A proposed condo project in Toronto’s Etobicoke neighbourhood will be the first in Canada to be developed solely by women.
Taya Cook of Urban Capital and Sherry Larjani of Spotlight Development have spent the last several months bringing together the team which will design and develop Reina, a condominium project planned for a vacant site at 689 The Queensway.
“We’re embarking on this project to create more visibility for women in real estate development, and to inspire younger women to see career possibilities,” said Cook, the director of development at Urban Capital, in a release announcing the project. “It’s a huge industry and a massive economic driver for the region. For some reason it has been seriously lagging behind in gender equity.”
Not on this project. From construction management to engineering to architecture and urban planning, the entire leadership team behind Reina is women.
Cook got the ball rolling after reading an article which featured condo titans in the Greater Toronto Area. None were female.
More recognition for women
“Women have been prominent in all sorts of roles and they are doing fantastic work in this industry, but our accomplishments aren’t well-recognized,” said Cook. “We live in one of the most diverse cities in the world, and our built environment should reflect that.
“It’s no longer just the condo kings who are impacting our city.”
The vision became a reality when she partnered with Larjani, who is managing partner at Spotlight. She kick-started her own career in development over a decade ago.
Together, Cook and Larjani have built a team of experienced, all-female consultants over the course of several months.
“There aren’t many entrepreneurial women coming into the industry on their own. No one took me seriously until I bought my first piece of land,” Larjani said in the release. “We need to give women positive role models and prove that a career in development is a viable path.
“It’s incumbent upon all of us to change this narrative.”
The Reina team includes:
* Heather Rolleston, principal at Quadrangle Architects, who brings over 20 years of experience and sits on the City of Toronto’s Design Review Panel;
* Lisa Spensieri, project lead at Quadrangle Architects;
* Jane Almey, managing partner at Bluescape Construction who has overseen major low- and high-rise residential projects;
* Emily Reisman, partner at Urban Strategies, who has worked on award-winning projects including the Vaughan Official Plan and Bridgepoint Health Master Plan;
* Nataliya Tkach, hydrogeological engineer at EXP;
* Stacy Meek, environmental engineer at EXP;
* Fatima Shakil, principal at Adjeleian Allen Rubeli with nearly 30 years of experience in structural engineering;
* Tara Chisholm, senior project manager at WSP Group, one of the top engineering consultancy firms in the world;
* Fung Lee, principal at PMA Landscape Architects who has extensive experience overseeing projects from urban parks and play environments to botanical gardens;
* ManLing Lau, vice-president of sales at MarketVision Research, who has over 24 years of real estate experience managing marketing and sales for more than 30 pre-construction condominium projects.
The site, the development
Located along Etobicoke’s busy The Queensway artery, Reina will be constructed at the former House of Lancaster site. The controversial adult entertainment club has been closed and demolished.
In its place, the women plan a development which will incorporate the “female perspective” at every degree, from the street-level design to unit layouts.
“Etobicoke has a lot of young families looking for good homes. The site gave us everything we wanted – proximity to great schools, expansive parks, and wonderful shops and restaurants,” Cook said. “It allows for true family-friendly urban living, and we’re excited to reveal our team’s vision in the coming months.”
Reina will kick-start the project by hosting a design consultation July 10 to share ideas about amenities and features. While most public consultations focus on density issues, the evening will be centred around the lifestyles and needs of purchasers.
“Our team will be listening to what people want in their building and incorporate their feedback into the design. We want to create a building that truly accounts for everyone’s needs, from women to families to investors,” Larjani said.