Why he’s a 2019 Top 40 Under 40: He builds neighbourhoods for modern families.
A love of building, of seeing his vision through to real-life results, is something Jonathan Lay has always had within him. But these days it’s on a much grander scale than child’s play.
“Like almost every other engineer I know, I grew up playing with Lego. This is something I’ve been doing since I was four years old, and I just haven’t stopped,” says Lay, who until recently was senior development manager with Genstar. At the end of June, he took a new job as vice president of development with Focus Equities in Victoria, but Lay still maintains a residence in Edmonton.
He spent the first part of his career as an engineer before Genstar, one of his clients, hired him.
“It was a difficult decision to leave the engineering world and join the development world, but I’m so happy I did,” he says.
His crowning achievement — so far — is the St. Albert neighbourhood of Riverside, along the Sturgeon River near Big Lake. It’s the largest community of LEED-certified homes in Canada, and is being built around a mixed-use community centre.
“I have a young family. Building a place where people want to raise families is rewarding; it’s tangible. I can drive through my projects and my daughter can play at the playground, we can sit at the coffee shop — those are things I really love.”
Speaking with Lay, it’s clear how much deep thinking goes into his work as a developer, in an industry that’s sometimes maligned. Designing a neighbourhood means making well thought out decisions about the needs and wants of the population.
“How do you take a neighbourhood that’s already great, or could be great, and make it even better? That’s the driving question for developers.”
Those questions will certainly inform Lay’s work on his new project, the Roundhouse at Bayview Place development in Victoria.
This article appears in the November 2019 issue of Avenue Edmonton.