Ilan Gewurz: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur

Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is master-planner and developer Ilan Gewurz, who’s currently developing a major project that’s part of one of Canada’s few LEED certified neighbourhoods…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.  
We’re master-planning and building Pointe Nord, a new mixed-use urban village based on sustainable principles (certified LEED ND Gold) located on the riverfront of Nuns’ Island in Montreal. I am engaged in every aspect of the planning process from the macro (choosing the right retail operation for the heart of the community) to the very micro (reviewing the choice of sink for the bathroom within a condo).

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
My journey has not been linear, but the one thread that runs through everything I have done is that I have a passion for creating unique and meaningful spaces where people can feel safe, comfortable and thrive. I believe in the possibility of personal transformation and that we can create environments that encourage and facilitate such growth.  

Working as an organizational consultant and adult educator, I came to understand that while we cannot tell people how to behave, we can create environments which bring out the best in people. Just as I was coming to this realization the master planning the Pointe Nord had begun with the question, “How do we create a successful, meaningful and sustainable community here?” I realized then that this was where I had to be. 

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
My days are all very different from one another, but every day I get to dream about creating great places and envision what will add to the quality of life for residents of the Pointe Nord.  

One challenge is that no one calls to thank you for the creativity or planning you tend, only to hear from people when things go wrong.

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
I got married four and a half years ago and now have two kids under the age of three. Being a present and involved father is important to me so I try to get home early to spend time with my family. But a clear sign of the lack of work/life balance is when my one-year-old wakes up in the middle of the night and I am still up working.  

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I will be continuing my work to make the Pointe Nord an outstanding place to live and hopefully walking around the neighbourhood enjoying the fruits of our labour. As the Pointe Nord development grows and nears completion, I hope to spend more time teaching, writing and consulting on place-making.

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge in my work is also the greatest privilege – which is that I work with my father. This requires a deep inner confidence balanced by a sense of humility.  

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Happiness is a complicated concept. I believe that happiness is not a fixed state but is rather – as psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote – about “finding flow” in moments when we are actively engaged as our best selves. This has nothing to do with money or material gains, but instead about challenging yourself and finding what professional athletes describe as “being in the zone.”

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Working as a consultant for McKinsey & Company I had an epiphany that achieving true “buy-in” from clients was done not through convincing them of my worth, but through empowering them to believe in their own. Real impact requires helping create the space in which people can unleash the potential that lies within them. This realization was transformational for me.   

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Remember to focus on service leadership. Some of the most powerful moments in life are moments in which we lose ourselves in the service of others or of something greater than ourselves.

Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
I love sitting at Les Enfants Terribles at Pointe Nord, in the neighbourhood we built from scratch. It reminds me that we live on an island. I am a vegetarian, so you will often find me at Aux Vivre, Chu Chi or Push-up – simple but delicious.

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
I’m a meditator, a lake swimmer and a hiker – these days, I love doing all of these things with a small person (one of my kids) climbing on my body.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
I like to travel to places that are very walkable, where there is life and energy on the street. 

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
Assuming a theme song is different than a personal favourite song, I would go with the classic Sesame Street song: “These are the people in your neighbourhood.”

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Consulting on how to master-plan a green, mixed-use community. Otherwise, I would be a sherpa.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
My wife and I support a number of charities with a range of mandates from human rights and equality work to Jewish social service organizations. Project Genesis; Canadian Women’s Foundation; Head & Hands; Federation CJA…

What to you is notable?
Being truly comfortable in your skin – being authentic with a quiet confidence that makes others feel bigger in your presence. 

Evolo S – Gewurz’s company’s latest condo development in one of Canada’s only LEED certified neighbourhoods, Pointe Nord, goes on sale October 15th.


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