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May 22, 2019

First all-female real estate development team breaks new ground in Canada



May 22, 2019 (Toronto, ON) – For decades, real estate development has been a male-dominated industry. But as the momentum for gender equality builds across various sectors around the globe, a group of women in Toronto are making a statement within the real estate industry by introducing the country’s first all-female development team.

Spearheaded by Taya Cook, Director of Development at Urban Capital and Sherry Larjani, Managing Partner at Spotlight Developments, the team will bring a new vision to an emerging family-friendly neighbourhood in Etobicoke with their residential project, Reina. From construction management to engineering to architecture and urban planning, the entire leadership team behind Reina is women.

The concept began with Cook who read an article touting the condo titans in the city. None of them were women, and it was a wakeup call about gender parity in the industry.

“We’re embarking on this project to create more visibility for women in real estate development, and to inspire younger women to see career possibilities. It’s a huge industry and a massive economic driver for the region. For some reason it has been seriously lagging behind in gender equity. Women have been prominent in all sorts of roles and they are doing fantastic work in this industry, but our accomplishments aren’t well-recognized,” says Cook. “We live in one of the most diverse cities in the world, and our built environment should reflect that. It’s no longer just the condo kings who are impacting our city”.

The vision became a reality when she partnered with Larjani who kickstarted her own career in development over a decade ago. As an entrepreneur, Larjani has had to prove herself over and over again as an outsider in the industry. Together, Cook and Larjani have built a team of all-female consultants over the course of several months. The project boasts a bevy of seasoned real estate professionals dedicated to bringing a unique perspective to city-building.

The team includes: Heather Rolleston, Principal at Quadrangle Architects, who brings over 20 years of experience and sits on the City of Toronto’s Design Review Panel; Lisa Spensieri, Project Lead at Quadrangle Architects; Jane Almey, Managing Partner at Bluescape Construction who has overseen major low and high-rise residential projects; Emily Reisman, Partner at Urban Strategies, who has worked on award-winning projects including the Vaughan Official Plan and Bridgepoint Health Master Plan; Nataliya Tkach, Hydrogeological Engineer at EXP; Stacy Meek, Environmental Engineer at EXP; Fatima Shakil, Principal at Adjeleian Allen Rubeli with nearly 30 years of experience in structural engineering; Tara Chisholm, Senior Project Manager at WSP Group, one of the top engineering consultancy firms in the world; Fung Lee, Principal at PMA Landscape Architects who has extensive experience overseeing projects from urban parks and play environments to botanical gardens; and ManLing Lau, Vice-President of Sales at MarketVision Research, who has over 24 years of real estate experience managing marketing and sales for more than 42 pre-construction condominium projects.

“There aren’t many entrepreneurial women coming into the industry on their own. No one took me seriously until I bought my first piece of land,” says Larjani. “We need to give women positive role models and prove that a career in development is a viable path. It’s incumbent upon all of us to change this narrative.”

Located along Etobicoke’s bustling artery, The Queensway, Reina will be transforming the now-demolished House of Lancaster site. The building will be characterized by the female perspective at every degree, from the street level design to unit layouts.

“Etobicoke has a lot of young families looking for good homes. The site gave us everything we wanted – proximity to great schools, expansive parks, and wonderful shops and restaurants. It allows for true family-friendly urban living, and we’re excited to reveal our team’s vision in the coming months,” adds Cook.

Reina will kickstart the project this summer with another first for the industry by hosting a design consultation event on July 10th to share ideas about amenities and features. While most public consultations focus on density issues, the evening will be centered around the lifestyles and needs of purchasers.

“Our team will be listening to what people want in their building and incorporate their feedback into the design. We want to create a building that truly accounts for everyone’s needs, from women to families to investors,” says Larjani.


Urban Capital is one of Canada’s leading developers with an award-winning reputation for architectural design, environmental sustainability, and a commitment to cities. Working in partnership with the best architects, designers and planners, the company is widely recognized for its pioneering role in bringing high-design urban living across Canada. Consistently named as a top 10 condo developer in Toronto, Urban Capital has over 9,300 condominium units developed or under development since 1996. With a reputation as urban regenerators, the company has brought its high standards and visionary approach to neighbourhood-conscious development from Toronto to Halifax, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton.

Founded over 10 years ago, Spotlight Development specializes in multi-residential development projects and custom home builds across the GTA. Bringing quality projects to multiple cities including Toronto, Richmond Hill, Port Hope and Perry Sound, Spotlight Development’s reputation is rooted in its attention to detail and meticulous craftmanship. With a wealth of projects underway including a high-rise condominium project with Liberty Development, and an affordable housing complex in Ajax, Spotlight Development is emerging as one of the top developers in the GTA.

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