Q&A With CentreCourt Developments' New-Look Executive Duo
Shamez Virani was just named president of CentreCourt Developments, a firm he joined only five years ago as an aspiring developer. We spoke with him and CEO and founder Andrew Hoffman about what lies ahead.
Bisnow: Congrats on the new role. What's the goal here?
Shamez (snapped with Andrew at CentreCourt's Adelaide Street West HQ): For the last five years, Andrew and I focused on building our team, our corporate culture and systems, and staying focused on the projects we have underway. We promised ourselves we would walk before we run, take it step by step, and incrementally grow this business so we could develop a best-in-class residential development organization. Now we’ve gone through the walking and jogging stages, and have the expertise, systems and team in place. So this is about setting ourselves up for future growth.
We have ambitious plans to establish CentreCourt as the preeminent developer in this market. I will focus more of my time on managing our team and the day-to-day aspects of our development program. Andrew will provide his guidance and experience, and focus on finding the right opportunities and managing high-level strategy and key relationships.
Above: Peter Street Condos, CentreCourt’s first project after Andrew (Menkes Developments COO for 21 years) launched the firm in 2010.
Bisnow: Andrew, Shamez was your protégé when he joined the company in 2011. So this promotion seems like a logical progression.
Andrew: I first met Shamez when he came here on an informational interview. He was graduating from Columbia University, had a passion for real estate and wanted to work in the Toronto marketplace. We spent over an hour talking about everything: from life in general to the Toronto real estate sector, his career path outlook and the type of company he wanted to work with. We had a real connection from moment one. We were in the early stages of forming CentreCourt and there wasn’t really a position for him per se, but I knew he was someone I wanted to find a home for.
He ended up coming on board in a sales and marketing capacity. We were in the midst of launching Peter Street Condos, and that really became a stepping stone for him becoming an expert in the sales and marketing side of the business. He got exposure through Peter Street, followed by Karma and Indx (Toronto’s top-selling condos of 2011 and 2012, respectively) and Core Condos.
When I look at all we’ve had on our plate since 2011—we’ve got about 2,500 units actively in development right now, representing over $1B in value—in that five-year period I think Shamez has had the benefit of a 20-year career, being involved in all aspects of the business from sales and marketing through to the development, construction and customer care stages. I want to have a long-term engaged partner, and Shamez has reached a stage now where he can run a project from beginning to end and run a team, so it seemed natural for him to step into the role of president and for me to shift over and take on the role of CEO.
Pictured: Grid Condos, CentreCourt’s latest: a 47-storey tower at Dundas and Jarvis streets.
Bisnow: How does your development slate look these days?
Andrew: We’re delivering 1,500 units over the next 12 months at three projects: Indx, Karma and Core. That’s a large number for any development organization in the city, and certainly for us, a company that started in 2010. We’ll also be starting construction on Grid Condos (about 570 units). And we have a site at Church and Carlton going through rezoning; we’ll be coming to market with that later this year and starting construction next year.
Going forward, we’ll be looking at projects with greater scale and a higher concentration of mixed-use. And that’s part of the exciting thing for the company: we’ve got a great team, our systems are in place, and we're set up to take on a greater number of larger developments. There are a number of mixed-use projects we’re in discussions on right now, and we’re bullish on where the market is and the vibrancy of Toronto. We’re big believers in where the city’s at and what its future holds.
Above: Indx Condos, the only pure-condo project in the heart of Toronto’s Financial District.
Bisnow: Can you achieve significant growth and scale while maintaining your firm’s entrepreneurial culture?
Andrew: I believe so. It’s just a matter of doing it in a smart way, where you have a core group of in-house professionals and then you bring in the right resources on a project-by-project basis. What’s really satisfying for me is to look around the office and see we have a team of young individuals that take ownership in their areas of expertise and are committed to making the right decisions and achieving the best possible results.
Shamez: Our culture stems from Andrew and his detail-oriented approach: focus on small things that could turn into big things, forward-planning, being checklist-oriented so you don’t miss anything—because you miss one thing you could throw the whole project for a loop. We have tripled the size of our team since I joined and we continue to grow. And everyone has bought into the culture, everyone is acting like an owner. It’s only a five-year-old company, but I can already see a great long-term corporate culture forming.