Today we’re buzzing with Brad Carr, the newly minted president of the famed GTA home builder, Monarch.
Brad joined Monarch in 2001 as Manager of Land Acquisitions and was promoted to Senior VP of Low-rise Operations in 2004. And now, after more than 10 years of hard work and dedication, Brad has been elevated to the top position at the near-century old company.
We chat with him about his vision for the future of Monarch, how to market effectively to the “informed buyer” and the curse of being a Leafs fan.
BuzzBuzzHome: What were you doing twenty years ago? Were you in school? Working?
Brad Carr: Twenty years ago I was studying architecture at Ryerson. I definitely wasn’t there to become an architect. Instead, I was there to soak up as much information as I could about the construction industry.
My dad was involved in the construction industry all his life so I think I had it in my blood right out of the gate. That was the most interesting thing I was doing twenty years ago, other than getting into trouble as every twenty year old does.
BBH: When you think of yourself back then, could you have imagined that you’d be in this position right now? Has running a development company always been a goal?
BC: It’s safe to say that I would have aspired to this. I loved the business aspect of it. I was very motivated to constantly try and do more and see how far I could go. It’s been an exciting ride and I’m thrilled to be here.
BBH: How does it feel to be the head of a company that was founded in 1917?
BC: It’s a real honour. Monarch’s history is second to none. It’s got a reputation out there that we value. I see myself now as a steward of that reputation, to make sure it’s continued and that all the good seeds that have been planted through years of great leadership are built on and respected.
I also hope to take it to the next level. Everything moves so quickly in society today and just guarding something isn’t a way of preserving it. You have to keep moving forward. You can’t say “let’s just keep doing what we’ve always done.” You need to be willing to take enough chances so that you’re always seen as an industry leader.
BBH: What’s your vision for Monarch? Where do you plan on taking the company?
BC: To building on the success of the past and continue to maintain our reputation. We’ll continue to make sure we understand what the communities of tomorrow are by being in so many different forms of housing and understanding consumer needs in so many different segments. We need to make sure we meet the needs of each and every one of them. We don’t try to decide what the one silver bullet is for all of them. Each one of them has become a niche. It’s not a one size fits all industry.
BBH: What Monarch projects are you most excited about right now?
BC: The first is Picasso, our new high-rise development down on Richmond. It’s in a really great location and has leading edge design. It’s exciting and different. Trying to differentiate yourself in a market that’s obviously very robust right now is a challenge but I think Picasso has done really well.
The polar opposite of that is our master-planned community in Caledon, Strawberry Fields. It represents everything Monarch has tried to be for many years — a true community developer. There’s a tremendous variety of housing and great connectivity through green spaces and parks. Ultimately it will have a village amenity and it’s adjacent to the 410 extension. It’s everything that the suburban homeowner is looking for. It has it all on the low-rise side.
The third one is a project called Birkdale, a brownfield redevelopment site in Scarborough, close to the Scarborough City Centre. There’s 162 three storey townhouses on what was formerly an industrial site. That’s a form of housing that we see a great demand for going forward. You need to sift through an awful lot of land opportunities and locations to find what will work. The utilization of the site lends itself more to low-rise than high-rise. In the 416 everyone thinks that every site wants to be a high-rise, but the reality is there are still a lot of people who are looking for urban forms of housing in more traditional styles. No matter how effective a high-rise community, it doesn’t serve the needs of every type of family.
BBH: You’ve spoken before about the “informed buyer”, the buyer that already knows a lot about Monarch and the development they’re looking at before they even set foot in a sales centre. How do you want to shape Monarch’s marketing toward the informed buyer?
BC: I think we all recognize that access to information in second to none in history. The internet has brought everything to everyone’s fingertips. The number of homebuying decisions that are made in pajamas at two in the morning is probably rather significant.
The main thing we can do is make sure we have an online presence as well as ensuring our media and marketing reflects the needs and wants of the consumer today.
We used to push everything out to the consumer in shotgun format and now they want to be able to reach into Monarch to get what they want when they want it. That’s a cultural transition for us and we’ve still got more work to do.
BBH: A lot of people are forecasting that the Toronto new construction market may drop off in the next couple of years. As one of the largest builders in the GTA, how are you preparing yourselves for a potential market decline?
BC: I don’t want to be naive about the situation, but I think we view it more as what might become a healthy plateau as opposed to a downturn. We continue to see the underlying demand for housing as being strong in the GTA — positive immigration, strong employment, a generally healthy economy on a global scale. We have vibrant city. I don’t know if we have a housing crisis. I think we’re moving back into a more balanced supply and demand curve.
BBH: Leafs game or Jays game?
BC: I’m a diehard Leafs fan through and through. One of my biggest regrets is my twelve year old son is now a diehard Leafs fan and I’ve cursed him to be one as well. The only thing I can hope is maybe he’ll see a Leafs’ Cup before I do age-wise. I’m 40 years old and still no Cup.
BBH: Weekend in the city or weekend on a cottage dock?
BC: I’m a cottage dock guy. I don’t actually own a cottage but we’ve rented cottages and have basically spent every summer for the last fifteen years up in Muskoka. I own a boat and my kids love to water ski and wakeboard.
BBH: We also hear you’ve solved your “commute issue”. Can you tell us more about that?
BC: I’m a small town boy from St. Jacobs, Ontario. I grew up in the Waterloo region and obviously moved to Toronto to go to school. I loved the city and I think if my wife and I made the decision not to have kids we’d probably still be downtown. But when our children came along, we thought that raising our kids in a small town around our family was important to us.
Now I have my family home in Waterloo county and I have a condominium across the street from our office. For me, it’s not about where the best place is to invest in housing, it’s about where my family wants to live. We’ve talked a lot internally as we focus on end users. How do we continue to remind people that housing is absolutely about investment and financial well-being, but it’s also about shelter and quality of life. We all have memories of home and they probably don’t involve “in 1997 our house went up $12,000.” That’s not what you create memories around.
Thanks for buzzing with us Brad!