Christine is a Development Manager at Graywood Developments, a Toronto-based private investment management company that specializes in the development of real estate properties in Canada and the United States. As a valued contributor to the Urban Land Institute Toronto District Council for years, she currently serves as the Committee Co-Chair of the ULI Connect and was the recipient of the Brian Curtner Legacy Fund.
Some of us knew exactly where we wanted to be when we were kids and we took the steps required to make those dreams come true. But for many of us, life took us to unexpected places. Christine Chea didn’t consider real estate development as a career path until she was studying film at York University. At that time, she enjoyed photography. She would wander around the neighbourhoods of Toronto, pointing and shooting the buildings. The way the streets and buildings of this city made one feel intrigued her. So back then, she’d capture such feelings using her camera. Now, she’s excited to be creating those feelings for others.
After switching to studying Urban & Regional Planning at Ryerson University, she became interested in community development, but was still on the fence about which career path to take. During her last year, her friend happened to refer her for a job in private development where she started her career as an Executive Assistant at DiamondCorp. She quickly rose to become a Development Planner before transitioning to her current role as a Development Manager at Graywood Developments.
As a Development Manager, Christine says every day can be so different — whether it’s retaining heritage elements of a building, working on sewage pump stations for subdivision or dewatering a project site, you’re constantly educating yourself. This works well with her natural curiosity. In a dynamic and rapidly changing city like Toronto, things are always happening and she is always eager to know what’s happening next.
On the flip side, the dynamic aspect of the development industry, especially in the early stages of your career, can pose a steep learning curve. She effectively manages this by having a competent and trustworthy team of highly skilled consultants and asking the right questions at the right time.
At Graywood Developments, one of her recent projects is 250 Lawrence, a 9-storey, 178-unit condominium development nestled in Bedford Park. Graywood Developments, in collaboration with Quadrangle Architects, is transforming the Lawrence Park Medical Centre and a triplex apartment building. The project will offer unobstructed views over the Douglas Greenbelt and the lush treetops of Havergal College and Lawrence Park Collegiate, with proximity to both transit and retail community of eateries, cafes and professional services. This development is endearing to Christine as she knows this neighbourhood inside and out, having attended Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute across the street.
Reflecting back, she believes she first was exposed to the ULI back in Ryerson University, when she was once a young student exploring her career options. After taking the initiative of expressing her desire to volunteer, she was placed on two committees: the Outreach Committee and ULI Connect, of which she’s now a Co-Chair. ULI Connect, formerly Young Leaders Group, aims to create opportunities for young professionals to develop skills and build relationships that will help advance their careers and foster an understanding of thoughtful development practices. As the committee’s Co-Chair, Christine and her team focus on the City Exchanges and Members Only Tours, which are usually more intimate and exclusive behind-the-scenes explorations of city landmarks and areas of interest. Christine was instrumental in organizing the past exchange to Detroit and tours of the former Weston Bread Factory (the site of the future Wonder Condos) and the East End Brewery Tour (featuring new breweries in the Riverdale area). ULI Connect is also responsible for the annual Winter and Summer Socials, which bring together roughly 600 professionals, from both the private and public sectors.
As someone who was once trying to figure out her career path, Christine says she feels lucky and humbled by the mentors who have supported her since. Almost everyone that she has worked with has been a mentor to her. Her former team at DiamondCorp, were all influential in developing her career, especially Kate Hatoum and Caitlin Willcocks. On her current team, she praises Adidharma Purnomo and Neil Pattison for being both very talented in their own respective ways and mentoring her to have a well-balanced vision as a developer.
In her downtime, Christine remains a true lover of arts. In addition to her passion for film and photography, she tries to take dance classes whenever she can. Christine is well-versed in jazz, ballet, contemporary, hip hop and just about anything else!
What are some tips that Christine would have for young people looking to break into the industry today? She credits ULI for allowing her, when she was a recent graduate, to showcase her passion for city building and learn from industry veterans. Similarly, she recommends that recent graduates try to do the same. Sometimes networking can feel transient, but by dedicating time and effort to committees or sub-groups, you get an opportunity to learn, work together and bond meaningfully. It’s more work, but as someone who has been in their shoes, Christine believes it’s worth it.