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Q&A on meeting community and municipal expectations of new housing with Chris Bradley of TLA Developments

Chris Bradley, a Managing Partner at Edmonton-based TLA Developments, talks about his company's approach to meeting the expectations of stakeholders in the pursuit of delivering new housing to the Capital Region.

Q&A on meeting community and municipal expectations of new housing with Chris Bradley of TLA Developments
Ten on the 10th
Citified's Ten on the 10th is a monthly question-and-answer segment connecting our readers with the insight and knowledge of Victoria's top real-estate and business professionals.
Ten on the 10th's June, 2022 segment features Chris Bradley, a Managing Partner at Edmonton-based development firm TLA Developments.
Click here to view a list of former Ten on the 10th Q&As.
Asking the questions is Ross Marshall, Senior Vice President of the Victoria offices of commercial real-estate brokerage CBRE. As a leader in facilitating large-scale commercial real-estate transactions throughout the Capital Region – which include apartment complexes, industrial retail and office properties, and land/development opportunities – Ross and his team are at the forefront of market-leading real-estate transactions on Vancouver Island.
Would you like to be featured as part of a future Ten on the 10th Q&A? We'd like to hear from you.
TLA is a relatively new entrant to Victoria’s real-estate development industry, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and TLA? 
TLA Developments is a veteran-owned-and-operated property development company that specializes in building new, multi-family, and single-family homes across Canada.  
After a 21-year career in the army as an Armour Officer, my first civilian job was as a defence contractor. Later I worked in the modular construction industry with some of the largest volumetric modular manufacturers in North America, focusing on hotels, apartment buildings, condos and other large, multi-family projects before forming TLA Developments with my business partner Troy Grant.
Troy, after 25 years with the army, worked as the General Manager of Sturgeon County, where he learned and became appreciative of the many tasks associated with land use zoning, re-zoning, municipal development plans, area structure planning, and the approval processes associated with all the above. After Sturgeon County, he accepted an offer to become the president of Landrex, a medium-sized development company operating in the Edmonton Capital Region. That experience upped his interest in site selection and acquisitions and led him to creating a new, smaller land development company that would eventually evolve into TLA.
Some of our team have known each other more than thirty years and have long experience and trust in each other’s abilities and skills. By happenstance more than by design, we’re also a very diverse team, which affords us unique insights based on each others’ experiences. 
25% of our team comes from First Nations and Metis backgrounds and are committed to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action 92 – “Business and Reconciliation”. We are a proud member of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business working to attain Progressive Aboriginal Relations certification.

