Published in the Toronto Star Friday, August 3, 2012
Since he built his first houses in North York while still in his teens, Rudolph (Rudy) Bratty has gone on to become one of Canada’s most successful real estate developers and a renowned philanthropist.
At 80 years of age, the chairman and CEO of his family development business, the Remington Group, is still on the job with no intention of slowing down. Over the past five decades, Bratty has been at the forefront of GTA suburban development in municipalities such as Markham, Brampton, Vaughan and Mississauga.
Bratty has been married to his wife, Catherine for 44 years and they have four sons, one daughter, and 12 grandchildren. Three of his sons — Matthew, Chris and Michael — each head a division at Remington.
The Remington Group has built thousands of homes in the Toronto area, but its signature achievement is Downtown Markham, the largest mixed-use development in Canada. By the time the $4 billion, 243-acre project is completed in about a dozen years, it will be home to more than 10,000 people in a blend of townhouses and condo suites, and employ 16,000 in 3.4-million-plus-square feet of office space, in addition to retail stores, entertainment venues and restaurants.
This spring, Downtown Markham was named Places to Grow Community of the Year in the highrise division at the 32nd annual Building, Industry and Land Development Association Awards. That night, Bratty also was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the Canadian real estate landscape.
Bratty was born in Toronto to Donato Bratty, a bricklayer from Friuli, Italy, who came to Canada in 1921, and his Italian-Canadian wife Carolina. The elder Bratty started building homes with a friend on the edge of Toronto during the Depression. Young Rudy followed in his father’s footsteps and at 17, he, a cousin and his close friend Angelo DelZotto (chairman of Tridel) built six houses in North York.
Despite his burgeoning success as a home builder, Bratty’s parents insisted he pursue a post-secondary school education and he obliged, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School. After being called to the bar in 1957, he co-founded the Gambin & Bratty law firm in Toronto, which attracted many Italian builders as clients. In 1985, he created Bratty and Partners LLP, specializing in real estate and land development law, planning and municipal law and corporate and commercial law.
In the 1960s, Bratty realized the wisdom of building an inventory of land and amassed thousands of acres of prime land in areas other developers hadn’t considered. For four decades, he and two other men who also became Toronto real estate icons — Marco Muzzo (Pemberton Group) and Alfredo (Fred) DeGasperis (Aspen Ridge Homes) — often collaborated on real estate projects.
By the late ’80s, Bratty’s four sons had joined their father and his brother, Jerry, in the family business and the company went into home building as well as land development. Remington projects were typically single-family homes on curving streets and at the time there were few zoning constraints, especially in the areas outside the city.
Less than a decade later, urban sprawl was becoming a concern. Markham was embracing what at the time was a revolutionary concept: New Urbanism, which favoured compact, sustainable, pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods.
Markham’s then-mayor Don Cousens approached Remington about building a New Urbanism-type community that would act as a town centre on a 243-acre site in the Warden Ave. and Highway 7 vicinity. Though that type of building was counter to typical suburban construction of the time, Bratty recognized it as the future.
In 2006, Remington announced the ambitious plans for Downtown Markham, a European-style mixed-use downtown which would consist of a retail district, shopping arcade, a large central piazza, commercial district and easy access to public transit. Residents would be able to work, live, shop and play without having to rely on their automobiles.
Since then, Motorola and Honeywell Canada have established national headquarters in Downtown Markham and the condo projects have been a resounding success with buyers. Nexus North, Rouge Bijou and the Verdale condominiums have been completed, with construction to start on the Nexus South this year.
Cineplex Odeon will open a 62,000-square-foot theatre in 2012 and the town recently approved plans for a $325 million, 20,000-seat state-of-the-art sports and entertainment complex.
Remington has also launched what it describes as “Canada’s first cross-over destination centre” at Steeles Ave. E. and Kennedy Rd. in Markham, which Bratty says is “the largest Asian-directed mall outside of Asia.”
The 800,000-square-foot mall is one of the largest enclosed shopping centres under development in the country and will have an indoor night market that will be open until 3 a.m.
Other current projects include Wigston Estates, a collection of 17 luxury detached homes in Thornhill, and Park Towers Condominiums in Etobicoke, the follow-up to IQ Condominiums. IQ is a key component in the transformation of The Queensway from an aging industrial/commercial strip into a mixed-use road with retail and residential.
Remington will be the developer of the mixed-use Carrville District Centre in Richmond Hill, which will include a main street, central urban square and 5,400 residential units. It’s going through the planning and approval stages currently.
While the Downtown Markham development tends to get the lion’s share of the attention, Rudy’s son, Michael, president of Remington’s highrise division, says the company’s vision also includes areas with existing infrastructure where the company can “bring in buildings that complement and interact well within the neighbourhood.”
As well as his impressive roster of real estate successes, Bratty is well known for his humanitarian and civic roles. He has served as a director on numerous boards and is devoted to several charitable causes, foundations and organizations. He has been recognized by several notable institutions and the Canadian Museum of Immigration Pier 21 in Halifax features the Rudolph P. Bratty Exhibition Hall.
His staff at Remington follows his example; recently, they participated in the Tarion Charity Golf Tournament to benefit the Children’s Wish Foundation, rode in the Becel Heart & Stroke Ride for Heart and raised $11,500 for the cause, and volunteered for the annual Habitat for Humanity Women’s Build and raised more than $9,900.