Home Month and Year August 2023 Building Communities Changing Lives

Building Communities Changing Lives

Melcor celebrates 100 years of building communities where people live, work and play

Back row - l-r: Naomi Stefura, COO & CFO; Sue Keating, VP Edmonton Region; Ralph Young, Chair, Melcor REIT and former CEO; Sinead O’Meara, VP Finance; Robyn Salik, Director of Accounting; Leah Margiotta, VP Property Development; and Randy Ferguson, SVP Income Properties. Seated: Andrew Melton, CEO, Melcor REIT and Tim Melton, Executive Chair & CEO, Melcor Developments. Missing: Graeme Melton, VP Calgary Region and Guy Pelletier, VP Red Deer Region. Photo by Rebecca Lippiatt.

Melcor is a full-cycle real estate developer that builds communities from the ground up. From acquiring raw land to community planning, from construction to development, Melcor does it all – and then some. Melcor also manages leasable office, retail and residential spaces and has built four championship golf courses across Western Canada. Whether it’s a family moving into one of Melcor’s signature communities, an entrepreneur leasing the perfect space for their new business, a homeowner purchasing a public lot to build their dream home or someone new to Alberta looking for a quick possession, Melcor brings people together.

Live. Work. Shop. Play. It’s been 100 years of building communities – and Melcor is just getting started.

“It all began with a man scanning Edmonton’s west horizon, exploring opportunities and achieving his dream of helping young families purchase a home of their own. That man was Louis Timothy (LT) Melton and it was 1923,” shares Timothy Melton, executive chair and CEO. “A century later, his grandchildren and great grandchildren survey the impact that the company has had in the region and realize that indeed, LT Melton’s vision has been realized. Melcor has brought home ownership to tens of thousands of families over the years and has had a substantial impact on shaping the landscape of Alberta.

LT opened the company as a sole proprietorship and named it the Stanley Investment Company. He serviced west Edmonton, selling lots for $100. The down payment was $5. This was the business model until 1942, when the name changed to L.T. Melton Realty (better known in the industry as “Melton”) and the model changed to a corporate structure.
Melcor has evolved several times over the past century, but its values, purpose and foundation have never changed – the connection to real estate and helping young people achieve the dream of home ownership remains constant.

“Throughout a century, the other constant has been the strong sense of values that have been passed from generation to generation. Integrity, the honour of your word and the belief that relationships are the cornerstone of our business have been consistent through the years,” adds Timothy. “Adhering to the golden rule of treating others as you would like to be treated has been the guiding principle for interactions and decision-making for 100 years. Our strong values and the relentless pursuit of excellence are what define us.”

The evolution can be broken down to the first 50 years where Melcor’s primary business was real estate brokerage and the next 50 years when Melcor added land development and asset management to its portfolio.

Ah, those early days! Today we are accustomed to big digital billboards and flashy, colourful ads that draw us to realtors and their projects. Locally, though, from the 1920s to mid 1940s, when you thought “real estate,” you thought Melton.

“Before buying or selling… see L.T. Melton Real Estate. Organized for service. Specialized for value.”

That was just one of the large billboards that attracted people to the brand. Melton’s big ads were needed because in the 1920s, real estate in Edmonton and Calgary was stagnating.

Population growth wasn’t steady in the province’s big cities. Large swaths of land went undeveloped as utilities, water and sewage were still being figured out for existing communities. In Edmonton, despite the opening of the zoo, library and Edmonton Municipal Airport at Blatchford Field, residential development crawled at a snail’s pace.

Calgary wasn’t doing much better in the 1920s. The southern region of the province was mainly farmland – and those farms were struggling with drought. As a result, industries in Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat diminished and real estate prices fell. The population in Calgary was growing but the rate of unemployment and homelessness grew faster; housing developments were declining, not growing with the influx of people moving in.

Things began to turn around for both cities between 1926 and 1929. Edmonton’s Real Estate Association held its first meeting with the aim of both furthering development and boosting conditions for real estate professionals. The oil economy picked up too and with that, so did jobs, income and stability.

All that… just in time for the Great Depression.

The Depression dealt a blow to the real estate industries in Edmonton and Calgary. From agriculture to energy, mining to retail, no sector was left unscathed. Mines closed, towns went bankrupt, the stock market crashed and many residents lost their homes. Real estate came to a standstill.
That is, for most realtors. Not for Melcor. Despite opening in 1923, at a time when real estate was besieged by factors that overwhelmed other realtors and developers for years, Melcor grew – and flourished.

