The Power List: Top 10 Real Estate Reformers

You’ve heard the phrase “build back better.” These Canadians are getting it done.

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These are the Canadians working to “build back better.” Check out the full 2023 Power List here.

MORE: See who made the 2023 Maclean’s Power List

1. Mindy Wight and Khelsilem are pairing real estate with reconciliation

CEO Nch’ḵay̓ Development Corporation; Chairperson Squamish Nation Council

(Photography by Grant Harder)


Click here to find out why Wight and Khelsilem get the top spot

2. Stephen Sidwell is building an empire (from a low-carbon concrete dupe)

CEO, Nexii building solutions

Stephen Sidwell is the CEO of Nexii Building Solutions, which invented a low-carbon concrete alternativeFrom the vegan meat substitute Gardein to the healthy fast-casual restaurant chain Lyfe Kitchen, serial entrepreneur Stephen Sidwell has long had his finger in various planet-protecting pies. In 2019, he brought that expertise to construction: he teamed up with Saskatchewan-based brothers Michael and Ben Dombowsky, inventors of Nexiite, a proprietary sand-and-water-based, low-carbon alternative to concrete. Last year, their company was valued at $2 billion, and Nexiite panels were used to construct Marriott hotels, Scotiabank branches and even homes in fire-ravaged Lytton, British Columbia. Gregor Robertson, a former Vancouver mayor, serves as VP of strategy and partnerships, and even actor Michael Keaton is a fan; he’s partnered with Nexii to bring one of their plants to his hometown of Pittsburgh. Holy sustainability, Batman!

3. Robert Niven’s climate-tech company has impressed Bezos and Gates

Founder & CEO, CarbonCure

Robert Niven is the founder and CEO of Halifax emissions-cutting firm CarbonCureSince 2012, the Halifax firm CarbonCure has set its emissions-cutting sights on the cement industry, which produces about eight per cent (and rising) of the world’s greenhouse gases. Here’s how CarbonCure works: the company’s ingenious technology captures carbon dioxide from a variety of industrial sources, then injects it into fresh concrete, forever trapping the carbon—and simultaneously improving the concrete’s strength.

Under the leadership of founder and CEO Robert Niven, CarbonCure has received investment from Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos and, so far, has prevented almost 250,000 metric tonnes of CO₂ from entering the atmosphere. (For context, an average gas-fuelled car emits about five metric tonnes yearly.) By 2030, Niven and Co. hope to reduce those emissions by 500 million tonnes on an annual basis.

4. Cecilia Williams is developing Canada’s urban epicentres

Executive Vice-President & CFO, Allied Properties

Cecilia Williams is the executive vice-president and CFO of Allied PropertiesEarlier this year, Allied Properties’ founder and CEO, Michael Emory, stepped aside and long-time CFO Cecilia Williams took over. She has her work cut out for her. High interest rates and the shift to hybrid work have been hard on the REIT, whose countrywide portfolio includes hundreds of low-rise historic buildings lovingly converted into prime office space. A planned move to sell off the company’s three Toronto data centres will replenish its coffers, however, and Allied’s power to shape the urban core of Canada’s major cities remains unmatched. The Well, a massive mixed-use Toronto development Allied co-owns with RioCan, is now open and bustling. And in 2022, the company acquired six new commercial properties, one of which is an office tower on Vancouver’s West Georgia Street, the largest real estate deal in the city’s downtown that year.

5. Alan Greenberg is funding real estate’s green future

Co-founder, Greensoil Investments

Alan Greenberg is the co-founder of venture capital firm Greensoil InvestmentsAlan Greenberg is Toronto real estate royalty, with almost 30 years under his belt at the family business. (You may know the condo and rental-apartment developer the Minto Group.) At Minto, Greenberg formed the Minto Green Team, which is focused on making the company more energy-efficient and all-around eco-friendly. After retiring at 50, Greenberg carried that same sustainability-boosting impulse into his next venture: Greensoil Investments, a venture capital firm that’s devoted $100 million to bankrolling cutting-edge, zero-carbon real estate and agricultural projects across North America—and as far afield as Europe and Israel. Greensoil’s portfolio includes Ivy Energy (a solar-energy billing platform), smart-sensor firm Wynd and CarbonCure—another notable company you may have just heard of.

