A New Development Created by Women, For Women

This unique project caters to a special population.



(Zivica Kerkez / Shutterstock.com)

In a bold move that combines gender equality with urban development, female-centered organizations have proposed overhauling an aging two-story development, located in a busy Vancouver, Canada neighborhood, according to the Journal of Commerce. The new building will be thirteen stories tall with an organic, flowy, modern design. 

But, more importantly, the complex will provide affordable, attractive housing to women. The project aims to cater to single mothers, female senior citizens, and women escaping gender-based violence. Not only will the clientele be women, but the building’s developers and leadership-team are all women as well. This apartment complex seeks to be the first “by women for women” construction project in North America.

Pioneering for women
This project is the brainchild of Carla Guerrra, the CEO and founder of the Vancouver based real estate development firm, Purpose Driven Development, RENX.ca reports. As the female CEO of a development company, a field dominated by men, Guerrera is already breaking ground, both literally and figuratively. 

Guerrera isn’t just a pioneering woman in a male-dominated field, she actively advocates for the inclusion of women in real-estate development. 

“A study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics that looked at 22,000 companies globally found that when women are represented at the corporate leadership level (in) companies there was a 15 per cent increase in profitability over companies where women were not represented or underrepresented,” Guerrera explains to RENX. “There’s no reason to believe the real estate and development industry would be any different.”

Guerrera has a master's degree in urban planning from Queen’s University. She also has a diverse resume of experience, including working on development projects for the Canadian government and being the only international board member at the Thames Estuary Growth Board in the UK, a group which seeks to redevelop neighborhoods on the banks of the Thames river.

She explains that after many years of working for private development companies, she started her own firm with the aim of boosting sustainability and social benefits through urban development and renewal. “I knew there was a way that was more creative, more collaborative and that really created more benefits for everyone, rather than just being bottom-line focused,” she says.

Guerrera believes that being bottom-line focused results in more benefits and greater efficiency. “When you focus on the community benefits, on what the community wants and really bring environmental benefits . . . projects get approved faster, they get buy-in faster from the municipality. They often get delivered much more easily on time and on budget without unnecessary delays,” says Guerrera.

By women, for women
Guerrera offers the 546 West 13th Street housing project as an example of how urban housing that promises real community benefits gets expedited buy-in from the city. This project, which according to the Journal of Commerce has been in the pipeline since 2018, but is set to break ground this month.

The 13-story, 135-unit housing development that will take the place of an aging two-story building at 546 West 13th Street, is the result of a partnership between Purpose Driven Development and the female-focused organization Soroptimist International of Vancouver. 

This building will be unique for two reasons. Firstly, the leadership team developing the area is an all-women team. Guerrera told the Journal of Commerce, “It’s the only project in North America that’s providing housing for women by an all-woman team. It’s a really great project. The architects and the engineers, the arborists, and every single person on this project are part of a huge team of all women. It’s a very unique project team.”

Secondly, not only is the team constructing the building composed of women, but the final result is intended to cater to Vancouver women as well. 

“Metro Vancouver has the highest rents and lowest vacancy rates of any region in Canada,” shares Carla Busnardo,  SI Vancouver board president and redevelopment chair. “Almost two-thirds of minimum wage earners in BC are women. High rents mean that safe and adequate housing is out of reach for many women, especially women parenting alone. The lack of housing options places women at greater risk of returning to or staying in an abusive situation. The housing crisis also makes women vulnerable to exploitation.”

Several apartment units will be designed specifically with senior women and single mothers in mind. Additionally, the building’s structure and facade was designed to be both beautiful and affordable.

The Daily Hive cites the architect’s design rationale. “The architectural expression is fluid and provides interest as the eye travels up the building. It is a dynamic expression that will stand in contrast to the older cubic, highly regimented towers in the neighborhood,”

Artistic renderings of the apartment complex show sleek, horizontal ribbons wrapped around the building, forming the balconies. A large lobby and extensive, shared outdoor spaces on the ground and 13th floor will support residents by promoting social connections.

The for women, by women project is the only one of its kind in North America. But, maybe it will inspire other real-estate developers to keep the needs of women in mind when planning developments. And hopefully, it will inspire other development firms to push the glass ceiling and hire more talented, qualified females for leadership roles.

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