How did the TLA team come together? 
TLA started as a 12-townhome project on Salt Spring Island in BC’s Capital Region.
We’re all Type A personalities that get up too early in the morning and drink too much black coffee, which is how one thing led to anther, and we now find ourselves with a diverse portfolio of projects in the Capital Region District (CRD).
What is it about the region that encourages TLA to build in here? 
TLA wants to build great communities, together with the administration, elected officials and residents of the communities we work in. We strive to provide attainable housing for the middle class and get them started on the road to home ownership – our projects in the CRD reflect that vision and mission. 
All communities in the CRD are the envy of the world. Who doesn’t want the opportunity to live and work here? Many are struggling to find homes in the area and there is a need for attainable housing, which is what we try to provide.
TLA currently has several projects in various stages of construction, approvals, and marketing. Can you outline your active projects for us? 
We have five projects active in the CRD, which represent about 185 homes and approximately 185,000 square feet of buildings. Looking to the future, we have additional projects that represent approximately 200 doors and another 235,000 square feet of construction.
Skyview in View Royal is currently under construction and is 80% sold. We will be releasing the final eight homes shortly.
Our Sterling project in Esquimalt is headed to a public hearing next week and we hope to see it approved and start construction in the fall.
Ferrell, located in Saanich, is getting ready to launch our marketing campaign for sales.
Hylands, also in Saanich, is going through the regulatory stages and we hope to present to the advisory design panel shortly.
And on Salt Spring Island off the coast of Victoria, we are nearing the sell-out of our Summerside homes.
With respect to your proposal in Esquimalt, how has the project been adapted following community and stakeholder feedback? 
We always try to be respectful of the communities we work in. Unfortunately, not everyone will agree with every project. We are open to compromise to maintain community cohesion while providing attainable housing for people who want to move to the CRD.
We have a team whose sole focus is engaging with our community partners, administration, elected officials and even community members and others who may be opposed to our projects. You never know what you’ll learn until you listen. Based on community input, we’ve adjusted the build program on our current project in Esquimalt, scaling the project from six stories to five, exceeding the energy efficiency requirements to STEP Code 3, as adopted by the municipality, and adjusting the unit mix to include a 3-bedroom unit.
It sounds like your team really takes feedback to heart. We also know there must be a balancing act between community desires, municipal needs, and broader market demand, all within the context of local zoning and guidelines. How challenging is this for a developer to address? 
Change is an interesting thing, and as a developer, we’re purveyors of change. Change is a catalyst for action and reaction. When we invest our time and energy into a project in a community, there will be changes in the community. We’ll be changing the landscape, the skyline and even the make up and composition of the demographics. New, interesting people and families will move into the community. Businesses will have new customers; sports teams will have new players; trails will have new runners. Change also brings reaction.
People moved into their communities because they liked them. It’s no different from other changes, when people are invested in something: when the lyrics for the National Anthem change, a great many people will cheer the change and inclusion that they represent, but a certain segment will react negatively – “this is my national anthem, I’ve stood to attention for it since I was born, how dare you change it? Most don’t mean to imply that Canada should only be in its son’s command and not in their daughters, but changes to something familiar and cherished can be challenging. Although change will be uncomfortable for some, that doesn’t mean that the change is wrong.
As a developer all we can do is communicate truthfully, factually, and forthrightly and do our utmost to ensure that our projects meet the future needs of the community, not the needs of decades past.
How are changing costs impacting the delivery of new housing? More specifically, is it becoming more challenging to make projects work financially in light of inflation, interest rates and other market inputs?
We are cost-focused and numbers are definitely a factor in our decision-making process – either the project can meet an attainable price point and we proceed, or it doesn’t.  We can’t predict the price of lumber, or delays in materiel due to supply chain issues but we factor a degree of uncertainty and cost-escalation into the process so that we can still be able to provide an attainable product for our buyers. Interest rates are a concern to buyers, but rates are still at historic lows and working with all our partners we will continue to provide attainable housing.
When speaking about housing types and unit sizes, we tend to apply historic definitions of household make-ups, rather than reflecting more modern realities. Can you speak to how household sizes have changed, and how this has impacted the delivery of new housing? 
Families have changed, households have changed, and statistics have changed. The average size household in the communities we work in average 2.0 – 2.2 persons per household. Some families are a mother, father and 2.3 children, but these are the exception, not the norm and there are great projects that cater to the needs of these families. 
Our projects focus on the young professional or a couple starting out in life, the single-parent and child, the grandparents down-sizing who earn a decent wage, but can’t afford the $1 million-plus price tag that single family homes can command. At TLA we focus on attainable housing– other developers are creating excellent housing options for larger families or for the more affluent.
What steps are you taking to ensure your buildings are sustainable now and into the future? 
We are building to STEP Code 3, and we EV wire our parkades for electric vehicles and wire the roofs for solar panels. We work with experts such as our landscape architect to plant more trees than we remove from site and ensure the species of plant will attract pollinators. We also offer car share memberships or e-bikes to our purchasers.
Just recently, on our Sterling project in Esquimalt, we invited the neighbours and community to come and choose a plant from our site in hopes to re-home most of the greenery. We also have made plans to donate the existing residential homes where they will also provide attainable housing. This will give a deserving family a beautiful home to live in and not add to the landfills. 
As we build for the future how do we balance the needs of the municipality and continue to build communities? 
Our vision at TLA is to build great things – together.  By collaborating and working together with the elected officials, administration and residents of the communities we work in, we will continue to build homes that support our communities into the future. C

