In Conversation With – Shakir Rehmatullah
Flato Developments’ president has perfected the art of the condo.
Everybody has a story to tell — some are pretty interesting — and Shakir Rehmatullah has one that spans three countries and two continents, and all before he was 20.
In 1996, Rehmatullah came to Canada with his parents from their home in Karachi, Pakistan, where both his father and grandfather were in the building industry.
As soon as the family landed at Toronto’s Pearson airport, the family drove to Markham and checked into a hotel, which, incidentally, is right beside Flato’s new head office.
The senior Rehmatullah then rented a car and started looking for property he could buy and found a piece of land.
Rehmatullah was studying architectural engineering at the University of Miami before his family relocated to Canada, which is why he named his company Flato — Fla is the abbreviation for Florida and TO is for Toronto.
The energetic father of four has a passion other than building — the arts. It’s why Flato is the naming sponsor for the Markham Theatre and why Rehmatullah is a patron of the theatre. He also sponsors Markham’s Varley Art Gallery, named for Group of Seven painter Frederick Varley, and helps young artists market their work through The Original Artwork Collection at his home decor website, FlatoHome.com.
“I love the arts,” Rehmatullah says. “It’s important to me to support the communities where we build — whether it be sponsoring their community theatre, art galleries, or recreation centres. It’s not just about building houses; it’s about building communities.”
Q: What separates Flato from other homebuilders?
A: My passion and the pride I have in what I build. I learned from my father and grandfather that building homes isn’t just about creating shelter, but about creating vibrant communities. I live in the community I built because it’s important to me and I have nothing to hide. I have a long-term commitment to each project I build. I work in the community for the same reason.
Every community needs schools, parks, theatres, arenas, libraries, hospitals, art galleries … we all need them. To help create those amenities, and to support those amenities, is going above and beyond what is required. I don’t want to leave a ditch behind when I finish building. I’ll turn that ditch into a park.
I’m also really blessed to have a really great team working with me who shares my vision.
Q:You are a lowrise homebuilder that recently took on a condominium project, ArtHouse.
A: We have built many lowrise communities acorss the GTA; in Vaughan, Mississauga, Oakville, Markham, Richmond Hill and Brampton. And yes, our first condo, ArtHouse in Markham, a 14-storey building with 173 units, which has been completed. The project is completely inspired by the arts, right down to the amenities, which includes an artist’s studio, gallery space, a digital arts centre and a culinary arts studio. It’s also built to LEED Silver requirements and will include retail at grade.
Q:What’s on the drawing board?
A: I’m really excited about our upcoming communities. In Dundalk, we’ve got Phase 3 of Edgewood Greens about to be released. It’s a master-planned community of fully detached homes, ranging in size from about 1,800 to over 3,000 square feet. And in New Tecumseth — Beeton actually — we’re in the planning stages for another master-planned community.
I’m finding that we can build high-quality homes outside the GTA and offer a more affordable price point. Beeton is right off Highway 400 and just a short drive to Alliston and Barrie, making the commute into the GTA fairly easy. But I’m really hoping the government will do more to promote public transit, which would make it so much easier for people to move around and find affordable housing outside of the GTA.
We’ll soon be releasing our final phase of Alloa Greens in Brampton. And another upcoming community we have is Palgrave Estates, a luxury estate home community in Caledon, situated on one- to seven-acre lots.
Q: Do you have someone you would consider a mentor?
A: My father, absolutely; I learned a lot from him while he was a builder in Pakistan and after we moved to Canada.
Q:What makes you proud?
A: My kids. I have four children — aged 11, 9, 5 and 2 — and I love to spend time with them. I take them to school every day and we really enjoy each other.
I’m also very proud of my team here at Flato. It sounds cliché, but we really are a family. What we do is what we believe.
Q: Flato has a reputation for giving back to the community. Why is that important to you?
A: What I do is not about the money for me. It’s personal satisfaction. It gives me pleasure to give from my heart. I want Flato to be more than just the homes we build.
Q:What do you do for fun?
A: I love to spend time with my kids. But, of course, having lived in Miami, I enjoy golf. I used to be quite good but don’t have the time anymore, so when I do play, I really enjoy it.