Why She’s Top 40: She’s created development plants that promote diverse communities and works to bring diversity to her industry.
What Do You Like Most About Edmonton?: “The people: There’s a willingness to make things happen here. In Toronto, you wouldn’t dare talk to someone in a grocery store lineup. Edmonton doesn’t give itself enough credit for the community we have here.”
It’s a bit of a clich from pick-up truck ad after pick-up truck ad; we see the vehicle on a job site, caked in mud. The door opens and a burly white man jumps out.
Salima Kheraj’s white sedan is also caked in mud from driving it onto job sites. But, that’s where the clich ends. She’s blazing new trails in a world that has been dominated by men.
“It is something to walk into a site trailer in heels and a dress,” says Kheraj. “And you have to make everyone around the table, mostly if not all men, understand that you’re making the decisions. If they don’t listen to you, they might not get paid. It’s a challenge, but it’s kind of fun, too.”
It’s a far cry from where she imagined she was going to be. Ten years ago, the Toronto born-and-raised Kheraj graduated from the University of Waterloo with a planning degree, but couldn’t find a job close to home. So, she decided to make the move west and, by the time she hit her mid-30s, she succeeded as not only a project manager, but a policy influencer.
She supervised the completion of Spruce Village, a development that saw duplexes next to detached homes. To get it done, land had to be rezoned, parcel by parcel.
The idea of creating an inclusive neighbourhood was so successful, Spruce Grove’s city council amended the zoning bylaw to allow for mixed residential usage. And that is being mirrored by the City of Edmonton. Beaverbrook‘s new Spruce Grove development, Greenbury, was created thanks to the new zoning rules.
Kheraj said that the rules not only create diverse new communities, but they help the developer, as well. If phase I of a development goes on sale and she sees that there is more demand for smaller homes than larger homes, she can adjust phases II and on to meet those demands.
“And if a family starts in a row home, they can move up to a larger home that exists in that community; you don’t have to switch schools or make a big move.”
She’s also a former co-chair of New Horizons, a group that facilitated meetup events from the old guard of the development biz with the young tigers entering the business.
“Our industry makes huge contributions to the local economy. The reason the city grows is because there is so much opportunity here,” Kheraj says. “Families decided to purchase their homes here, because they want to build their lives here.”
OK, be honest, have you taken your Christmas decorations down, yet?