While there is no crystal ball that can accurately predict our collective futures, we can learn from the past to help us plan for where we want to go.
No one knows this better than Tim Melton, George Cantalini, and Jim Brown, who have had their fair share of ups and downs.
“These leaders of the development industry have tried and succeeded, innovated and pivoted, won and lost, built, grew and transformed their companies,” said Susan Keating, newly-elected chair of UDI-ER. “They have created communities, supported thousands of jobs, and enabled generations of businesses and families to grow wealth and give back to Edmonton in return. There is so much we can learn from them, as we plan to welcome more people, jobs, talent, development, and economic investment to the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.”
Melton, CEO of Melcor, said the destination remains the same – to build new neighbourhoods, redevelop our urban centres, develop commercial and industrial areas to enable new businesses, and create parks and open spaces. The way to get there? More focused public and private sector collaboration.
“Continued economic growth gives us purpose,” said Melton. “Planners should engage with the land development industry to continue that growth. Yet city policies and processes often create more challenges to development than opportunities.”
One of six new strategic priorities for the Urban Development Institute-Edmonton Metro is to advance an industry-wide policy agenda to support economic growth – to advocate for municipal policy, regulations, and programs that are permissive and development-friendly, to support a range of land uses, buildings, developments, and investments.
Keating, who convened a conversation between Melton, Cantalini, and Brown, shared with more than 100 developers and city builders how neighbourhoods are evolving and redeveloping – and how seismic changes in population represent an opportunity to seize and leverage.
“In 2021, Edmonton reached the milestone of one million people within a region of 1.4 million,” Keating said. “As we look ahead to doubling this population over the coming decades and attracting more investment, new people and businesses into our communities, the role the development plays cannot be understated.”
Cantiro’s CEO and founder, Cantalini, posed a solution, highlighting how the land development industry needs to “make the narrative, not try to change it.”
“We need to get the public to understand what we do, to demonstrate how our developments support the economy, creates jobs, attracts talent,” said Cantalini. “And as an industry, we need to lead with the premise that ‘there’s always a better way’ – innovating new practices and standards to elevate the communities we build.”
UDI’s newly-adopted Strategic Plan places a firm focus on the downtown. This new priority means concentrated advocacy for downtown’s recovery and long-term investment.
When asked about the heart of our big city, Brown, Founder of Sherrick Management, said, “Edmonton is one of the best cities to live in the world, but the downtown needs to be revitalized.”
He concluded, “Investing in our downtowns means investing in our cities. If we have better cities, we will have a better industry.”
The nucleus of the discussion was a need for UDI and its members to be strategic and thoughtful in their advocacy and work, to look back and take stock of where we are, and think ahead to the future.
“This is the right time to listen to important perspectives from leaders in our industry who have the long view and continue to actively contribute to their companies, our industry and communities across this region,” said Keating. “We are excited for the future possibilities.”
5 Key Takeaways
- Public and private sector collaboration is key. UDI and its members should work towards building shared understanding – to find policy and programmatic alignments with external partners, where possible.
- Growth gives us purpose. Economic growth and attraction of jobs, people, and talent sustain our industry.
- Make the narrative, stop trying to change it. UDI and its members need to be proactive with their communications. We need to modernize our message, and punctuate how growth benefits everyone.
- A greener, more beautiful city. Our communities need more trees, more landscaping, and less concrete and asphalt. We need to make our cities more beautiful.
- More diversity. The land development industry is evolving, and has welcomed more gender and racial diversity. But more can be done. Mentorship is key.