6. Michael Cooper is reviving Toronto’s smart-city dreams

Chair, Quayside Impact Limited Partnership

Michael Cooper is the chair of Toronto's Quayside Impact Limited PartnershipRemember Sidewalk Toronto, Google’s proposed smart-city project in Toronto’s east end? Thanks to Michael Cooper, president of real estate developer Dream Unlimited, that epic fail will soon be nothing more than a best-forgotten nightmare. Cooper is now shepherding the Quayside Project, an all-electric, zero-carbon, car-free, mixed-use development at the nexus point of Parliament Street and Lake Shore Boulevard. The blueprint for the eight-acre community includes 4,300 residential units (800 of which are designated affordable), a two-acre “community forest,” a rooftop urban farm and a brand-new performing arts centre. Lending the project even more credibility, the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation have come aboard as a partner, joining Crow’s Theatre and the Bentway.

7. Carol Phillips is imagining bigger, better Canadian buildings

Partner, Moriyama & Teshima architects

Carol Phillips is a partner at Moriyama & Teshima ArchitectsAs far as the Canadian construction industry is concerned, mass timber has been the greatest, greenest thing going for years now. One project in particular promises to be the biggest and most Canadian: Limberlost Place, a startlingly ambitious 10-storey building at George Brown College in Toronto’s east end. Scheduled to open in 2025, Limberlost will be the largest mass-timber structure in the country, its wood sourced from northern Quebec and its designers based in B.C. and Ontario.

Architect Carol Phillips, of Moriyama & Teshima, is the partner in charge of the project, bringing to it the groundbreaking design techniques and keen aesthetic eye she’s displayed at the award-winning University of Toronto Multi-Faith Centre and the new Parliament Hill Visitor Welcome Centre in the nation’s capital.

8. Courtney Cooper is Canadian proptech’s prime mover

Principal, Alate Partners

Courtney Cooper is the principal at Toronto's Alate PartnersVirtual open houses. Sophisticated property-management software. It’s all part of proptech, or property technology, a field that’s exploded recently. In 2021, the global proptech market was valued at US$25 billion, and it’s expected to grow by almost 16 per cent per year through 2030. No Canadian is a bigger proptech booster than Courtney Cooper. As a principal at Toronto’s Alate Partners, she leads investments in proptech companies. And as co-founder of Proptech Collective—a group of similarly tech-savvy entrepreneurs, brokers and city-builders—Cooper’s been instrumental in dragging Canadian real estate into the 21st century. The industry continues to grapple with thorny issues (affordability; a stubbornly persistent pandemic), but Cooper speaks in solutions: more transparent data, collaboration and inclusivity.

9. Ian Arthur is printing solutions to the housing crisis

Co-founder, Nidus3d

Former Ontario NDP MPP Ian Arthur is the co-founder of Nidus3DIan Arthur has one of the more eclectic CVs you’ll encounter: in his youth, he was head chef at the famed Chez Piggy restaurant in Kingston, Ontario, and between 2018 and 2022, he was an MPP for the Ontario NDP. During his tenure, Arthur served on the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, where he learned firsthand about his constituents’ housing struggles. In 2021, Arthur pivoted yet again, co-founding Nidus3D, a startup specializing in the affordable—and quick!—3D printing of construction materials.

Its first project is also the first fully 3D-printed concrete residential structure in Canada: a fourplex, produced in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, which went up in Leamington, Ontario, last fall. Nidus3D is currently at work on larger and more complex buildings—including a two-storey studio—all across North America. Print it, and they will come.

10. Oliver Lang is speeding up Canada’s construction

Co-founder & CEO, Intelligent City

Oliver Lang is the co-founder and CEO of Vancouver's Intelligent City sustainable construction firmGiven the global construction industry’s massive pollution—it accounted for 37 per cent of energy and process-related CO₂ emissions in 2021—its sluggish moves toward sustainability have been maddening. Oliver Lang, head of Vancouver-based housing tech company Intelligent City, is changing that. Intelligent City fuses old-school materials (wood, in the form of mass timber) with cutting-edge technology (like robotics) to produce a scalable, cheaper process of prefab construction. Several of its surprisingly attractive homes now dot B.C.’s Lower Mainland, and an 18-storey apartment building is currently in the rezoning stage. While the company’s been around for 15 years, it’s benefiting from a boost of VC cash and evolving building codes, not to mention a second manufacturing plant planned for Ontario. It seems the industry might finally be catching up.

Check out the full 2023 Power List here

This article appears in print in the March 2023 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Buy the issue for $9.99 or better yet, subscribe to the monthly print magazine for just $39.99.