A CPA by trade, Rafael Lazer started his career working at Ernst & Young (Israel) and followed this up with several senior financial positions at ZIM Integrated Shipping Services
In 2011, he became the CFO at Elad Canada and today, Lazer is at the helm of the company as CEO where he maintains a large and diverse portfolio of income producing properties and master community development projects mostly in Montreal and Toronto.
We chatted with Rafael about his experience in the real estate industry, Emerald City, Elad Canada’s successful master-planned community in North York, as well as future plans for the company.
BuzzBuzzHome: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Rafael Lazer: I’m a CPA by trade with an MBA in financial management from the University of Tel Aviv. I started my career at Ernst & Young where I was primarily engaged on large accounts in various industries including internationally dual traded corporations. I later joined one of the largest global shipping companies worldwide, where I held various leading financial roles which involved relocations to Miami and Hong Kong and traveling all over the world. This experience allowed me to get more familiar with international markets and global aspects of trade and financing.
The opportunity to arrive to Canada came in 2011 when I joined ELAD Canada as its CFO, later to be given the opportunity to lead the ship as the CEO. I’m 37 years old, married and have 3 wonderful kids. We fell in love with this country and made it our home.
BBH: When did you get into real estate and how did you get involved with ELAD Canada?
RL: I was always “infected” by the real-estate bug, as I started to get more and more involved in various aspects of real estate, both in my professional life and privately. It became very clear to me that this is my passion and I was looking to find my next career leap in that field. When the opportunity to become the CFO of ELAD Canada presented itself, I didn’t hesitate. My position at ELAD exposed me to many different sectors in real estate including apartments rentals, retail, office and even senior homes, as an asset manager and of course, as developer.
BBH: One of ELAD Canada’s most significant project is the 20-acre Emerald City community in North York. The master-planned community has already attracted hundreds of new homebuyers to the area. Why do you think the development has been so popular?
RL: We have delivered close to 1,200 units in the first three towers of Emerald City within a very short period of time. This tremendous success is a result of a combination of several components including its location — close to highways 401, 404, and the DVP — convenient access to the subway, proximity to the Fairview mall, nearby parks, and schools, and the quality of the units, finishes, and amenities. These include the new state-of-the-art Parkway Forest community centre, the aquatic centre, public art, roads and pedestrians walkways. We also took a real effort to enhance our customer service experience, before and after the delivery of the units. I believe the success of the new phases after having delivered already more than 1,200 units is clear vote of confidence from our purchasers. I can’t attribute the success to any specific element as I believe it’s a combination of all.
BBH: One of Emerald City’s stand-out attraction is the public art by Douglas Coupland. How did this partnership come about?
RL: We held a competition between several artists. We saw some amazing public art ideas
and the decision was not easy, but eventually Douglas, who actually showed up with a miniature model of all the art elements, came in with the most impressive proposal. “Four Seasons” best fit our vision for the project, showing life cycles, diversity, rejuvenation and brightness. Throughout our work together, we had a very special and productive relationship with Douglas. In June, we held a community celebration event in honour of his work with his participation.
BBH: Speaking of partnerships, ELAD Canada also worked with the City to build the Parkway Forest Community Centre, located within Emerald City. Can you tell us more about the brand new facility and what it offers new residents?
RL: The Parkway Forest Community Centre is a brand new 50,000 square feet community centre. Having just opened, it already serves as a community hub, designed to accommodate the growing population and changing demographics of the neighborhood.
It features a full size gymnasium, weight room, dance studios, indoor running tracks, craft room, meeting rooms, youth lounge and a YMCA day care centre. In addition, the aquatic centre and outdoor pool are slated to open in fall of 2016. This will truly serve as the heart of the community, not just the new purchasers, but also the existing residents in the nearby properties.
BBH: The latest tower to join the Emerald City lineup is Fifth on the Park Condos. How significant is the launch of this tower for Emerald City and ELAD Canada?
RL: Fifth on the Park is the next phase of our Emerald City master-planned community and we are expecting it to be as successful as the previous phases where we sold over 1,370 units. Its location is uniquely close to the park and allows residents to enjoy exceptional views, while enjoying the quality of units, amenities and infrastructure that became a known feature of our project.
BBH: Can you provide more details about the building? Who are the architects and interior designers?
RL: Fifth on the Park is a slick point tower, that soars 24 storeys and contains approximately 263 suites ranging in size from 488 square feet to 818 square feet. It is designed by WZMH as leading architect and II BY IV DESIGN as interior designers. Prices start in the mid $200,000s.
BBH: BuzzBuzzHome News toured the impressive amenities at Dream Tower in Emerald City earlier this year. What kind of amenities can prospective homebuyers expect at Fifth on the Park?
RL: The amenities, which in part are shared with The Colors of Emerald City, include a swimming pool, hot tub, his and hers change rooms and saunas, outdoor dining and BBQ area, lounge, fitness room, arcade and games room, karaoke and theatre room, screening room, WiFi lounge and day and night concierge.
BBH: Let’s talk about the suites. What type of layouts will be available and what kind of features and finishes can we expect to see?
RL: We offer a selection of one bedroom, one bedroom plus den, and two bedroom units, with most featuring balconies. Our largest suite offered is a two bedroom + media with two bathrooms.
In terms of finishes, all suites have approximately nine foot ceilings, laminate flooring throughout, a selection of flat paneled contemporary kitchen cabinets and finishes with quartz or solid surface countertops, stainless steel appliances, and some suites have a unique kitchen island. Also included are stacked full size washer and dryer, contemporary vanities and a selection of bathroom finishes.
BBH: How affordable are the suites at Fifth on the Park, and when do you expect to launch sales?
RL: Prices will start in the mid $200,000s when sales launch this fall, and early birds will enjoy special launch promotions. Despite having a superior location and quality, our pricing is well in line with the nearby competition.
BBH: What’s next for the company? What goals would you like to achieve?
RL: At Elad Canada, we always keep an eye on developing trends and opportunities. Our history shows that we can successfully engage in every industry sector, and we never stop exploring new opportunities. Even today, we asset manage offices and retail properties in Canada and the US, while constructing rental buildings and retail spaces alongside our condo developments.
In recent years, the company took the strategic decision to focus mainly on condo development which we have been doing very successfully, expanding our existing projects at Emerald City in Toronto, Le Nordelec and Cite Nature in Montreal, and acquiring new development sites, mostly in Montreal and Toronto.
BBH: Can you tell us about any new projects coming up the pipeline?
RL: We continue the successful sales of The Colors of Emerald City and will launch the sales for Fifth on the Park this Fall.
In Montreal, we continue the marketing for our recently completed luxury lofts and penthouses and the modern style condos at Nordelec. We are also selling the last remaining units in the third building at our beautiful Cite Nature master-planned community, while planning and designing future phases.
Last but not least, we have recently acquired through an Elad Canada-led JV with Freed Development, The Galleria Mall, which will currently continue to operate as it does today while we determine our future plans for the site.
Should we pursue a redevelopment plan for the property, an application will be filed with the City of Toronto and as part of this process we will consult with all key stakeholders, including area residents, city staff and the local Councilor. Until this occurs, any discussion or comment about our plans for the site would be premature and speculative.