Timothy credits the people and processes that kept the company viable during such an unstable time.

“We’ve always had the ability to attract and retain good people, which has been important to our stability. I’m proud of the longevity of the company in an industry that doesn’t have many long-term players. I’m also grateful to the many other stakeholders throughout the years who’ve made this possible – our shareholders, suppliers, contractors, joint venture partners, builders, tenants, partners and customers.”

Things started to improve in the late 1930s as the Depression eased off. The provincial government was eager to jumpstart the economy and used a variety of means to do so, including the means that underpin the real estate sector: access to credit.

With that, projects emerged at a rapid pace. Major interests appeared in downtown Edmonton in the forms of Eaton and Hudson’s Bay Company, among other notable department stores. In Calgary, a municipal airport and large oil refinery spurred economic recovery and population growth.

In 1947, Stan succeeded his father.

Stan Melton was a war hero, having saved the life of a comrade during action in Sicily. This earned him a bravery medal, which he received from King George VI. Stan took shrapnel in the leg during the battle on the beaches of Normandy and had plans to return to Alberta as a humble farmer.

Life had other plans.
LT had taken ill and when Stan returned from active duty, he agreed to temporarily step in and run the real estate business. The temporary arrangement turned into his full-time job.

“The first step to own your own home… call a Melton man and start packing!”

During the “building years” of Melcor, those infamous billboards appealed strongly to working families; and as sales continued to grow, the ads grew bolder too.
“Melton. The biggest name in realtor service,” chimed one. “Melton. Block’s n’ Block’s of Edmonton’s finest homes,” announced another.

Stan was on a roll. He steadily grew Melton to more than 350 people and opened offices in Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Vancouver and Winnipeg. He served on the Edmonton Real Estate Board and was a past president of the Canadian Real Estate Association. Stan also joined the International Real Estate Federation’s development committee, ensuring the progress made here at home could be replicated to the benefit of families abroad. Outside of work he was a known philanthropist, active in a variety of church, community and local charitable organizations.

His family and community values also had an impact on his team. Stan felt strongly that employees should have the ability to own a piece of the company they worked for; so, Melton became a publicly traded company in 1968. By 1971, Melton was the highest ranking real estate firm in Canada.
Then, in 1973, tragedy struck. During the final moments of an Elks (then Eskimos) and Roughriders football game, Stan, who was in attendance, had a heart attack and passed away. Garry Holmes succeeded Stan as company president.

Stan’s son, Timothy, had joined Melton as a salesman in the brokerage division in 1969. When his father passed, Tim became corporate vice president. In 1975, he succeeded Garry as president.
Timothy had his father’s drive, vision and community focus. In 1976, along with the Melton board, the decision was made to sell the brokerage because that was in the best interest of the shareholders and team. A.E. LePage Real Estate (today known as Royal LePage) bought Melton for $4.25 million. The name was then changed to Melcor Developments.

The sale and name change did not affect the family values of the brand. Timothy remained in leadership positions and continues to helm the company to this day.

Now, as he looks back over 100 years at the company his grandfather started, Timothy can’t help but marvel at the journey that Melcor – and the real estate industry – have been on so far. It’s a winding path with many ups and downs and the journey is far from finished. With rising interest rates, a housing shortage and economic challenges, Timothy, and Melcor, are doing what the family and business have always done best; work hard and make a difference.

“Inflation,” says Timothy, “is what has changed the most over the last 50 years. When I started in 1969, prices ranged from $7,500 for a single family home to $38,000 for an estate home. As we know, just 54 years later, prices have multiplied many times over.”

That is not the only change.

“Another aspect is technology,” Timothy continues. “In the mid 1980s, we had a single desktop computer that everyone had to share. The company also had one ‘Lethal Weapon’ style portable phone with a battery pack that was shared by two employees! Today, some people shop for and purchase homes online, sometimes without ever setting foot in the home until moving day.”
For Timothy, however, one major change is also one of the most important.

“This one really speaks to changing mindsets and work environments,” he shares, “and that is the number of women in the company. Back in 1970s and 1980s, the women were secretaries and the men were salesmen and managers. Today, roughly 50 per cent of staff are female, and our management committee, which is our highest-level executive team, is over 50 per cent women.”
Yet some things remain the same.

