Behind the Scenes: The Women in Real Estate Leading Community Building

March 23, 2020 by University District

U/D Celebrates Inspiring Women Making Waves in the Development Sector


This month recognized International Women’s Day. 


As gender boundaries blur and equality for all becomes standard across all facets of work and life, this calendar highlight remains a time to celebrate progress led by women in real estate development, a traditionally male-skewed sector.


The occasion prompted us to reflect on the trail of successes that University District and the West Campus Development Trust (the Trust) team have blazed and to recognize some of the professional women behind the scenes who have been contributing to its success — from construction to graphic design, to administration and project management to marketing and communications and more.


Photo Credit: Neil Zeller Photography


Longstanding and new members of the team include:

+ Deanna Romney, Senior Real Estate Manager, since 2014

+ Maeve McHugh, Executive Assistant to President and CEO, since 2015

+ Maureen Henderson, Director of Marketing and Communications, since 2016

+ Lisa Solomon, Office Administrator & Accounting Support, since 2016

+ Mary Jo Kryczka, Senior Property Manager, since 2019

+ Dawn Delaney, Manager of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement, since 2019

+ Arshpreet Baidwan, Consultant, since 2019

+ Amanda Wright, Director of Finance, since 2020

+ Donna Marzolf, Senior Project Manager, since 2018


In addition to the staff, the Board of Directors has representation from noteworthy women in the community such as:


+ Stephanie Felesky

+ Linda Dalgetty

+ Karen Leeds

+ Alison Taylor Love

+ Jessica Revington


These stalwart and strategic team players bring tremendous experience in their respective professions to daily work here at U/D. During the occasion of International Women’s Day and every day, we are proud of how we all rise to the challenge of building this exceptional community and pull together, in the same direction, for a common goal that is gaining national recognition, year over year.



Awards and Accolades


No strangers to shiny hardware in the form of plaques, trophies and awards  — thanks in part to the women working to further the Trust’s goals for University District —  this community development is gaining impressive recognition that we can all take pride in. Success belongs to all stakeholders: the University of Calgary, community members, retailers and local organizations, builder partners, suppliers, crews and the Trust team.


Known as a truly people-first, sustainable urban community, the Trust has become the proud recipient of several important accolades for U/D including:


  • New Community Development BILD Alberta Award
  • City of Calgary Advisory Committee Universal Design Award 
  • Mayor’s Urban Design Award
  • BILD Calgary Region Marketing Awards
  • International Finalist for Place Brand of the Year at the City Nation Place Awards



Most recently, the 2020 Canadian Homebuilders’ Associations’ National Awards for Housing Excellence has shortlisted the Trust’s University District for its Community Development Award, from more than 700 entries submitted by esteemed developers across the country!


At the executive table, since the public launch of University District, is Marketing and Communications Director Maureen Henderson. The communications professional has brought the vision for this community to the public in a host of creative ways that have led to these important awards locally, nationally and internationally.


With a passion for community building, Maureen’s approach to a vision and leading accomplishments are drawing recognition and attention from women in real estate. In fact, it’s what prompted fellow female leaders and founders of Women in Development (WIND), a professional networking group for women involved in the creative services of Calgary’s development and real estate sector, to host a tour and networking session in our mindfully made community in late 2019.



March 8 marked the return of International Women’s Day, and with it, a celebration of influential women. If you missed our 2019 feature on the leading women contributing to University District’s development, read it here and learn how these accomplished women are leading in their professions, building families and kicking through that glass ceiling. 


In the Spotlight: WIND Takes Notice and Tours U/D


On September 24, 2019, more than 30 members of WIND – both seasoned and curious – came together to explore University District and hear first-hand from Maureen about its impressive community vision, its thoughtful design, and its progress on residential and retail construction as well as amenity development.


“Being a University of Calgary alumni and having the opportunity to shape the fabric of our great city, with projects like University District is inspiring” says Henderson. “It’s my passion to bring a powerful vision to life. To give the benefit back to my alma mater, and build community on so many levels – it’s a privilege to be a leader with the Trust organization. It makes me a proud Calgarian”. 


