Today we’re buzzing with Ian Pianosi, the owner of Pianosi Development, a Toronto-based building company with quite the impressive pedigree. A third-generation company, Pianosi Development’s roots go back over sixty years and the builder has been involved in countless aspects of the real estate business.
Aside from residential construction, they also have a long history in leasing rental apartments, commercial spaces and industrial complexes throughout the GTA.
Now that Pianosi is working on a new project in the west end of Toronto, Perspective Condos, we thought it would be a great opportunity to catch up with Ian to discuss some of his recent work.
We chatted with the builder about his early start in the business, what it’s like working with family and the best places to grab an espresso in Etobicoke.
BuzzBuzzHome: How did you get involved in the building industry?
Ian Pianosi: I’ve been involved in the business since I was a boy. My father started the business back in 1950. I was born in 1960, but by the time I was ten, I was helping with the business quite a bit; mostly with move-ins and move-outs. Whenever he needed someone to help him, I was there.
After high-school I went to university and by the time I was 22 or 23, I started working full-time with my dad. By the time is was 30 I was doing my own construction and my own buildings.
BBH: What did you study at university?
IP: I went to York University for Economics.
BBH: How has that informed your work now?
IP: Any business education is a good education to help you through this type of industry. Knowing how a nail is set is important but knowing how to deal with people and how to deal with trades is more important.
My business education became more important than for example an engineering or an architecture education because those are very specific programs. Business is more general and lets me look at the project as a whole. That really helps.
BBH: We were at the Perspective launch and it had a really good turnout despite that bitterly cold weather.
IP: There were a lot of people! Our purchasers just love to come to these events. People in our part of Etobicoke tend to be very loyal to their neighbourhood.
BBH: A lot of your family came to the event as well. The business itself seems quite family-oriented.
IP: It is! I work with my father, brother, and my sister. A lot of family members attended in addition to the people who work with me whom I am quite close with as well. It’s not just a job for them. Everybody gets along well, so it’s a nice, friendly environment to be in.
BBH: What’s it like working with family?
IP: Constant arguments! [Laughs] No, but seriously, it works well. No one has a specific job title here, we just do what needs to be done.
BBH: The company’s involved in leasing, industrial space, commercial space, warehouse and retail as well as high-rise condos. How are those other markets – commercial and rental – faring in the GTA right now?
IP: Most of our space is industrial space and it’s a tough market. Our industrial got hit hard with the slowdown in 2008, but it turned around and is running beautifully now. Our tenants through those tough times are our tenants today.
It’s a family-owned business and a lot of people who are renting space from us know us personally and choose to be with us because of the relationship we have, as opposed to just renting from a facility. Space is easy to find, but they’d rather find it with someone they know on a personal level.
BBH: Getting back to Perspective Condos, which is going up at Scarlett Road and Eglington Avenue West. Why go with that location?
IP: I grew up in the area and I’ve shopped at Edenbridge Plaza, the current work site, since I was young. I lived in the area until my late teens, when we moved away for a bit. A soon as I was married I came right back to Etobicoke.
That’s actually how I found out about the plaza. Someone from the area knew me and knew the plaza’s owners. I bought it and ran it as a plaza for about five years. While I was running it I was thinking about how the site and neighbourhood could be improved and landed on the idea of a condominium with a retail component. The Ward Councillor and residents of the area assisted and supported me on the project. Keeping the retail that was there for 30 to 40 years is very important for them.
BBH: Do you have an idea of what kind of retail will be moving in?
IP: We have a long list of companies interested in our retail space. A lot of people do some grocery shopping, but they’re more often looking for finished foods: where you can buy a prepared lasagna or salad plate and take it back to your suite. We really look to cater to that market since there are already a number of big grocery stores in the area.
At Perspective we seem to have either a young crowd that is working all day or down-sizers who don’t generally cook big meals any more. Most people are looking for healthy solutions, but want something that can be prepared quickly.
As I said, we have a lot of interest in the project but we haven’t committed to any company since it is still very early in the process.
BBH: Pianosi Developments organized a nature walk for prospective buyers. That’s a unique idea. Are you planning any other activities?
IP: We’re contemplating doing a bike tour in the summer since there’s a beautiful path along the Humber River. We’ll probably plan another walk as well. The area is huge: the bike path and walk path system go all the way through James Gardens and connects right back to the city and down to the lake.
BBH: What’s your favourite part of the neighbourhood?
IP: I love the little shops and restaurants. For my espresso, I go to either La Rose Bakery or Messina Bakery nearby. Furthermore the trail system is just beautiful. My family loves to go for bike rides and my dad and I will walk the dogs along there. When you’re down on the paths you wouldn’t even know you were in the city.
Thanks for buzzing with us Ian!