LJM Developments is a family-owned business focusing mainly on residential and commercial developments. Based in Burlington, the company began operations in 2001, with the initial goal to build “detached homes, town homes, commercial plazas, shopping malls and high-rise buildings.” According to LJM Developments’ president, Liaquat Mian, gaining expertise within all aspects of each project has also been a high priority from the beginning – especially as the company continues to move forward throughout the GTHA. “It’s basically a combo situation, whereby you buy the piece of property and convert it into a project and complete it – whether it is residential homes, high-rise or commercial – and deliver the product,” he says. “That is how we aimed to undertake this business at LJM Development. The past 15 years, we have done some extremely unique projects, which are a great success.”
Over time, the GTHA has gone through many significant stages of growth and development that have affected the way companies like LJM Developments have tackled their projects. Mian explains that the influx of immigrants to the area – about 200,000 from the annual national total of 250,000 – has been a main contributing factor regarding changes in the market. He adds that while housing has seen a decline in Europe and the U.S., Canada’s decreasing dollar has allowed it to be of greater interest to foreign buyers, as they would be able to purchase properties for about 35 percent less compared to previous years. “Even the financial crisis in 2008, the market in Canada was very stable,” says Mian. “So, that provides a lot of firmness and depth into the system. People were not exposed to as much debt as in the U.S. and the European market.
We did not see a bump; however, in the recent past – what has happened, particularly in the neighbouring countries and worldwide – anywhere in the world where there is an unrest, the beneficiary is Canada. The reason: people want to move to North America. In the U.S., in the past six months to a year, the policy of the new government is not friendly toward immigrants. Therefore, even the outgoing over there is now diverted to Canada. More students are coming from the countries abroad to Canada instead of going to the U.S. So, that has created and generated a tremendous demand of residential, commercial and industrial properties.”
Realizing the need for increased living space for both locals and newcomers, LJM Developments has decided to place a greater emphasis on building up rather than building out. Recently, they have been adopting more of a focus toward Grimsby and Stoney Creek, due to their proximity to the U.S. border and their relation to GO Transit development. In Grimsby, LJM Developments has already established space for 300 condos, with 400 more to be built in the next three years. “Back in 2005, and going forward, our vision was that Grimsby is a unique gateway to the GTA coming from the U.S,” says Mian. “We were able to identify that this corridor which is in Grimsby is the next intensification area. When we went there, there was no imagination that the GO train shall also start service so soon. But, we thought, because people are moving forward – there’s a lot of expensive properties in Oakville and Burlington area – the next destination ought to be Grimsby.
There’s not a lot of land available, but it’s sandwiched between the escarpment and the lake; that area, in our vision, was a fit for the high-rise building. LJM was the first to go there. In fact, the children of Grimsby had seen a crane for the first time through LJM. But we always – as a corporate policy – go for solid concrete construction. We do not believe only good construction, we always go for the solid construction, and that is why we had started nine-storey buildings to begin with. Additionally, being in Grimsby, we have to have a uniqueness in our product. So, we are the first in Canada to build single-loaded buildings, which means that all the units in our building would be facing the water only on one side. The side where the two meet is just a hallway – which is very expensive to build such kinds of buildings – but this means that everybody has one side, and people can enjoy the lake view and enjoy the amenities here that we have created a lifestyle over.”
According to Mian, the ultimate goal following the Grimsby launch is to expand company operations into Beamsville and St. Catharines, moving further into Niagara to meet the expected GO Transit completion in 2023. Until then, LJM Developments has acquired property in Hamilton – for a 13-storey, 211-unit development on Barton Street – and its much anticipated King’s Park condominium project in Stoney Creek. “We did our due diligence in that area and noticed that it is a major artery where public transport is available; new plazas have been developed,” he says. “What is required there is affordability, accommodation and the young professional. There is a GO stop coming there in 2019 at Centennial, we are just 1.4 kilometres from the GO train, and we are about two kilometres from the QEW.
So, we thought this was a big fit for people and the young professional who wants to start their first purchase. Eighty percent, we are providing one-bedroom accommodation, and again, a very solid construction; a very high-end building over there with a lot of landscape area and green concepts we have injected in there. A lot of people are registering themselves because that area does not have much residential. The name of the game is to go vertical, so we are expecting a lot of success there.”
Moving further toward Toronto, LJM Developments is also in the process of setting the groundwork for Appleby LJM Village – a commercial and lifestyle development in Burlington’s northeast end. The project will feature about five towers on Appleby Line and Upper Middle Road that feature a combination of residential units, amenities, restaurants and medical facilities. Geared toward resident convenience and prepared in partnership with the city, the concept – which Mian says includes three-storey medical offices and 17-storey high rises – will be presented for approval at the end of April. “The city is very serious about giving us permission,” he says. “The thing is that we are new in the game. There are large builders who are already operating in market.
We have to come up and create a space with uniqueness and a new feature. The then-tallest building that we built in Burlington – called Ironstone, on Appleby Line and Upper Middle, which was completed in 2013 – was the first-ever 100 percent geothermal. It has 210 residential units and 15 commercials. We had the completely geothermal green building and that was well-recognized and appreciated. It helps curtail the condo fee and provide green features to the people. So, this is our endeavour; that any building we do should have a solar, geothermal and certification so that we – as responsible corporate citizens – should go with the new concept, the new technology and the new environment, to keep the environment clean and healthy.”
Throughout the years, LJM Developments has built upon their ability to engage; this commitment not only includes tradespeople, workers and businesses in the area, but also the community in which their projects are to be built. In accordance with these values, the company has also made the effort to donate one condo from every building to Habitat for Humanity, as well as make monetary contributions to various community initiatives. “Our goal is to create a legacy, create a uniqueness and residential empire for people to enjoy,” says Mian. “We will continue to do that. Every product that you will see from LJM has to be different than the rest of the people in that business and add values to our purchaser and customer, to the municipality, and fiscal responsibility. We have a great vision for the next 15 years for our employees, for our associates, for our suppliers, for our trades. So, we will go out with them for everybody’s benefit, and for the communities to add values. Everybody’s real estate market has gone up, so everybody’s a beneficiary, and we will continue to do these things in the next 15 to 20 years.”