The twelve most interesting people in real estate

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Meet the innovators who are driving the evolution of real estate

In Canada, for better or for worse, real estate is a very exciting place to be. Very strong fundamentals mean that this asset class has created many fortunes, and helped Canadians become wealthy.

An interesting sector comes with interesting people. Here, according to the team at Parvis, are the most interesting people in real estate in 2023:

1. Miles Nadal: The Luxury Leader

Miles Nadal is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Peerage Capital, an investment firm specializing in luxury residential resale in North America. Their model is based on partnership: they select partners who have a proven track record of success and share their corporate values.

Miles himself is a proud supporter of community initiatives. His philanthropic work has led to the construction of the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre in Toronto, a home for injured children awaiting medical care in New York City, and the creation of the Miles Nadal Family Fellowship in Cardiology at Mount Sinai Hospital.

2. Ian Gillespie: The Artist

Vancouver is a city known for its unique architectural style - and in Vancouver, few developers are as well-known as Ian Gillespie’s Westbank. Responsible for the Woodwards redevelopment in Vancouver’s historic Gastown, the gleaming towers at Oakridge Park, and holding a 50-50 partnership in the landmark project at Sen̓áḵw, Westbank’s work defines Vancouver’s skyline, both today and tomorrow.

Gillespie’s buildings are known for their striking architectural style, with his firm pushing each of its partners to up their design game. He believes that art and beauty, far from being frivolous, are central to architecture and to the human experience. From Westbank’s website:

“Go look on the walls of any ancient burial or ancient structure or cave wall, and tell me that the drawings on the sides aren’t culture being passed on,” Gillespie says. “You’re telling me we can’t deal with all of our problems and also build beauty and add culture?”

3 & 4. Elias Vamvakas and Peter Politis: The Polymaths

Elias Vamvakas is the Founder and Chairman of Greybrook Realty Partners - but that isn’t where his career started.

Prior to founding Greybook, Elias co-founded TLCVision, which he built into the largest eye care service provider organization in North America. 

Today, as Chairman of Greybrook, Elias invests in world-class real estate development projects like The College at Spadina and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and Residences in Miami.

But he hasn’t left his career in healthcare behind. Even today, in addition to Greybrook, he is chairman of Greenbrook, TMS NeuroHealth Centers, which provide a novel treatment for patients suffering from depression.

Peter Politis, the CEO of Greybrook, also spans the worlds of healthcare and real estate. He plays a critical role in the success of TMS, and serves on the board of the Blu Genes Foundation, a charity funding the advancement of gene therapy science.

5. Courtney Cooper: The technologist

Courtney Cooper is a Principal at Alate Partners, where she excels in leading investments in innovative real estate technology companies, providing portfolio support, and managing relationships with industry partners. Before joining Alate, she gained substantial experience in technology and operations, working for a decade at leading Canadian real estate and financial services companies, including Dream and Great-West Life.

In addition to her work at Alate, Courtney is the co-founder of Proptech Collective and serves on the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Toronto Advisory Board.

6. Kheng Ly: Mr. International

Kheng Ly, of Montreal’s Brivia Management, came to Canada at the age of 18 as a refugee from Cambodia. He credits his first job, at a textile factory, for his business acumen - launching his own textile company along with his brother.

Since moving from textiles to real estate development, Ly, a leader in luxury Montreal residential development, has been lauded for his international ties: in 2016, he and his firm were awarded with a Business Excellence Award from the Canada-China Business Council for nurturing transpacific business relationships.

7. David Chilton: The advisor

In an era where Canadians are increasingly strained by the cost of living, David Chilton’s advice to save, save, save is increasingly important. His book, The Wealthy Barber, advised Canadians to save ten percent of all they earn, and invest it in long-term growth - and in this way, become wealthy no matter what their income is.

In an era where life becomes more and more expensive, his admonitions to avoid temptation and overspending are as relevant as ever.

8. Richard Robbins: The growth maven

Richard Robbins understands the importance of growth - in your business, in your portfolio, in your everyday life. His company, Richard Robbins International, prides itself on finding what a person is inspired by - finding their “why” - and allowing that inspiration to not just improve their sales performance, but also help them take control of their lives.

It’s by finding this inspiration that his organization seeks to transform the businesses and lives of the people they serve.

9. George Carras: The game changer

George Carrias is a serial entrepreneur whose mission is to fix Canadian real estate. 

His first company, RealNet Canada, was founded to solve the problem of inadequate information in the real estate market. Markets only work when both buyer and seller have access to relevant information, and George was on a mission to make sure the real estate markets work.

Today, he is the Founder and CEO of R-LABS, an investment fund that seeks to solve major problems in real estate through “problem-centric venture building”: that is, identifying specific problems in the sector and funding solutions to them.

As R-LABS says: “the best way to predict the future is to create it.”

10. Tonya Lagastra: The Sustainability Leader

Tonya Lagrasta is the Head of ESG for Real Estate Management Services Canada at Colliers, where she heads up the company's ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) leadership to enhance its service offerings to clients seeking to establish and pursue sustainability goals. With experience incorporating innovative ESG practices across multiple sectors, including property management, consulting, and retail, Tonya offers a unique perspective on industry best practices.

Under Tonya's leadership, Colliers launched the Edible and Pollinator Garden program, a pioneering nature-based strategic initiative that supports wellness, enhances urban biodiversity, and promotes building sustainability certification goals. This program not only contributes to the environmental aspect of ESG but also the social, with each garden's produce being donated to local community food organizations.

11. John Pasalis: The influencer

John Pasalis is the President of Realosophy Realty - but you probably know him from television or social media. John has made his mark on the industry by demystifying real estate for regular people - providing insight into indicators like interest rates, housing starts and completions, and price movements. If real estate is a more accessible asset class to retail investors, those investors have communicators like John Pasalis to thank for it.

12. Don R. Campbell: The educator

Don R. Campbell is the co-founder of the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN), an organization that provides education and resources for real estate investors across Canada. He helps real estate investors understand the basics of their investment - and the factors that will make it profitable, like excellent property management, low tenant turnover and access to public transit. 

Canadian real estate is diverse and vibrant, driven by individuals shaping it through innovative business models, architectural ingenuity, cross-sector initiatives, international influences, accessible education, and more. In various ways, these leaders are transforming and enriching the sector, leading the charge as real estate continues to evolve and retain its place as one of Canada’s most important industries.