Ivan Beljan, visioneer at Beljan Development, is a city builder in every sense of the word. He is passionate about breathing new life into buildings and transforming our city through its architecture. Beljan Development is the company behind notable projects like the Oliver Exchange building, and the revitalization of the Strathcona Hotel, which is still a go despite a late March fire that caused major damage to the roof of the building. The busy father of three young boys is always on the go, and no day is ever the same in his world. Whether he’s on a construction site seeing how a project is unfolding, going for a run in the river valley, or spending time with his family, he does so in style.
Avenue’s Conversation with Ivan Beljan
How would you describe your style?
“I’ve always been a simple person, but I like unique… I’m definitely more classic in my style, I like clean lines, I don’t like busy [patterns] . I like neutral colours. I don’t mind that splash of colour as an accessory, but I don’t like colour being the thing. Colours are very trendy, while neutrals like wood and concrete, those things last forever and never go out of style.”
Do you have a different style at work vs. in your leisure time?
“Yes; even day to day at work. It’s always depending on what I’m doing. I spent a lot of time on construction sites and learned early on that wearing suits on construction sites is not the best idea. I spent too much money dry cleaning! And, it’s a culture there. I’d rather look more approachable and be part of the work culture there… I dress the part in terms of what the day looks like.”
What was it about the construction and development industry that interested you?
“I’ve always been driven by finding what my purpose in life is… I was always trying things and trying to figure out where I fit. Even as a kid, when I was young my dad worked in construction, and I was always around construction projects and had this knack for looking at something, saying, why don’t they do this, or how do I make this better? When I look back and see all the pieces in my life, it makes sense, what I do now. I think everybody is kind of blessed with a gift and for me it’s looking at things and seeing how it can be remoulded into something better.
Why do you specialize in urban community development in particular?
“I think that goes back to my experience in Europe. Europe is a lot of four to six-storey buildings, very human scale, the top of tree tops is the top of the building. Those buildings really connect with people, and, even when you’re in the building, there’s a relationship between the street and the building. Skyscrapers are good for the skyline but they don’t do anything for the street… I love Canada and Edmonton, there’s a real spirit about building something yourself and getting out there, you have all the opportunity in the world.”
How do you know when you should move forward with a property?
“I think it’s one of those gut instincts. I kind of know 10 seconds after looking at some place whether intrinsically there’s something there that feels right. I think that’s something internal to me that I feel. I definitely like things that are complicated, things that are very unique, things that most people are like ‘the juice ain’t worth the squeeze here.’ Those are the jewels that I want to see for our city.”
Vacation spot — Hawaii and Croatia
Restaurant — Japonais
Hobby — Fitness and reading
Guilty pleasure — Chocolate
Movie — Braveheart
Clothing item — anything new — “something about a new outfit gives you confidence!”
This article appears in the May 2019 issue of Avenue Edmonton