PHOTO BY DON MOLYNEAUX /Postmedia
for the Calgary Herald•
At the height of the recent real estate boom, bidding wars and shrinking inventory was also reducing Mike Gjura’s chances of successfully getting into the market as a first-time home buyer.
“My wife and I spent probably four months checking out homes during that peak time when everyone was buying at, like, $100,000 over asking. Which sucked. We just couldn’t compete,” says Gjura, a programmer for a major banking institution and part-time nutrition coach.
A drive through Wolf Willow, a new community on the Bow River by WestCreek Developments, provided the young couple with a fresh perspective. Building rather than purchasing a resale home might present fewer challenges, they felt. In the end, they did neither. Rather, they purchased a quick possession townhome that was 100 per cent move-in ready from builder Madison Avenue Group, which is now owned and operated by Alliston Group of Companies, doing business as Alliston at Home.
Madison Avenue’s assets and 40 staff members were assumed by the new company, including the executive street town development in Wolf Willow. The Gjuras, whose home is in Phase 1 of the street town project, were one of the last customers to purchase under the Madison Avenue brand.
“They bent over backwards to make this happen for us,” Gjura says.
Chris Bourassa, a top-notch real estate and development executive with decades of experience leading international firms, was brought back to his hometown of Calgary to take Madison Avenue in a new direction.
“Madison Avenue is a high end street in New York City. That’s not who we are. We build homes for families. It didn’t set the tone of what or who we are. We want to move away from a transactional to a more community-based approach,” he says.
Bourassa is a graduate of the Architectural Technology program at SAIT and apprenticed as a carpenter early in his career. He completed the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and moved through the corporate ranks at Ledcor Properties in Calgary and Vancouver before serving as president of Ledcor Group of Companies in San Diego. He returned to Canada, taking a position as senior vice-president of operations for Bosa Properties in Vancouver where he reorganized and restructured the company for expansion into the United States.
With such impressive credentials, Bourassa is interested in much more than a mere name change. He has so far rewritten the company’s value proposition to align its core values with his own and those of his employees.
“I have been fortunate in my career, that for each company I worked for, I was there for quite some time because the values of the company aligned with my personal values. So, when I came to Calgary, the first thing we did with our staff was to see what their values were. That’s important for them and also for our purchasers. I want them to understand that we all reflect not just company values, but personal values,” he says.
That work carved a new path for a new company with a vision to integrate health and wellness into the built environment. That translates to things like better air quality in the home, low VOC paint and materials to make homes safer to live in. Bourassa says it was imperative that everyone at Alliston be aligned with what the final product should look like and how it should be lived in.
“It’s not just bricks and mortar. It’s a living part of your life and you want it to be as safe and healthy as you possibly can,” he says.
Building Madison Avenue’s short three-year legacy of single and multi-family construction, Alliston is refining and in some instances, redrawing plans in six Calgary and area communities. That includes single family and townhomes in Belvedere Rise in the southeast community of Belvedere by Tristar Communities and Hudson West townhomes in Greenwich by Melcor in the northwest; single family laned homes in Cornerbrook in the northeast and townhomes in Wolf Willow, both WestCreek communities, plus single family luxury homes in Cimarron by Tristar in Okotoks.
Construction has begun on new duplex models and town homes in South Shore, a new community in Chestermere managed by General Development Services.
Alliston has also assumed a redevelopment site on Clement Avenue in downtown Kelowna for the Savoy On Clement, a 66-unit stacked condo project.
With a diverse portfolio of housing types already established by a builder that was by no means floundering, Bourassa sees plenty of opportunity for even more growth under the Alliston banner.
“Part of the reason why the board chose me was because my background wasn’t particularly single family homes. It was multi-family, office, industrial, commercial — they saw a lot of cross fertilizing between different industries. We’d like to, over time, grow into different product types. For the time being, our focus is single family, multi-family townhouse and duplex homes,” he says.