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Need to Know: Ernest Hon

Hon’s family business brought him back to Calgary. Now, he’s trying to move both forward

May 9, 2014

by Max Fawcett

11_Needtoknow_story
Ernest Hon
Photograph Bookstrucker

DOB: 1986
Hometown: Calgary
Higher ed: B.Sc. in Biology, B.Comm. in Marketing at McGill, M.Sc. in Real Estate Development at NYU
First job: Cancer researcher in an OncoGenetics Laboratory

The Past
Ernest Hon’s family was in the real estate business in Hong Kong before emigrating to Canada in 1988. He spent two years in Manhattan studying at NYU before returning to Calgary to work for his family’s business, Hon Developments. “Reputation is the most important thing in real estate, especially for a family company running under a family name,” he says. “It’s important for us to be thinking like purchasers and building for ourselves. It’s not just about the sale.”

The Present
Hon is in charge of marketing and selling the Guardian Towers. The first phase should be completed in the spring of 2015, and the second the following year. At 44 storeys, they will be the tallest residential towers in the city – and, Hon hopes, a harbinger of things to come. “I see the future of cities as being very urban,” he says. “People are more interested in downtown living. Calgary’s late to this, but you’re seeing that revival of downtown after the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s – 30 years of neglect.”

The Future
“If you look around the Beltline and in downtown itself, there are a lot of parking lots,” he says. “We’ll see those being converted into more productive uses.” Hon Developments is working on a project in downtown Calgary that will make one of those parking lots more productive, likely as mixed-use residential. And while bigger players might have more capital, Hon says family businesses have an edge, too: patience. “If you have more patient funding, and if you can wait for good deals and good projects to come in excellent locations, that’s when you decide to go ahead. Companies that are looking at quarterly or annual bottom lines have much more motivation to act, and they look at thinner margins and riskier deals.”–Max Fawcett

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