Kim Colpman, Director of Property Development at Large & Co

For our September 2020 Newsletter, we asked Kim Colpman about Large and Co, her work there, and a bit about her life outside of work.

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Can you briefly introduce yourself and Large & Co?
Founded in 1962, Large & Co. is a locally owned family business operating initially as a Data Centre in Victoria, B.C. Over the years the company expanded to become the first independent Computer Maintenance firm worldwide (more publicly known as DataTech Systems Inc.). During this time Large & Co. also undertook various commercial and office development projects including grocery stores, shopping malls and the well known DataTech Building here in Victoria. For the past 25 years, the company has moved toward Residential Development and in my role as CEO I work to empower and guide our amazing team.

What sets Large & Co apart from other Developers in the area?
Large & Co. has always been on the cutting edge thanks to the vision of its founder Earl Large. For the past 25 years our proposals have seemed ”out there” often making the approval process more difficult, but in hindsight have been right on-target.  For example, Large & Co. was one of the first companies to: build small homes in rear yards (today’s ‘Garden Suite’); provide smaller strata units to make them affordable (now the popular ‘micro unit’); and offer electric car chargers in every unit, which is now pretty much standard practice.
The diversity of our projects is also a strength. We do not limit ourselves to one type of development because each property offers unique opportunities. Infill strata, heritage restoration, saving, repurposing or moving existing homes, condominium buildings, bare land strata – whatever works best for the community, the new owner and our company is what drives these decisions.

How do you define success for your projects, and what project are you most proud of?
It is impossible to say which project stands out. Great emphasis has always been placed on the human dimension of all our business decisions.  The effort our team puts forth to provide quality homes is our way of serving the community. Success comes when we see pride of ownership – when people who buy our homes are happy with the quality and liveable designs we have created – this is the greatest heart moment and makes us proud of all our projects.

Quite a few of Large & Co’s fit the description of Missing Middle housing. What are your thoughts on why this
What doesn’t like to be recognized is that development companies are local businesses like any other, trying to turn a profit to pay staff and run our offices so we can continue to build homes for the community. It really all comes down to costs. The ‘missing middle’ is missing because it is a financially risky business proposition compared to larger, more dense development projects. There is a much narrower profit margin and since application processing times are about the same as for the more dense projects, and municipal fees, charges and infrastructure demands are negatively disproportionate to the size of a proposal, most developers won’t take the risk.
Why is this happening? This is a much longer conversation and has been a topic of discussion for some time, but one thought is, the municipalities’ desire to meet their ‘missing middle’ housing demand is at odds with their policies and procedures. In a built out City developers need to come up with bold and innovative infill solutions which means the same rigid policies cannot be applied to every project. Planners must be allowed to use their expertise to support creative housing solutions and accept reasonable community/infrastructure contributions that match the size of a project. A small lot infill home cannot be assessed $120K in fees and municipal upgrades (real example!).

Looking into the future, are there any positive changes you hope to see in the development industry as a result of the Covid-19 crisis?
I think technology is an obvious one. With having to physical distance, reduce travel, work at home and so on, the reliance on digital collaboration tools for design and engineering will increase. As well, workflow management, real-time project tracking, scheduling – the use of all of these digital productivity tools will be in greater demand.
As for other specific changes, who really knows for sure. But what I can say is crisis is always the catalyst for change.  It’s what propels us to examine what no longer works and search for innovative solutions ……and that is always a positive thing.

Real estate development is still largely dominated by male leaders. What challenges have you faced as a female leader, and what advice do you have for young women in the industry?
I came to Large & Co. with the advantage of several careers behind me which made my transition to this industry much easier. Throughout my working career I found it was important to surround myself with people I admire, absorb their knowledge and asked a lot of questions! Being curious and credible gains respect and gives you confidence to stand up for your ideas. It didn’t happen overnight though – there were valuable lessons along the way.  I remember years ago being in meeting of all men discussing an implementation plan for a reorg within government. I listened, sat quietly as a plan unfolded in my head until someone else voiced ‘my idea’ – the Director thought it was brilliant! Such a missed opportunity. As women we need to push through the discomfort of ‘a dumb idea’ or ‘I should know this’ and be confident in our knowledge and ability to contribute.
Also I feel strongly that building relationships with everyone is key. Being invested in the knowledge of your industry is important but it is crucial to be personally interested in those you work with.

What is the most challenging part of your job, and what do you love most about it?
The challenge  –  uncertainty. There are too many points along the path of a development application where it can go sideways and there is no way of knowing when, where or what that wrench will be.
The joy – designing homes that people are proud to live in.

What do you love most about living in Victoria?
I am a native Victorian ???? and there are so many things to love – the mountains, ocean, forests, fresh water, clean air. We are so fortunate to live here and I hope we can offer more people that opportunity.

When you’re not working, what are your favourite activities?
Anything with friends and family.

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I initially trained as a Radiology Technologist and spent many years in the health industry