A seasoned team that goes the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction
~ By Perry King

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With decades of experience developing condominiums in Montreal and distinctly focused on urban residential projects, Samcon has opened for business in Ottawa.

A business founded by Sam Scalia in 1991, Samcon is an award winning builder, receiving many awards from Quebec’s home building association, the Association Provinciale des Constructeursd’Habitations du Quebec (APCHQ). Since 1999, Samcon has garnered over a dozen APCHQ awards, including the Domus Prize for Builder of the Year four times, most recently in 2012, and the prestigious Palme Diamant for building excellence.

With growth in the condominium market in the last decade, Scalia and his Samcon team now want to translate their success in imprinting condo life into Montreal’s urban centre to Ottawa’s urban landscape.

Their first Ottawa project, says Scalia in an interview, currently has shovels in the ground close to Ottawa’s Little Italy and Glebe neighborhoods. Summerhill at Dows Lake is a six-storey boutique condominium project with a mix of one- and two-bedroom units and a twelve-storey to follow, Samcon wants to bring intimate and natural finishes to their new project.

Speaking with Scalia, the company’s founder and president, juggling their many development commitments in Montreal and their new project in Ottawa has taken some getting used to. But, with the help of management software provided by Oracle Systems, Scalia and his team is better able to manage departments and the construction process.

“This helps for managing a second city a lot when you have very simple work systems that work really well,” said Scalia, who was named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009. “It’s a lot more efficient — there’s no more triple-entry. This is a step in the right direction to be able to grow in different cities.

“We are slowly learning in Ottawa, and once we start to get the hang of it, and we have a business working there, we could have courage to go to another city,” he said.

Scalia stays mum on where to build next — Quebec City and Toronto are definite options — but his company is focused on working well with local stakeholders and building well-tailored condos.

In reality, until recently, Samcon has remained loyal to the Montreal landscape. Born from Italian immigrants, Scalia (MBA McGill graduate), joined his father, David Scalia, in the building business in 1989, focusing on small scale home builds in the city. David Scalia left his career in banking to get into the Scalia Brothers homebuilding business with his three brothers in 1964.

Sam quickly formed Samcon in 1991 and his first build, Le St-Christophe, a three-floor, eight-unit project located in the Centre-Sud neighborhood of Montreal, ensued thereafter. Samcon’s growth in the first five years was modest, but his work was turning heads in the homebuilding industry of Quebec, as Scalia was named Maitre Constructeur, Palme D’Or by the APCHQ in 1994 — Samcon’s first honours.

“The first five years of Samcon’s existence, we built about 60 apartments, in the second five years, we built about 1,000” said Scalia.

But, as the company’s reputation grew and more demand for condos increased in the late 1990s, Samcon began their venture into condominium development. That became a launch pad for the company. In the late 1990s and into the 2000s, Scalia says, Samcon produced an average between 350 to 400 units a year. In 1999, Samcon built 230 units.

Since its inception, Samcon’s focus was working primarily in low-rise projects. But, as the new millennium arrived, and the costs for building low-rise housing were rising, Samcon maneuvered into the high-rise condominium market. “Our products have changed,” says Scalia, “they have become more expensive so even if we’re not doing more units they’re more expensive because we’ve started to get more and more into high-rises.”

In 2001, the company broke ground on their first high rise project in the Montreal landscape, Le Laurier du Plateau, an eight-storey concrete building, 72-unit project in the Mont-Royal neighbourhood.

“The first one is always a learning experience and we just did that one,” Scalia recalls. “By the time we started to do another one, time went by, and then we took on one of our nicest projects of all time.”

That project, the prolific six building Le Domaine André-Grasset, was built over the span of six years between 2004 and 2010. Taking planning and design lessons from Jardins du ParcJarry, André-Grasset was lauded by the industry for its design and usage. In 2005, it became a finalist, along with Samcon’s De Lorimier condo project in Quartier Sainte-Marie, for the Domus Prize in the “Project and/or residential development of the year, multifamily” category.

The accolades have mounted as Samcon has expanded into condominium development. In 2006, they received the Excellence Cond’or, which rewards a company who respects industry laws and delivers products and services tailored to customer expectations.

Samcon has also achieved Master Builder Diamond certification, achieved after maintaining a customer satisfaction rate at 97 per cent and above.

At the end of the day, with 400 units being built each year and more cities being considering for new business, Samcon is a driven development powerhouse with growing prospects. That commitment and passion is felt when Scalia discusses the business’ history. There are certain key traits that he wants his company to hold now and in the future.

“We focus on giving a very efficient design, where we’re focused on giving the best value for our customers and we do the best we can, so we have a quality product,” Scalia said. “We have systems in place where we track any deficiencies that we could have and we minimize them, and we’re a seasoned, experienced team going into 23 years — with a lot of the same people that started.”