“The dream of homeownership isn’t dead,” says Farzad Mazarei, founder and CEO of Cascadia Green Development.
This statement, coming as it does from someone whose career is in property development, might raise plenty of eyebrows – especially in Metro Vancouver, where many of us abandoned the dream of homeownership years ago.
But Mazarei is a highly unusual property development professional, and Cascadia Green is a highly unusual property development company.
Mazarei founded Cascadia Green in 2009 because, he says, “I had to be a part of the solution to the problems we have in the construction and development business.”
These problems were evident to Mazarei everywhere he looked in his home city of North Vancouver. “I noticed that more or less all the developments are the same. They’re aiming for the same goal of maximizing their footprint, and the financial gain of the project comes from being something routine and creating a rubber stamp, and then putting that stamp on every project.”
In simpler terms: block after block, mile after mile, of near-identical developments that maximize the industry’s profits but do little, if anything, to foster community or bring the dream of homeownership closer to the grasp of ordinary people.
Out of the gate, Mazarei and Cascadia Green resolved to do things differently, to “put aside the relationship of the developer and the community as adversaries,” says Mazarei. “We believe in partnership, in the fact that everything is possible if we work together for the greater good.”
This goal is being realized via a number of multi-family residential and mixed-use developments that have been widely recognized for their innovation, environmental consciousness, visual appeal and financial accessibility.
These include Synergy, on the 100 block of St. Patricks Avenue, made up of seven three-storey townhouses. It was the first multi-family townhouse project in the city to include legal secondary suites, “to be used as a mortgage helper or to help with a family member who is disabled or under the care of other family members,” Mazarei explains. It subsequently won awards from both the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of BC and the Homebuilders Association of Vancouver.
And now, Mazarei and the Cascadia Green team are looking forward to breaking ground on Innova, a project that “by itself, is a representation of the vision I had for Cascadia.”
Spanning the 400 block East 3rd Street in Lower Lonsdale/Moodyville and due for completion in October 2023, Innova consists of 168 residential units and 30,000 square feet of commercial space. Sustainable building materials will be used wherever possible.
A pilot project developed in collaboration with the City of North Vancouver and BC Housing, Innova is the first development of its kind in Canada. It introduces innovation in affordability by offering nine units with the option of equity share from 20 to 45 percent of each unit price. These units will be prioritized for “first responders or people who live or work in the City of North Vancouver,” Mazarei explains. “So, if it’s a $800,000 unit, the first responder [may only have] to qualify for $400,000 worth of mortgage and only pays that much – and they own the unit.
“This takes a load off of the rental sector as well. More people who can actually buy, leaving rental properties for those who really need them.”
Innova will also feature two daycares (one owned by the City as a non-profit) and a covered gathering space for neighbourhood residents. Plus, the retail spaces will be sold at a discount to “local business operators who never had the opportunity to own their own commercial property before.”
If Innova proves successful, which Mazarei is confident will be the case, “other developers, in my opinion, should take this initiative and bring it to the next level, and make the dream of homeownership come true for many of these young families – people who serve us in the community and helped us during the pandemic.”
“Everything we do in this industry comes from the three corners of a triangle,” says Mazarei. “One corner is the city, one is the developer and the third is the community. When we come together and work with each other and create that alignment, great things will happen.”
To find out more about Cascadia Green Development, visit cascadiagreendev.com.