Change brings opportunity: How this real estate developer and BCIT grad builds better communities for Metro Vancouver – by Emma Berg

As a teen helping out at his father’s construction company over the summer, BCIT alumnus Daniel Boffo was given a variety of tasks. One of the tasks he enjoyed the least ended up giving him something that would underpin his career in the years to come.

“My dad would tell me to go and stack the lumber that was outside and put it in the garage,” recalls Daniel with a laugh. “The first time, I put it all in the corner on the ground and it’s all over the place, but it’s in the garage, right? My dad made me re-do it all. He told me you have to put down two pieces first so you can get a forklift under it afterwards. Then you start on one side and make sure everything is flush so you can easily get what you need. He passed on his incredible attention to detail that, good or bad, is a big part of who I am.”

An industry leader

When you walk in to the foyer of the Boffo Family of Companies office on Commercial Drive, you can’t miss the company promise. The promise is big, both literally—proudly displayed on a 10’ ceiling-to-floor expanse—and figuratively—pledging to bring back the neighbourhood, connect people, and strengthen communities. Anchored by this commitment, Boffo Properties develops the initiatives while Boffo Building builds them.

Daniel, a BCIT Architectural and Building Engineering Technology (now called Architectural and Building Technology) diploma grad, is co-principal of Boffo Properties with his sister Flavia, a BCIT Financial Managementdiploma grad. The duo has been leading the company for the past 11 years, making Boffo Properties one of the most recognized and respected names in the Metro Vancouver’s real estate development sector.

Recently, Business in Vancouver magazine named Daniel Boffo one of the 2018 recipients of the Forty under 40 award.

“It’s not an award for me,” he says. “Honestly, it’s really an award for what my father first started in 1963, the sacrifices he made, and what my family achieved—all of that gave Flavia and me the opportunity to translate that into the business we have today.”

The family business

Daniel’s father Tarcisio immigrated to Canada from Italy in the 1960s, putting down roots and starting a family in North Burnaby. In 1963, spotting an opportunity to bring the detailed quality of Italian craftsmanship to his new home, he established Boffo Bros. Landscaping and Construction Ltd, now Boffo Properties.

But Daniel didn’t join the family business right away. While he says he always knew he wanted to go into real estate and construction eventually, he wanted to get a foundation of education and experience first. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics at university and then enrolled in the Architectural and Building Engineering Technology diploma program at BCIT.

“When I got to BCIT, things became tangible,” he says. “I learned about project management, structural engineering, and how things work together. BCIT really helped sharpen [my knowledge of] the technical and fast-paced side of work…it’s where my critical thinking was honed.” With a solid educational base and after gaining four years of invaluable work experience at Ledcor, Daniel joined the family business at Boffo Properties in 2007.

Change brings opportunity

Daniel’s father retired in recent years, the company name has changed, and the business has moved away from landscaping to focus on building and developing residential and commercial properties. Its portfolio now includes a wide range of property types including single family homes, duplexes, townhomes, condos in mid-rises as well as concrete high-rises, and industrial warehouses and commercial retail units.

“We don’t shoe-horn ourselves into a certain model,” says Daniel. “We build all kinds of spaces in great neighbourhoods, whether they’re homes to live in or spaces to work in. It’s about doing what’s appropriate for the neighbourhood. Who lives there? What do they need? How can we enrich those communities?”

In a city that is known for its relatively high real estate prices, increased residential density will be inevitable for Metro Vancouver. Daniel sees it as an opportunity for positive change.

“With more density comes more distinct neighbourhoods—like Chinatown, Commercial Drive, Main Street,” explains Daniel. “Look at the Burnaby Heights area, Metrotown, Brentwood Town Centre—these areas are being developed now and, over time, will become distinct neighbourhoods with their own personalities. Neighbourhoods like these create culture, community, and a sense of belongingness. All of that builds happier cities.”

Daniel says he’d like to see government, communities, and property development companies working together more to build a better city, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. “Market developers can look at our social needs and the city’s housing options, and be a collaborative working partner with communities and government to help solve our shared challenges,” he emphasizes.

As Daniel learned stacking lumber as a teen, everything comes down to the details. He says it’s not about who can get the job done faster and with the least amount of effort or resources. It’s about taking the time to get to know the neighbourhood, to understand the communities’ needs and wants, and to create spaces where everyone can come together to build a richer life and community.

Learn more about BCIT’s School of Construction and the Environment and the Architectural and Building Technology program.

Author – Emma Berg