From Windermere to West Block, Cantiro's influence spreads throughout the city
By Steven Sandor | January 4, 2021
Cantiro – George Cantalini, CEO, and Heather Jeffares, GM of Marketing and Innovation
Five years ago, the corner of 142nd Street and Stony Plain Road was a mess. Concrete beams rose out of mud.
The developer was broke. The condo project had stalled, leaving something that looked like a ruin behind.
Five years later, West Block’s office space is 100 per cent leased. There is 100,000 square feet of commercial space, which already houses a coffee shop, a bank and a liquor store.
A salon, wine bar and restaurant are to come. The plaza is heated, so ice and snow melt away. There are 60 residential units.
The project was rescued in 2015 by Beaverbrook, which, in 2020, rebranded as Cantiro. Before the project could be redesigned, negotiations had to be concluded with the tradespeople who hadn’t been paid by the original builder. Deposits were returned to people who invested in the first project. All of those costs came on top of the takeover of that land and a building that was 25 per cent complete.
“It wasn’t the deal of a lifetime by any means,” says Ryan Smith, president of home and residential rentals for Cantiro. “But it was three acres in Glenora, and that was pretty hard to pass up, and almost impossible to replicate. When you move into an infill setting, it’s one thing to build a house into a community that already exists, it’s another thing entirely to create a community within a community.”
For Cantiro, phase one of West Block is complete, but there is still another 25-30 storey tower, a seniors’ residence and a townhouse block to come.
For George Cantalini, CEO of the Cantiro Group of Companies, when it comes to making choices on a development, the equation is simple.
“It all starts with, ‘Where do people want to live?’ Because, if we have no customers, we have nothing. That’s how it starts: Will people be willing to move there and make that their home?”
Then, the developer looks at the cost of acquiring the land, servicing that land and what amenities are needed. Is there a need for commercial space, as well?
“And then the City needs to agree with your opinion that it is a desirable place for people to live. You have to feel the pulse of the City.”
Cantiro’s development in Windermere, an area that’s home to approximately 40,000 Edmontonians, is something Cantalini says is a prime example of how a deal the City didn’t like at first, ended up being greenlighted.
“When we first looked at developing Windermere, the City told us it was 50 years away from being developed, and that was in the early 2000s.” says Cantalini. But, with the completion of the Anthony Henday ring road, the developer saw big potential in the area. It was a gamble, though — an expensive one. Before one house was sold, Cantalini says $20 million was spent to build roads to link the development to the Henday and to service the land.
“I guess it was a good place to go,” Cantalini said. “But it costs us a lot of money to get started.”
Cantalini said the majority of customers still don’t really understand that it’s the developer who pays for the installation of sewers, stormwater drainage and roads. Ten per cent of land, at minimum, has to be left aside for parks and/or schools. And they need to only colour inside the lines that are created by city bylaws.
The Cantiro name is a combination of the Cantalini and Cairo surnames. The late Tony Cairo was Cantalini’s mentor. Why the change? To bring all of Cantiro’s real estate services, from development to building, under one brand. Customers didn’t understand that the people behind Beaverbrook were also building homes as Dolce Vita, Moda Townhomes and InHouse.
“From a customer perspective, [having multiple companies] didn’t make a lot of sense, and it didn’t help the customer trust the brand,” says Heather Jeffares, Cantiro’s general manager of marketing and innovation.