Building a New Burlington: An Interview with LJM’s Liaquat Mian

Posted: March 06, 2016

Driving north on Burlington’s Appleby Line, plots of undeveloped land dotted with low-rise structures meet the eye north of the QEW. Continuing north, however, a more urban landscape becomes visible in the distance. Coming to the intersection of Appleby and Ironside Drive, a high-rise condominium stands across from a retail plaza, with a trail of development in the midst of construction to the south.

This is where we meet LJM Developments‘ Liaquat Mian, who 15 years ago founded the company that is now redeveloping much of northern Burlington into an increasingly urban landscape. Across the street from LJM’s 225-unit Ironstone condominium (completed in 2013), LJM’s head office is housed in the Uptown Center, a mixed-use retail and office plaza that improves the car-oriented built form typical of suburban retail development.

Meeting Mian in the second-floor office, the LJM founder’s extravagant and visually striking style is met by a thoughtful and considered approach to development. Looking out over the plaza, Mian describes the layout and design of the space as an attempt to bridge the gap between the automobile-dependant realities of suburban life and pedestrian culture. Featuring “extra-wide sidewalks, landscaping, and lots of outdoor patio space for every restaurant” Mian stresses that the Uptown Center’s design is geared to welcome pedestrians, and to encourage street-level vibrancy.

“Each of the storefronts is also angled towards the street,” Mian tells us, explaining that the visual interest of more dynamic facades gives storefronts a greater street presence while making for a more engaging pedestrian experience. It’s still a fundamentally suburban typology, though it’s one that makes a concerted effort to welcome pedestrians. Within an urban context, it would not mean much, but driving past a series of flat, lifeless Burlington strip malls, LJM’s approach stands out. “The hope is to create a more complete community here, and to facilitate more pedestrian-friendly lifestyles.”

“For the community across the street, it allows people to come outside and access services and amenities within walking distance,” says Mian. “We want to give people living here the freedom to do everyday things without the car,” he adds, emphasizing the proximity to the Appleby GO Station as one of the area’s advantages. “As the GO system evolves, we want to take advantage of the improved services, and create more of an urban context in other communities.”

Turning our attention to the high-rise community to the east, Mian points to the completed Ironstone condominium as a recent example of LJM’s approach to development. “We wanted to build a very green and high-quality building. Ironstone uses both geo-thermal and solar energy, and has green roofs and high quality, efficient cladding,” Mian explains. “All of that costs more upfront, but it brings savings in the long-term.”

South of Ironstone, meanwhile, LJM’s Appleby Gardens Condominiums is now under construction. Designed by Icon Architects, the 7-storey, 71-unit building will soon be characterized by orange-toned aluminum cladding. “It’s going to be a highly visible building from the QEW,” Mian tells us, hoping that, in a small way, “it becomes a landmark of this new neighbourhood.” Featuring Low-E double-glazed windows and low-flow fixtures, the 55-unit project is now in the later stages of construction, with completion expected later this year.

With 15 years of experience, Mian’s focus is now on growing LJM while maintaining “a strong reputation for delivering long-term quality.” Outside of Burlington, the company—which also has an American presence—is continuing its local expansion with new projects springing up across the GTA in communities like Grimsby, Stoney Creek, and Etobicoke. Now under construction on the Grimsby waterfront, Waterview Condominiums‘ two 9-storey buildings feature another Icon Architects design. Configured to give each suite a view of the water, the Phase 1 and 2 projects are eventually set to be joined by three more buildings.

Meanwhile, LJM’s north Burlington community is set to continue expanding, with new mixed-use developments and essential services—including the recently completed Fire station—joining the neighbourhood. Bullish about the area’s future, Mian envisions the neighbourhood becoming a more urban and complete community in years the come.

We will keep you updated as both Appleby and Waterview continue to progress, with full construction updates coming next month. In the meantime, check out our associated dataBase files for renderings and additional information. Want to share your thoughts about LJM and their current project? Leave a comment in the space below this page, or join in the ongoing conversation on our Forum.