It’s not typical to transition from submarine sandwiches to real estate development, but nothing about the Mylonas family is typical. Jim Mylonas started in the restaurant business in Calgary with a single “Mr. Sub” location in the 1970s, which he soon expanded to 13 throughout the city and assisted another 35 franchised stores across Western Canada as they started operations. As he grew the brand, he saw changes in the market and decided to diversify his business using some of the assets he’d acquired over the years.
“As my dad saw the landscape become more competitive in the fast food segment, he identified other opportunities in the market, like real estate,” says George Mylonas, Jim’s son and current president and CEO of Landstar Development Corporation. “We leased some of our restaurant sites but some we had to buy and either build free-standing buildings or strip shopping centres, and we’d put Mr. Sub as the anchor tenant. We started selling off some of our restaurant holdings and retained the real estate, while also buying other parcels of land in and around Calgary.”
In 1995, the Mylonas family expanded formally into real estate development by establishing Landstar Development Corporation, which quickly became a highly-respected land development and asset management company with an impressive portfolio of residential, retail and mixed-use properties. Twenty-five years forward, Landstar has proven itself a leader in the business through its quality projects in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
Jim Mylonas established a solid reputation in business and passed the values that earned that reputation to his son George, who learned the ways of business and the importance of character working at his father’s side from a young age.
“I trailed around wherever my dad was – on a construction site or in the restaurant – and it gave me an opportunity to ask a bunch of questions and to be exposed to things that a lot of 12-year-olds wouldn’t dream of,” George Mylonas says about his introduction to the business world. “It was natural for me, after graduating university, to come on full time and start taking over from my father a lot of the day-to-day operations of the family real estate operations.”
PROJECTS PAST AND FUTURE
Armed with a degree in economics from the University of Calgary and the experience earned shadowing his father since elementary school, George Mylonas stepped into the fold and helped shape the future of the company. Landstar’s real estate portfolio included land on the outskirts of Calgary in East Springbank, and at the time Jim was deciding if he should sell the land or find an experienced partner to develop it. George presented a third option: use the land to springboard into a development company of their own. Jim chose option three and handed George the responsibility of developing the 52-acre parcel into a residential subdivision.
The result was West Springs Farm, a beautiful community of 365 single-family and multi-family homes on the west side of Calgary. Mylonas partnered with some Qualico builders as well as Sabal Homes to build this unique development, and the success of the venture put Landstar Development on the industry radar.
Landstar was soon tapped to participate in the final phase of the luxury country residential community – Elbow Valley West. The company partnered with Peters Dewald Land Company to develop 123 picturesque acres of the Elbow Valley. It was a raving success, and both Landstar and Peters Dewald Land Company were lauded for their innovative approach to the project.
“We allowed consumers to buy their own residential lots directly from the developer and bring in their own builder. We put in place the subdivision plan outlining the sizing and locations of the lots and the architectural controls. It turned out to be a very successful sales approach,” George Mylonas says.
The accomplishments of these initial projects led to others like “The Portico,” a 55-unit condo project in Bridgeland overlooking the former General Hospital site, and a return to West Springs for “The Village at West Springs.” With a mix of styles, this distinctive town-home community featured 92 stacked and row town-home units amid striking landscaping and natural areas.
Landstar expanded to British Columbia with “The Views of Forbidden Plateau,” a spectacular 120 acres in the Comox Valley featuring home styles ranging from craftsman to French country to mountain vernacular, offering residents a feeling of calm retreat in a natural wonderland.
Landstar is currently working on several projects both within the city of Calgary and outside its Calgary core. It is developing an 18-acre site on the shores of Lake Okanagan in West Kelowna which will feature multi-family town-home and condo units with stunning 180-degree views of the lake, a 241-slip marina and vineyard. They are working with the local community and municipality to implement low-impact, environmentally-friendly buildings, with minimal disturbance to the neighbouring properties and residents. Through partnerships with other builders, Landstar is also developing two four-plex units in South Canmore as well as 15 town homes at Three Sisters in Canmore, all developments that are a testament to Landstar’s ability to work creatively and effectively with like-minded partners.
