Thoughts and life updates
I write this letter to share some of the things that I’m working on and thinking about. A little about me:
I own and manage an agency in Toronto called August. We design and build digital products. We spend about 80% of our time on client work and the balance on internal projects. I also invest in real estate with my two brothers.
The race for the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) leadership is well on its way following the ouster of Erin O’Toole over dissatisfaction with his leadership through the 2021 general election.
The first to announce his candidacy in this race has been Pierre Poilievre, and he’s been the clear frontrunner ever since.
He’s also been my top choice since making this great speech in the House of Commons on the need for government to “remove the gatekeepers” that make it so hard for us to build things anymore—whether housing, subways, airports, or pipelines.
I’ve written before on our problem of diminished state capacity and have been waiting for a credible politician to take it on as a central tenet of their campaign.
It looks like Pierre Poilievre might be that guy.
At this risk of getting too political with this newsletter, I’d like to hear what you all think. Pierre is nothing if not polarizing.
Might that serve him well as a necessarily disagreeable disruptor of the status quo, or am I setting myself up for more disappointment from a career politician?
I’ll share some more thoughts next month following this quick temperature check.
August continues to grow, and it feels like we’re accelerating our transition from a scrappy team of designers and developers to a proper business with all the associated scaffolding, and that feels both necessary and good.
The key will be to manage that transition without getting too bogged down in new systems and processes. Some scaffolding is good; too much could come at the cost of the speed and agility that’s gotten us this far.
I mentioned in last month’s newsletter that we’re rebuilding Buildstack from the ground up in order to move beyond Notion’s limitations.
Given how busy we’ve been with our August client work, I’ve had to ask for design help from my friends at Junto. I’ll have some cool updates to share with you next month.
I’m becoming increasingly convinced that this simple solution to the problem of vendor discoverability can be very helpful to the real estate development industry. We’re building Stackshare for real estate—and unlike Stackshare, a large percentage of the vendors we’ll list don’t even have websites.
We’ve received a tentative date for our COA hearing for FH1*. It’s in May, which is better than we had hoped.
If all goes well, and we receive approval for the minor variances we’re seeking, we can have a final and binding decision by early June, our working drawings submitted to Toronto Building by early July, and, inshallah, our building permits issued by early August.
And then we build. 🏗️
We’re closing on MR1** by the end of this week.
This past month has been all about securing financing for our close, including working with our lender to satisfy all diligence conditions. We’re looking good.
We’ve also engaged a new architect, who I’ll share at some point in the near future, and have begun preparing our application for a Pre-Application Consultation (PAC) with the City.
The purpose of a PAC is to receive a Planning Application Checklist from the local planner listing all materials required for a Zoning Bylaw Amendment (rezoning) application to be considered complete. Think: Planning Rationale, Draft Zoning By-law Amendment, Architectural Plans, that sort of thing.
It’s also a good opportunity to run a first pass of your architectural plans by the planner for an early reaction. This can help you save time with your application.
If all goes well, our PAC should be scheduled for some time in May. It’s going to be a busy month!
*Forever Hold 1. A proposed four-storey multiunit rental building in Toronto’s west end that we plan on holding forever.
**Midrise 1. A proposed nine-to-eleven-storey multiunit residential building (tenure to be determined) in Toronto’s west end. We’re going to start with a rezoning and see where we take it from there.
stuff I’ve enjoyed
Article: I shared some thoughts in last month’s newsletter on the need for a strong, singular political operator to drive a lot of change in government. Good policy ideas are not enough if nobody’s going to drag them across the finish line.
Since then, I’ve come across this great piece that describes one of the many obstacles this person would be mandated to overcome: cheems mindset. It’s the tendency to dismiss ideas out of hand because they would be too hard to implement. It’s a major cause and consequence of our diminished state capacity.
Book: Since wrapping up The Splendid and The Vile, I’ve ordered and just started on a biography of Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, called Max Beaverbrook: Not Quite a Gentleman. I’ll have more to say about it next month.
Among other things, I'm very curious how he managed to overcome cheems mindset when he was appointed Minister of Aircraft Production at the start of the Second World War.
Podcast: I don’t remember whether or not I’ve recommended How to Take Over the World yet, but it’s great. It’s the hobby I should have created myself ten years ago, and that is reading great biographies of great men and women and summarizing in a podcast format.
The two most recent episodes cover Walt Disney’s life, and they’re excellent.
Video: Here's a 20-minute video of me being interviewed about a paper I wrote for Ontario 360 that includes some housing policy ideas for whichever party forms government following the June provincial election.
Despite heightened attention, housing continues to be the most underrated policy domain in terms of urgency and importance both municipally and provincially (and maybe federally as well).
And that’s it for now. Here’s to a good and productive April.
Feel free to reply to this email with any comments or questions. I love chatting about everything mentioned above.