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September 27, 2022

All paths lead to this Junction Co.

By
Ameet Johal

When was the last time you noticed a really great building? Unless you’re an architecture buff like me, you probably didn’t notice it as much as you felt it. A sense of ease, comfort, something about the way the light hit just right might have subtly shifted your mood, made you want to linger a little longer. Likewise, the last time you were in a space that didn’t work maybe left you feeling agitated, uncomfortable, perhaps even uneasy and most of all, you probably didn’t stay there for too long. Places and spaces matter. And how those places make people feel is what matters the most.

It’s no longer enough to say “if you build it, they will come”—you also need to think about how they will feel when they get there. Relevant, considered places create environments that people genuinely want to be in and at. It makes them want to call a place home, enjoy a meal, or make a purchase. Well-positioned real estate that serves the needs of its community can positively influence behaviour and shape the culture of a city. And a growing number of smart developers are paying attention to the power of place.


A person-first approach to building

In a nutshell, that’s why I started Junction Co.—because I care a lot about how people move through and feel in the places and spaces of their lives. Often, the business of real estate can overshadow what may be the best thing for a project, the block, or the people.  

We do this by working alongside team members like architects, designers, developers, construction companies, researchers, marketing and sales teams, potential retail/commercial partners, as well as community members to understand how the real estate will best serve the people. We like to think about how a building will fit in an existing neighbourhood, how it will improve its surroundings, and how community members interact with it on a daily basis. We like to think about how a place has the potential to shape culture and impact a neighbourhood. We like to think about all these big questions, and then develop an action plan to turn them into reality. Though we have many tools in our toolbox, ultimately being curious and not being afraid to ask questions is really what sets us apart.


Function and form

For example: consider amenity spaces. Most condo buildings have a lounge or party room—a big, expansive space that is well-appointed on paper, but in practice can feel cold, and cavernous unless occupied by at least 30 people. Well-meaning developers offer these spaces because they perceive them to be an attractive amenity to would-be residents. But often, how they’re built and designed means they sit empty and unused.

We know through research and lived experience that most people in urban environments simply aren’t hosting big parties, pandemic or not. People generally like to get together in smaller groups and hang out in more comfortable, intimate spaces. Based on this knowledge, we have worked with developers to appoint amenity spaces to make them feel more comfortable and ensure the spaces are actually used.  While this may seem simple, it’s a powerful example of the importance of how the built environment can influence our behaviours.


The why

My perspective of the world is very much connected to the work I do at Junction Co. I genuinely care about how people live in their homes, engage with their neighbours, travel to and from work, shop on the street, socialize over food, etc. And as I participate in and observe those actions, I’m constantly looking at how we could be better. Considering the human perspective and how places make people feel is truly what drives me.

I believe it’s as important to be in the boardroom as it is to be on the streets and that tension is reflected in everything we do at Junction Co. If I’m spending all my time in the boardroom, it’s taking me away from understanding what’s happening in the cities and neighbourhoods we’re looking to add value to. I need to have a balance of both to be the most effective.

I’ve worked in the real estate and development industry for over 25 years. I’ve been accountable for generating revenue across diverse portfolios within Canada and the US, including mixed-use residential, master-planned communities, single-family, multifamily and hospitality spaces. But my inherent curiosity and need to question and challenge everything when it comes to how we think about developing real estate really pushed me to pursue my own business. Ultimately, I want to contribute to places that will shape and influence culture.


What’s in a name?

Just as great spaces should have more than one purpose, great names should have more than one meaning. The name, Junction Co., is comprised of two parts. First, it’s an ode to one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Toronto, The Junction. To me, this neighbourhood is a constant source of inspiration and the embodiment of an ever-evolving community that has a deep sense of culture. The second part is more of a node to the types of projects we want to do and the role we want to play. The heart of what we do is unifying a team around an idea, concept, or perspective to better understand the purpose and potential of the communities we help to create. We are joiners of ideas—the junction point. We are the ones who bring it all together to create clarity and purpose. And this makes for a kick-ass development that people want to be a part of.

Curious to learn more? Send me a message to say hi, I’d love to connect.