Several of this year’s Forty Under 40 recipients have directly shaped Ottawa’s urban landscape by managing one of the city’s historic retail spaces, working wonders on key construction sites and repositioning downtown hotels.
In this first group of Forty Under 40 profiles, we meet this year’s recipients from the real estate, construction and hospitality sectors:
David Coyle, district building systems manager, PCL Constructors Canada
In 2009, a tragic explosion badly damaged the Cliff Central Heating and Cooling Plant, crippling the ability of the facility to heat approximately 50 buildings in downtown Ottawa.
As an emergency measure, a temporary heating plant was quickly constructed near the Supreme Court of Canada. PCL’s David Coyle was part of the leadership team that developed the conceptual layout, schedule and planning as well as site supervision during the construction and commissioning phases of the project. Utilizing his industry contacts, Coyle found all major pieces of equipment and sourced qualified mechanical and electrical contractors capable of performing the emergency repairs under an exceptionally stressful time and difficult site constraints. With teams working 24/7, the temporary facility was successfully commissioned within 37 days.
Early in his career, Coyle was frequently brought in as a “firefighter” when projects required additional resources and expertise – typically during crunch time – to help manage various stakeholders to efficiently and effectively solve complex challenges.
Throughout his career, Coyle has had a hand in the building systems of many of the city’s most recognizable buildings, including the Canadian War Museum, Constitution Square Tower Three and West Block.
He’s the primary point of contact for the majority of PCL’s relationships with local mechanical and electrical subcontractors and is often requested by name among clients seeking to do repeat business with PCL.
Jessica Greenberg, vice-president of asset management, Osgoode Properties
Overseeing a North American residential property portfolio that includes approximately 5,000 homes across several cities, Jessica Greenberg has played a key role in helping Osgoode Properties grow.
She was part of the corporate team that executed recent acquisitions of hundreds of rental units in Ottawa as well as Georgia. Greenberg subsequently helped manage the repositioning and pricing strategy of the newly acquired properties, increasing revenues and valuations.
Within the company, Greenberg has helped to increase employee retention through several measures, including the development of internal training programs, new hiring processes and onboarding protocols.
Outside the office, Greenberg was selected as a member of the 2020 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference, which brings together emerging leaders from Canada’s business, labour, government, NGO, education and cultural sectors for a two-week leadership experience
Greenberg is also active in the community and serves as a director with the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, chairing the organization’s Emerging Generation Campaign from 2016 to 2018.
Ashley Hopkins, president and CEO, Paradigm Properties
In only nine years, Ashley Hopkins worked her way up from a temporary administrative assistant at an Ottawa property management firm to become the company’s CEO.
A key turning point in Hopkins’ career came in 2016, when Paradigm Properties’ then-owner decided it was time to retire and wind down the business. Those plans changed when Hopkins negotiated a deal to keep the company running and purchase it several years later.
Hopkins restructured the business, a process that included reassigning and retraining staff and doubling the company’s headcount to 10 employees. During that time, the company achieved significant year-over-year revenue growth. She also secured several new contracts, including an agreement to manage the city-owned buildings at historic 55 ByWard Market Square and nearby 70 Clarence St.
Her work on enhancing one of the city’s most popular destinations for residents and tourists goes beyond her work at those two properties. She sits on the board of the ByWard Market BIA (as well as the board of the Wellington West BIA) and is a volunteer with the ByWard Market Security Council.
Hussein Valji, president, H&N Hospitality
Hussein Valji has a knack for finding innovative ways to persevere through some of the hospitality industry’s most challenging periods.
He took over an independent hotel just prior to 9/11. As travel demand slumped, he took the opportunity to renovate the property and rebrand it as a Howard Johnson. The moves led to sales multiplying several times over and a highly successful exit several years later.
Valji used the proceeds from the sale to acquire the Econo Lodge Downtown Ottawa, only to soon be hit by the effects of the financial crisis. Recognizing that its style of outdoor corridors did not appeal to all travellers, Valji worked to market the property to truck drivers, bicycle groups and other demographics that want direct exterior access to their rooms while also enclosing the upper floor. The efforts paid off with significant increases in guest satisfaction scores and sales.
Over the past decade, H&N Hospitality has continued to expand into new hospitality markets such as Brockville and St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu while netting several industry awards.
With the hospitality sector facing its biggest challenge in a generation due to the COVID-19 crisis, Valji has worked to give back to the wider community by opening its rooms to front-line hospital workers as well as providing truck drivers with an opportunity to shower, eat and recharge at no cost. Since the start of the pandemic, H&N Hospitality has provided more than 150 room nights at no charge.