Closer to home, the company has some incredible projects in the works including a mixed-use, high-amenity 179-suite market rental complex across from SAIT that Landstar plans to build, own and operate.
Presently, the team has entitlements on a property at Crowfoot Crossing that could potentially support a premium mixed-use seniors’ assisted living facility, and is currently pursuing the entitlement for a land parcel in Inglewood, slotted for a high-quality mixed-use residential development.
DOING THINGS THE LANDSTAR WAY
Shrewd real estate decisions in the early days paved the way for Landstar’s growth and success, but the team never lost sight of what got them there and what will carry them forward. For the small but dedicated team of six, it’s about more than just profit margins and buildings; it’s about contributing something meaningful, something unique, that everyone can be proud of.
“We’re not interested in developing ‘run-of-the-mill’ buildings,” says Mylonas. “We’re trying to find economically-balanced, environmentally-sustainable solutions that provide a higher-performance building that eventually yields lower operating costs over the life of the building.”
Whether the company is keeping the building or selling it, Landstar maintains the same high standards. It also watches and listens carefully in order to make the best decisions for the company’s direction, which has been key over the years.
Landstar began in real estate with greenfield sites, but after detecting a municipal shift away from suburban development to more densified urban ones, it has shifted its attention into brownfield mixed-use holdings instead. Also, when the change in mortgage lending rules came down, Landstar identified opportunities toward more mixed-use rental properties over ownership models. The team at Landstar adapts to economic and market changes and takes a calculated approach to growth that takes into account government regulations, local economic factors and most importantly consumer tastes and needs – and charts its path accordingly.
That path has led to impressive growth over the years, but Landstar takes as much pride in how it does business as in what it produces. Growth is the goal but only if it is achieved without sacrificing the foundational integrity that Jim Mylonas instilled from the start.
“We’re not in a unique product proposition, but what we are especially proud of is that we hold on to integrity in how we do business, how we choose our real estate opportunities, how we choose our partners and investors, and how we uphold the physical integrity of the product that we bring to market,” says Robert Moskovitz, executive vice president, development and operations for Landstar.
It is important for Landstar to partner with other entities that share similar values and conduct business in the same way. Landstar has a stable of incredible industry partners the team can work with depending on the parameters and special requirements of each of its projects. Working collaboratively with quality partners and stakeholders allows Landstar to effectively develop individual projects and build a strong foundation for how it chooses to do business in the future.
“We know who we are, and what we’re good at,” says J.D. Lewis, vice president of finance. “By looking at these great opportunities through the smaller-scale building lens, we ask: what are we good at? We can help with sourcing land opportunities, secure financing, do pro formas, underwriting, we can bring capital and covenant. I think emphasis on finding those right partners and coming together is what differentiates us.”
INTO THE FUTURE
The company was built on collaboration, and its talented team is excited to showcase what it can do through the design and performance of Landstar’s buildings. It currently has more than one million square feet of future developable space and is dedicated to producing high-quality design and innovative products.
Landstar spends a lot of time listening when first initiating a potential development to ensure all needs are being met in the design process and identifying community needs. The company and the Mylonas family support a variety of causes, including the Boys & Girls Club, Kids Cancer Care and the Kidney Foundation’s Kidney March, both with financial contributions and active participation.
“We’re not just in the building business. We’re in the people business. If you don’t actually have an appreciation for the consumer, and to what’s really important to them, you’re really not listening,” says George Mylonas.
Landstar’s tag line, says Moskovitz, is “Built to Experience.” It refers to the collective individual experiences that team members bring to the team, the experience that all stakeholders have during the process of development and construction, and ultimately the quality experience that Landstar tenants, whether residential or commercial, have with their interaction with the company, its staff and its physical offerings. Landstar Development is truly ‘Built to Experience’ and built to last.