After I rejoined TAS, I was asked to write a blog post on why I came back. It went live this week on tasdesignbuild.com, and so here it is:
After almost four years at Morguard Investments, I’ve made the move back to TAS. The first time I was here was in 2008, while I was still completing my master’s in architecture and real estate development at the University of Pennsylvania.
I was then, as I am obviously now, a big supporter of TAS’s commitment to “Shaping Beautiful Cities™”; however, I decided to spend some time on the commercial and more institutional side of real estate. During that time I was fortunate enough to work under someone I consider to be one of the best in the business. She taught me a ton and I’m hugely grateful for that opportunity.
So why did I make the switch? I did it for one simple reason: alignment.
I love cities. That’s why I blog about them daily. I’m also a big believer in the power of design to make them more beautiful, livable, prosperous and environmentally sustainable. I see the vitality of our cities as the key to Canada’s overall economic competitiveness and I see this vitality as starting with each individual neighbourhood. Every building matters. As a trained architect, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake this belief. Real estate is, and will always be, something more to me than just bricks and mortar.
So when I say alignment, I mean a shared sense of purpose. A belief that, as real estate developers, we have the opportunity (and responsibility) to shape cities and, hopefully, improve the way people live, work and play. It’s no easy task, but I think half the battle is knowing that we’re all in this business for the same reason.
Over the past five years I’ve watched TAS evolve as an organization. From its roots in the custom home business to a company in transition, it has grown to become–in my humble, and now biased, opinion–one of the best builders in the city.
TAS is now laser-focused on developing urban mixed-use buildings and is committed to doing so using its Four Pillars of Sustainability™. This means that everything TAS does is considered in terms of its impact on (1) the social fabric of communities, (2) the environment, (3) culture and (4) local economies.
It’s an admirable ambition and it really resonated with me.
I was born and raised in Toronto and I can say with all honesty that I care deeply about this city and its future. It pains me when I see buildings go up that clearly privilege economics over experience–not only because it makes for poor city building, but because I think it’s pretty clear that good design also pays (to put on my MBA hat for a second). So on a more basic level, I could also say that we’re aligned around one simple goal: To build really great urban buildings. It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.
But this distinction around urban buildings is an important one because I believe that our world is entering a decidedly urban era. In 1900, only 13% of the world’s population was urban. Today, 75% of the developed world’s population is urban and by 2025 that number is expected to rise to 84%. At the same time, cities all around the world are witnessing what author Alan Ehrenhalt calls “The Great Inversion.” Census figures show that there’s a growing preference for more compact and walkable communities – people are returning to city centres.
Having said all this, I truly mean it when I say that I’m thrilled to be joining a team of ambitious people, passionate about cities and design. I’m honoured by the opportunity and I look forward to collectively working towards making Toronto an even greater city.