parts of the design interact, behave and work together. Exceptional design is not just our slogan, it’s our belief as an organization.”
I leave this interview with the conclusion that: Stocks and real estate can mix well together, not all Bay Street professionals are only number crunchers, and most interestingly, that Kash is a killer but more humble than most with a fraction of his success.
With more than $1.1 billion in real estate assets, Emblem’s mindset, and the strength of an award-winning team, the developer is truly making a mark in this industry.
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This story previously appeared in Toronto Life magazine.