Diamond Corp.: Building on a legacy
By: Jesse Champagne
Diamond Corp. is a Toronto-based real estate development company devoted to developing innovative and award-winning residential and mixed-use projects of the highest quality. During its short history, the company has become an industry leader in the Toronto Area. Diamond Corp. is a part of the Whitecastle group of companies and serves as the manager of the Whitecastle New Urban Fund 1 and 2. The goal of the Whitecastle Fund is to find challenging sites and create opportunities to develop them with our expertise in the planning process and then develop the property.
Bob Blazevski is the Executive Vice President of Diamond Corp. He has over 25 years of land development experience with some of the top developers in the GTA, andhe has personally managed over fifty different major land development projects in the GTA.Throughout his career Bob has been a member of several notable industry land development committees, including the Board of Trade Development Committee, Board of Directors of the Greater Toronto Home Builders’ Association, and the Mayor’s Roundtable for the Environment.
Land, especially in a major metropolitan area like Toronto, is increasingly becoming scarce. How can a real-estate development company survive in such a climate? Better yet, how can they, in Bob’s own words, “raise the bar on design and architecture in the city and provide the highest quality of development for each project”?
“We have to be creative and we have to look at opportunities that we haven’t focused on before… We have to look at sites that are ‘brownfield’ sites and we have to access areas that are in transition… There are derelict or vacant blocks where there could be an opportunity… Another focus is also smaller infill sites along avenues accessible by public transit and wood frame structures as a more affordable form of housing. That’s where I see the next wave of development happening for our industry.”
Bob believes that one of the key housing market products of the future of the city is in “stacked, urban town-housing projects.” which are in demand by “end-users.”
“There is a very strong demand for that type of housing for a few reasons. There is an affordability factor. There are cost savings in construction to build wood-frame housing over traditional condo concrete forms. Also, the turnaround in delivering the product is much quicker than the cycle of a condominium, especially a tall condominium. You can build them in phases making them easier to finance… The affordability factor in dealing with things like the city’s development charges has been a challenge, but I think that’s the next wave we are looking at, and I think the industry at large is looking at, is sites of mid-rise housing.”
One possible change that the Ontario Building Code can implement is the approval of six-storey wood frame buildings, which have already been put into place in Vancouver.
“[This] would obviously bring down the cost [of building] and the savings would be passed on to the buyers and it would again [affect] affordability… We’re waiting for the building code to permit or support the wood frame construction up to six stories. They do have this product in Vancouver, and it’s been very successful, so we’re waiting for the Province to give the green light.”
Although the company consists of a small team, Mr. Blazevski insists that this as a blessing rather than a curse.
To date, the company is not structured with a development arm. Mr. Blazevski notes the importance of creating key partnerships with developers -“we’ve been partnering with other companies and we’ve been happy withthe arrangement because we’ve been fortunate to partner with some wonderful companies of like minds. There has been a great synergy with our partnerships.”
Looking ahead to the future, we asked Mr. Blazevski what Diamond Corp’s long-term goals are.
We have some really exciting projects underway, some longer-term holdings, and some short term plays, so we will continue to look for new deals. As we move forward, we may consider different types of partnerships, staying in through construction or possibly building out on our own.
“We try to select the best architects to create design excellence for every one of our projects and generally we also give back to the city in elements of public space, linkages to parks, road improvement. Section 37 benefits, development charges, [and] infrastructure money to sewers and water.”
“Ultimately our goal [is] to provide as much as we can in benefits… to the city including socially-minded approaches to housing and community building. We love the city and everybody wants to do a good job.”
He added, “We want to raise the bar on design in architecture and provide the best quality developments that we can. We’d like to engage the community and all the stakeholders going forward on all our projects. [Our goal is that], at the end of the day, everyone is very proud of what’s being built in their community.”
Diamond Corp. is committed to progressive city building and providing quality and innovation in all their endeavors. With forward-thinking visionaries such as Bob Blazevski leading the way, the future looks safe for development in Toronto and Canada at large.