October 26, 2012
As president and chief executive officer of Polygon Homes, Neil Chrystal is involved in everything from finding new development sites to designing communities to marketing new homes.
He said creativity will be a critical quality for builders as the population of Metro rises and density becomes more and more important.
“There is simply less land in town centres,” Chrystal said. “I think developers are coming up with more creative ways to handle density or redevelop sites.”
He hesitates to name a favourite project he has been involved with, saying, “you fall in love with a lot of them.”
But he did say that he considers the Quilchena Gardens project, developed between the late 1990s and 2007, as one that stands out. The site near Quilchena Park in Shaughnessy was home to aging three and four-storey walk up apartments, but he says it was worthy of increased density.
Many seniors lived in the rental apartments and Polygon helped them to either move out or move into one of the new rental apartments on the site, Chrystal said. Because the development was phased and the new buildings were built on the footprints of the old buildings, they were able to save the mature trees and be flexible with the residents.
“That was a really fun community to work with,” Chrystal said.
Looking ahead, he sees a project in Richmond to be developed in partnership with the Kiwanis, a service club that provides affordable housing for low-income seniors among other things, as a “triple win.”
The site of the planned development, on Minoru Boulevard across from Richmond Centre Mall, is home to dated wood-frame buildings, which Polygon will replace with two new highrise buildings for Kiwanis, along with market housing that will be built and sold by Polygon.
“It will be there for another 100 years,” Chrystal said. “It’s a creative way of densifying the urban environment. It’s a win for Richmond because they’re after more affordable housing, it’s a win for Kiwanis because they get new housing and more housing than they had before and it’s a win for us because we get market housing that we get to develop. We all come away winners.”
Chrystal has worked at Polygon, which was founded in 1980, since 1987. After graduating from the Urban Land Economics program at the University of B.C., he began at Polygon working as an office-leasing representative. Soon after, the company decided to focus on multi-family residential developments and Chrystal’s new job was to find land for new townhouse developments. Although he grew up on the North Shore, he had to get to know the entire Lower Mainland because Polygon has built more than 20,000 homes everywhere between Point Grey and Abbotsford.
From land acquisition he moved into sales and marketing and then became second-in-command to company founder Michael Audain. Meanwhile, he had three children who are now teenagers.
“Between work and family, it’s a very busy time,” Chrystal said. “You can have all the success you want in business, but if your family is suffering it probably wasn’t worth it.”
Polygon has built a lot of master plan communities, such as Windsor Gate in Coquitlam, which includes Thomas House, home to an 18,000-square-foot clubhouse with an outdoor pool, a terrace, a gymnasium, media rooms, kids rooms and games rooms.
“We know amenities are really important to our buyers,” Chrystal said. The clubhouses come with a coordinator who plans classes and activities that are accessible to all residents, sometimes with a user fee.
When asked what he thinks amenities will look like in the future, Chrystal said it’s all about socializing and fitness. “I don’t see that changing a lot,” he said.