Toronto Under Construction – Episode 60 with Rob Spanier from The Spanier Group
The Toronto Under Construction podcast welcomes co-host Chris Spoke (from episode 37) and guest Rob Spanier to episode 60. Rob is an international real estate development advisor dedicated to creating innovative, next-generation destinations and places, with expertise in creating thriving communities with uniquely curated specialty retail experiences. By playing an integral role on multi-disciplinary project teams, Rob commits his extensive knowledge in large-scale mixed-use development, master planning, specialty leasing and deal making as well as programming and activation in order to create vibrant and prosperous communities.
After working in the real estate sector for twenty years, Rob started his firm, The Spanier Group, in 2018. This journey began when Rob spent five years at Intrawest Corporation, leading an international leasing team that created iconic destination resort towns worldwide. From Intrawest, Rob came to Toronto and worked for an advisory services firm for eleven years before forming the Spanier Group. Spanier Group recently celebrated its five year anniversary and has worked on over thirty projects in Canada and the USA.
Passionate about place-making and developing great places, Rob has been actively involved with the Urban Land Institute (“ULI”) since 2007.
Rob holds an Interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts Degree in Industrial Relations with a minor in Economics from McGill University. Rob grew up in Montreal, Quebec and is passionate about helping to develop places where people can connect with each other and to their environments; where memories are born and last forever.
Ben jumps right into this episode by asking Rob how a “Montreal guy that went to McGill” ended up at Intrawest. Rob shares some details of his time at Intrawest, traveling the world, and getting the opportunity to develop resort communities and the places and villages where people want to spend their time. Rob mentions the importance of creating spaces that excite people and discusses some retailers he hand picked for the Blue Mountain Village who are still there 24 years later. Ben mentions one one of the biggest things about creating exciting spaces is how the building meets the ground and getting the right mix of tenants that will create a vibrant community. Rob agrees and says we’re in a very interesting time in the market where people are going to choose where to buy based on a great experience, “it’s not just the space you’re sleeping in or living in, it’s the space that you are a part of, that’s the building, that’s the neighbourhood, that’s the community.” As the guys continue to discuss vibrant spaces, Chris asks Rob to talk about the principles of place making.
Next up, Chris asks Rob to share the details on how he came to open his own firm. Tune in at 23:18 to learn more about how Rob founded his company, and how he used the principles of place making to implement, not just write reports.
As Rob shares more details about The Spanier Group and how they get involved with projects, Ben reads 4 definitions for placemaking reading: “placemaking capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that improve urban vitality and promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being.” Next, “placemaking is the intentional use of land, community and amenities to create great places to live.” “Placemaking is a participatory process for shaping public space that harnesses the ideas and assets of the people who use it.” And lastly, “Rooted in community-based participation, Placemaking involves the planning, design, management and programming of shared use spaces.” Ben asks Rob how he would define placemaking as an overall concept. Tune in at 29:23 for his response and hear the guys discuss what makes a place great.
Chris then asks Rob about how he balances vision versus what the community wants, and mentions that a lot of times the community doesn’t know what it actually needs. Rob agrees and says he’s always believed in public consultation and getting a real sense of the local community today and tomorrow. Tune in at 42:05.
As the guys continue to discuss great spaces and the elements that make them so, Ben mentions that “creating a neighbourhood from scratch has got to be the most difficult”. Rob responds by saying, “If you’ve created a place in a mudpatch in the mountains, in the middle of nowhere, and you’ve made it successful, it’s not hard to do it here, the question is, what are you focused on?” Tune in at 56:25 to hear Rob’s response.
The episode begins to wrap up and Rob discusses some great projects in the city, like The WELL, and touches on some of the projects he’s working on like Lakeview Village, stating that “at one point I wanted to work on every project and touch everything. Now I just want to work on great projects with great people.”
Last up, Ben’s famous Rapid Fire; Ben and Chris ask Rob questions like, “In your experience, do staged homes sell faster than vacant ones in the Toronto market?”, “What’s a reasonable maximum amount of time that someone should spend working in a coffee shop?”, “Could Montreal support an NBA team?”, “Do you see a future in Toronto where a family of five lives on the 50th floor of a condo building?”, “Who is a retailer doing everything right currently?” and more!
Tune in now to episode 60 of the Toronto Under Construction podcast!
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