We believe it’s important to give members a tangible experience where they can see first hand what is happening in and around our city, notes the founders of WIND Susan Veres and Gisele Danis, who launched the networking group in 2018.


“As professionals driven by creativity, we want to showcase new ways of thinking and bold ideas in the development industry. That brought us to University District – a community like no other!” they chime together.



With an exciting story to share, Maureen led the members of WIND in a bus tour around the community to explore and experience the scale of this exciting urban development project making headlines for its innovative design. 


“From its master plan and approach to placemaking, to its retail vision and public realm, it’s simply incredible,” adds Susan. “It’s something different… and something extraordinary!”


Following the tour, fellow real estate and development professionals were treated to a short presentation and networking session to learn about University District’s planning and sustainability strategy, overcoming challenges and more.


“We were all impressed by U/D’s approach to inclusivity,” Susan says. 


“It’s a community built for everyone – for all ages and stages of life – and that’s what makes a community healthy and sustainable. It’s why University District was on our list of must-see developments in the city,”


2019 was the networking group’s first full year of programming. And it was a hit! 


Let’s learn a bit more about WIND, but before we get into the nitty gritty of it, first let’s introduce you to the women behind it!



Meet Susan Veres – A leader, outdoor enthusiast and pet lover!


Susan worked as Senior Vice-President of Strategy and Business Development for Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) for nearly 11 years.  She worked with notable local and national brands including Coca-Cola, Triple 5 Corporation/West Edmonton Mall, Canadian Olympic Committee, to name a few; eventually leading her to the real estate and land development industry and the co-creation of WIND.


Career advice?


Tenacity and persistence – nothing beats it! Look for opportunities that give you exposure to other areas of a business. It will increase your value and create new opportunities for growth. That can be a game changer!



Say hello to Gisele Danis – An avid runner, passionate Calgarian and mentor! 


Gisele is the other half of the duo behind WIND. 


In her early career, she worked as a journalist for various publications, eventually embarking on a career path in marketing and communications with leading brands including Disney, Tourism Calgary, Canadian Tourism Commission and more recently, Brookfield Residential as the Vice President of Marketing and Communications. 


Career advice?


Always remain inquisitive. Curiosity propels growth, makes work more fun and fuels passion. Don’t limit yourself. Find inspiration from other industries and departments. It’s the key to career success!


University District is taking shape with its first wave of retailers expected to open their doors later this year. Learn about our retail district and the beloved brands coming to our growing community here


Get to know WIND!


WIND is bringing together female professionals – both seasoned and junior – in the creative services field across the real estate and development industry together.  We connected with Gisele and Susan to get a deeper look at this initiative, including how members of the real estate and development profession can get involved!


What was the inspiration behind WIND?


As former c-suite executives, we were both blessed with the opportunity to contribute to community building initiatives that changed the very fabric of our city. 


Through our experience, we realized other professional associations existed, but we heard directly from young leaders that there was a gap. Engineers, urban planners and architects had access to a number of networking groups, but no one offered a group that focused directly on the real estate sector, specifically in the marketing, communications/creative services field.


Born was the idea for WIND!  A safe space and support system where fellow female professionals could share their experience and challenges, bounce ideas with one another, tackle problems and cultivate their careers and capacity as leaders.



How does WIND help mentor women?


WIND plays a delicate balance in supporting women within the corporate environment without burdening their already-busy schedules.


WIND highlights different communities through its female leaders such as Maureen from WCDT and Mairi Serpas from Market Wines in NW Calgary who joined the U/D discussions to talk about her company’s involvement in the community’s retail Main Street.


From best practices, key learnings and industry trends, to lack of advancement opportunities, confidence factors and everything in between. We discuss it all!


Beyond this, members can reach out to c-suite level executives including Leslie Conway, Kim Obrien and others who have made available their time to mentor and inspire these brilliant young minds.


How can others join WIND? 


It’s easy! Reach out to us at susan@honeycombsolutions.ca


We would love to welcome new members where women feel empowered to find solutions, primed to implement exciting new ideas, and driven to advance as high-impact, more inspiring leaders.


Who is the inspiring woman in your life? Do you want to send a shout-out to an influential female leader in the community? Connect with us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to share your story. If you know of a leading lady who we should be profiling, we want to hear from you!

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