You’ve known Ian since working together at Schroeder Properties and then you joined Ian’s company in 1995 through to 2000. What was Westbank like in those early days?
In the early days there were only ﬁve or six of us and we did everything. At that time we were young and impetuous and learning on the ﬂy. So as you can imagine, we were making a lot of mistakes, but having a lot of success as well. I had the sense that we were burning candles on both ends, but after you’ve been removed from it of course, you realize that it was actually a lot of fun.
Some of the stuffwe built in the early days didn’t turn into artistry by any stretch of the imagination, but that was all part of the learning experience. What I was involved in was the shopping centre business, for example, where everyone is always looking out for the last penny.
What has fuelled Westbank over the years?
I think a lot of it has to be the driving force that Ian has. When I think of the people I have met in our industry and collectively in business, Ian, apart from being very creative has an untempered belief that he can pull things off. I’ve never met anyone else who has that kind of focus, the inward sense, stick-with-it-ness, conﬁdence – whatever you want to call it – to actually get things done. It’s quite something.
It’s been said that he takes risks?
Risk taking, yes and no. I think the risk in doing good development comes from being bold enough to envision what a project could be. It’s deﬁnitely not reckless. Ian’s a smart guy and he ﬁgures it all out. I think from an outside perspective looking in, people might think it’s risky, but I think he is just prepared and takes emotional risk to conceive of a great project and then ﬁgure out how to get it executed. Ian looks at what could go right in a project, whereas most developers look at what might go wrong. A lot of other developers’ projects fall short because of that. Their work might be economically successful, but it is not as inspiring as the projects that Ian has built.
It’s a natural evolution for people who get involved in development to want to go on to bigger and better things, where there is more brain candy to provide an emotional and intellectual challenge. You’d get bored otherwise. Apart from being very creative, Ian has an unconditional belief that he can tackle any challenge. His biggest risk is in being bold.