Genesis Land Development Corp.

Genesis Land Development’s vast services continuously change the face of Calgary. When it comes to the Calgary-area construction market, Genesis Land Development’s services run the gamut. The company develops land for residential communities, builds multi- and single-family homes, as well as owns and develops commercial properties.

While the company works in British Columbia and Alberta, it focuses on the Calgary area, notes Frank Devcich, senior financial adviser. That focus has led to Genesis Land Development’s position as the top developer in the northern half of Calgary, and Devcich says the company is in the top three city-wide.

“Our mission is to be the strongest and most proficient community developer in Canada through acquisition, rezoning, development, management and sale of our properties through our various divisions,” the company says. “We are committed in pursuing this strategy while maintaining a strong financial position.”

As far as the future goes, Devcich notes that Genesis Land Development owns enough undeveloped land to stay busy for the next 10 years, thanks to the company founder’s work accumulating land when he started the company 18 years ago.

“He basically accumulated lands that are now our core communities,” Devcich says. “They were farther-away plots, and it took a while for those lands to become active. But today, we have inventory that’s ready to go – subject to market conditions – for approximately 10 years at the current levels.”

Rebirth in the Slump

A major project in the company’s future is a large mixed-use development in Calgary. The Sage Hill Crossing development sits on 160 acres and will include 1.2 million square feet of retail, 1 million square feet of office space and more than 4,000 condo units that have been approved. Sage Hill Crossing also will feature a major city transportation hub, and Devcich expects work on the development to ramp up this year.

“Right now, we’re working with some joint venture partners, major commercial developers to bring in a large anchor store,” he explains. “I would expect there will be construction commencing there this year.”

Genesis Land Development also innovated on a community development that featured unique land properties. “At one of our developments, there was a fairly high water table, so we incorporated a canal system throughout the community that circulates stormwater and wastewater,” Devcich says.

The result – The Canals in Airdrie – features 6 kilometers of canals that flow into a 5-acre lake. The development, with cottage-style homes, offers residents the chance to ice skate on the canals in the winter and rafting or boating opportunities when it’s warmer.

“The luxury of visiting a quaint country cottage with an inviting veranda is no longer an experience that has to wait until summer,” Genesis says.

“Whether you’re reading a book curled up on a porch hammock, watching the children making a fort in the back yard, ice skating on the frozen waterways in winter or pushing off a raft for a journey down the canals in spring, living in Canals North is about the three R’s: relaxation, recreation and rejuvenation.”

In a recent interview with Construction Today, Devcich discussed what sets Genesis Land Development apart from the competition and what it offers customers.

Construction Today: What innovations or new services has the company spearheaded?
Frank Devcich: We are looking at some things like district energy type of things, where energy is provided right on the development – produced and provided right there.

One of the things that you find when you get into urban sprawl is that there’s a lot of energy loss as it goes out further along the lines from the city. That’s something that we’ve put in our plans more recently.

As for homebuilding, we’re looking at the use of different technologies – things like solar panels, wind energy, geothermal for heating. All of those have been discussed in our more recent proposals. We also try to adopt current environmental standards wherever we can – windows, insulation or in-floor heating to save on energy bills.

We’re not LEED certified, but we’ve adopted some of the LEED standards. Certification is pretty demanding, and we do balance out the economics of it as well.

CT: What distinguishes the company’s work from that of competitors?
FD: We have a very strong land base that has been approved within the city of Calgary. Our land inventory can be built out over the next 10 years. Our biggest advantage as a company is the strength of our land that we’ve accumulated over the years.

We’ve probably been fairly standard in terms of comparing ourselves to other developers, but what differentiates us are just some of the initiatives we’re looking at. We also have sponsored large recreation centers in our communities. For one, we put $5 million into and the other $2 (million) into just to help build the communities. That’ll include gymnasiums and pools and that sort of things, so we do try to give back to communities as much as possible.

CT: What are the requirements to get land certified by the city of Calgary?
FD: The first thing is it has to be contiguous to other developments so they don’t have to leap-frog around developments. We also have to put proposals in place in terms of the types of things you’re offering in the development, which includes schools and parks, as well as what types of density – single-family or multi-family or vertical towers, etc. The city looks at the entire plan and sees where it fits in with their plans.

They also do environmental tests on lands to make sure everything’s appropriate that way. It’s a process of a full plan that we put together and get city approvals on it. Getting proposals approved can be a process of a couple years.

We’ve got a team of about six project managers for each area of the company. We utilize outside engineering consultant firms, and we also have in-house guys that oversee them.

CT: How is the market changing and how is the company adapting?
FD: Well, the market certainly went through a downturn, but it has improved as the economy has picked up. We were somewhat fortunate that when the market went down, we were already under development in many of our communities. Now that the market is coming back, we have a head start on all the other developers. They weren’t as far advanced as us in their developments. We’re getting a lot of interest as the market picks up.

We also are working with our contractors and something we do occasionally is have a breakfast town hall meeting with them and show them that we have this land base that we can continue to build out for 10 years to establish long-term relationships with these contractors. We have to ensure ourselves we have good contractors and commitments both ways.

The market has improved, and we’ve tried to take advantage of that. We’re opening more showroom model-type homes and trying to capture a larger market share.

CT: How many people live in Genesis developments?
FD: In the northeast and northwest sides of Calgary, we’ve got some past communities, and we’re initiating new developments now. I would say there’s about 1,000 houses in the current development and a few hundred multifamily units. That whole area probably has a population of 80,000 in that area, and the northwest has about the same, so I would say about 160,000.

CT: What challenges does the company encounter? How do you meet and deal with them?
FD: Well, there’s always the market challenges like down markets we’ve experienced. We respond to those challenges by making sure our products are price-competitive.

There’s also the municipal challenges at times. Getting things approved can be a challenge, depending on what the city wants to do. But we have very good relationships with the municipalities that we’ve established over the years, and we’ve done good work in the past. Our history with them is positive.

CT: What is the company’s history?
FD: The company was founded 18 years ago and went public in 1998 on the Alberta Stock Exchange. In 2001, we went on the Toronto Stock Exchange, which is where we presently are.

Five years ago, we initiated home-building operations, and we acquired a private homebuilder as well to ramp that up. We’re presently at a level of somewhere between 150 to 180 homes a year. We continue to sell lots to other builders, as well, that could be a few hundred this year.

CT: How do you handle worker training/development?
FD: We encourage all our staff to train, and we reimburse all the costs of training. We do want everybody to advance themselves professionally as much as possible.

It varies depending on what part of the company they work in. Generally speaking, we make it very clear to all staff that it is encouraged and we will pay for those costs to help them develop and advance.

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