When asked about how much time he has spent volunteering with UDI, Mike Kohl responded, “Too much to admit.”
Kohl, who serves as the Senior Vice President, Alberta Communities for Brookfield Residential, served as UDI’s Board Chair from 2020 to 2022. Prior to joining the Board, and over a span of seven years, he volunteered on several committees that addressed a range of issues and policies from the cost of growth to sanitary servicing to off-site levies.
Prior to returning home to Edmonton in 2016, Kohl worked in Calgary, Victoria, and even as far as Scotland.
“It was a privilege to be able to work all over the world,” he said. “But I quickly realized that a sense of belonging to a place is important to me, and that is why my family and I moved back to Edmonton.”
He said that the real estate development industry welcomed him with open arms – offering an environment rich in meaningful relationships and people all committed to building spaces for people to live, to raise a family, and to succeed in business.
A greater good
Kohl said that while it is advantageous for companies to participate in UDI’s advocacy and services, they come to the table with a collective mission in mind.
“When one company or person advocates for themselves, we’ve lost the plot,” he said. “Our collaboration and coordination as an association should be about creating the best city and region possible – communities that are inclusive, dynamic, and where current and future residents aspire to be their best selves and feel a strong sense of connection.”
To realize this vision, Kohl said that industry needs to position itself at the forefront of the conversation – to be proactive participants as opposed to passive, reactionary, or adversarial.
“Industry has improved its ability to tell its story, highlighting how their developments and contributions add value, and support broad city building objectives.”
A new strategy
When Kohl assumed the role of Board Chair, Edmonton and the rest of the world was grappling with a global pandemic.
“COVID certainly presented a different set of challenges to our industry,” he said. “But at the same time, it offered us a unique opportunity to reset our thinking, to look in the mirror, and to ask ourselves who we are and where we need to go.”
He said that during this time, the Board and UDI’s members could sense an opportunity for bold change. They undertook a comprehensive strategic planning process – which identified a series of new priorities, one being the importance of a vibrant downtown.
“Being seen as a greenfield developer advocacy group was not in line with how our members and the industry was also evolving,” he said. “Our new strategic plan firmly placed downtown as a critical indicator for city and regional success.”
Kohl and the Board engaged with downtown developers and invited them to become members.
“We shared with them our vision of wanting to change the organization and to break the mould.”
This idea of expanding the seats at the table, Kohl said has filtered its way into UDI’s operations, with staff leaning into collaborations with other industry organizations like CHBA – Edmonton Region, NAIOP, IDEA, and the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce.
“Collectively, we can speak more broadly and intelligently on behalf of the entire real estate sector.”
A win for the region
When asked about what it means to be the recipient of the 2023 Spirit Award, Kohl said rather humbly, “It is obviously a nice recognition, and I’m not quite sure if I’m deserving.”
He said that UDI’s commitment to change, to reshaping its direction, and to including more voices and perspectives, is the real winner of his and others’ contributions to the industry.
“This award is really the outcome of the efforts of a larger collective.”
Come celebrate the achievement of Mike Kohl at the 24th Annual Spirit Awards.