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 Article resources

  • Would you like to be featured as part of a future Ten on the 10th Q&A? We'd love to hear from you
  • View CBRE Victoria's website here
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  • View Jawl Properties' website here
  • 2018
    • October, 2018: Reed Kipp of Devon Properties talks about Victoria's rental housing industry
    • November, 2018: Business Development Bank of Canada's Chris Boissevain talks about interest rates
    • December, 2018: Aryze Development's Luke Mari and Ryan Goodman talk about real-estate development
  • 2019
    • February, 2019: Phung Horwood's My Phung talks about real-estate appraisals
    • March, 2019: Luke Mills of Megson Fitzpatrick Insurance talks about the insurance industry
    • April, 2019: Greg Damant of Cascadia Architects talks about architecture in Victoria
    • May, 2019: Real-estate development with Robert Fung of The Salient Group
    • June, 2019: Rental housing industry Q&A with David Hutniak of LandlordBC
    • July 2019: Harris Green redevelopment Q&A with Mark Chemij of Starlight Investments
    • August 2019: Land remediation Q&A with Harm Gross of NEXT Environmental
    • September 2019: Business banking Q&A with Raj Wirk of Coast Capital Savings
    • October, 2019: Real-estate development Q&A with Mike Miller of Abstract Developments
    • November, 2019: Real-estate development Q&A with Byron Chard of Chard Development
    • December, 2019: Interest rate and commercial mortgage brokerage Q&A with Dave Ganong of Canada ICI Capital
  • 2020
    • January, 2020: Real-estate development costs Q&A with Doug Foord of Invictus Commercial Investment Corp.
    • February, 2020: Private lending and the mortgage industry Q&A with Len Shorkey of Shorkey Mortgage Corp.
    • March, 2020: Strata insurance premiums Q&A with Luke Mills of Megson FitzPatrick Insurance
    • April, 2020: Rental housing and COVID-19 Q&A with David Hutniak of LandlordBC
    • June, 2020: COVID-19's impact on Victoria's real-estate Q&A with Jordan Milne of GMC Projects
    • July, 2020: Multi-unit residential and commercial building fire safety services Q&A with Tim Lindsay of the Vancouver Island Fire Protection Association
    • August, 2020: Royal Beach Q&A with Georgia Desjardins of Seacliff Properties, developer of the 134-acre Colwood project
    • September, 2020: Victoria real-estate development Q&A with Sam Ganong of Curate Developments
    • October, 2020: Real-estate development Q&A with developer Dan Cox of Cox Developments
    • November, 2020: CRD affordable housing and CRD parks services Q&A with Stephen Henderson of the CRD
    • December, 2020: Real-estate values, wine and housing market Q&A with Johnathon Sipos of Cielo Properties
  • 2021
    • January, 2021: Mass timber construction, the Mayfair District and junior hockey Q&A with Edward Geric of Mike Geric Construction
    • February, 2021: Excavating industry, sewage treatment pipe and COVID economy Q&A with Trevor Mann of Don Mann Excavating
    • March, 2021: Victoria industrial sector investment opportunities Q&A with Brent Sawchyn of PC Urban Properties
    • April, 2021: Northern Junk, Capital Iron lands and Victoria real-estate development Q&A with Jon Stovell of Reliance Properties
    • May, 2021: Victoria housing delivery and affordability Q&A with Adam Cooper of Abstract Developments
    • June, 2021: Institutional investment in Victoria's rental housing market Q&A with Alex Messina of Nicola Wealth
    • October, 2021: Mortgage products, interest rates and inflation Q&A with Gagan Lalli of CMLS Financial
    • November, 2021: Future of Tillicum Centre, real-estate trends, and industry outlook with Jordan Carlson of Anthem Properties
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    • March, 2022: Alberta developer shifting gears to build in Victoria, with Namrita Rattan of Aquila Pacific
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