“We believe that consistency in ownership, with the long-term view of a controlling shareholder, has been a key to our success,” Timothy points out about what helps keep the company strong despite the many changes. “We are patient and disciplined and that has allowed the company to endure the severe ups and downs of the real estate industry. Our ability to stay the course and stick to our founding principles and values underscores our 100 years of success.”

He continues, “Another key aspect is how we’ve always been financially conservative, not being overburdened with debt. This is a vital key to long-term survival. Diversity is key too; our ability to be in multiple markets – across Alberta and in B.C., Saskatchewan and the U.S. – so that we are not totally dependent on one market, has proven successful.”

Some things, however, are out of Melcor’s control.
Timothy says, “Inflation and the increasing cost and complexities of doing business are our biggest challenges in this economic climate. As the input costs of construction, materials and regulatory compliance keep on rising, we have no choice but to pass some costs on to home buyers.”

Nobody at Melcor takes this lying down. All operations, procedures and community giving are designed to ease the burden on homebuyers and families in a multitude of ways – be it providing incredible value for Melcor homes, creating safe and welcoming communities for families or robustly supporting the support services that help disenfranchised citizens, Melcor is determined to make a difference.

“In the real estate business, like many businesses, we depend on a reasonable level of growth in the overall economy. It’s important that the regional and provincial policies stimulate growth for the benefit of all residents,” says Timothy.

It starts with the land itself.

“For every Melcor community or investment, key considerations are an ideal location, safety of the families or businesses that will reside there, eco-friendly/sustainable builds and investor value. All of these are important factors in everything we do. Location is generally about the land we have and when the City or Town is ready for us to build out the land. Sometimes this is driven by dedicated school sites or other infrastructure purposes. Job creation and market forces drive our business.

“Our primary objective is building communities where people want to live, work, shop and play. This means that community-centric design, walkability, safety and local services are key. You will notice that many of our neighbourhood shopping centres are adjacent to Melcor-designed communities. We’ve been building naturalized storm ponds (sustainable, natural habitat) and zero lot line product (affordable housing) for decades. In one community, the naturalized storm pond was so successful that a resident called up and asked us to turn off the frog soundtrack!

“For our investors, we operate in a fiscally conservative way. We take stewardship of company assets and resources seriously and we constantly look to reward shareholders with increasing dividends. The company paid dividends in all but three years, which is quite remarkable when you consider that we’ve been public for 55 years.”

How do the golf courses fit into this model?

Timothy laughs, “Many people wonder how golf courses fit in. They were developed as a community amenity, much like a playground or an orchard. If you look at the Links in Spruce Grove and Lewis Estate in Edmonton, you will see that all the communities surrounding the golf courses were developed by Melcor.”

LT, Stan, Timothy and every person from administration to the boardroom at Melcor shares an important value – giving back to improve the lives of the families in the cities in which Melcor operates, regardless of if those families own a Melcor home or lease a Melcor commercial space.

“Investing back in the communities where we do business is an important part of who we are,” Timothy says firmly. “As we pursue excellence in our business, we also want the communities where we do business to be the best they can be.”
He continues, “We give where we live to build strong communities. Our giving and involvement focus is on key pillars of strong communities: education, health, youth, sports, public gathering places such as libraries and social programs that lend a helping hand to those in need. To that end, some of our key contributions and pledges include:

• YMCA (including Melcor YMCA Welcome Village, Melcor Crowfoot YMCA and Melcor gymnasium at the Don Wheaton YMCA)

• Edmonton Triathlon Academy

• Various junior sports teams

• iHuman

• University of Alberta (including Stan Melton chair, golf and football, School of Business)

• Valour Place

• Art Gallery of Alberta

• Children’s Autism Services

• United Way

• Sign of Hope
“We also support Junior Achievement, Rotary Clubs, Scouts, the Citadel Theatre, Meals on Wheels and many other charities and organizations.

“In addition to supporting these organizations financially, we encourage our employees to get involved and share their talents with the organizations that mean the most to them. Many of the charities that we support are directly related to the causes that are dear to our team members.”

Just 100 years ago, LT was a man on a mission. A century later, he would be more than proud of the results. LT more than achieved his dream. He achieved what many would have considered impossible.

The sole proprietorship that opened in 1923 is now a public company that continues to operate with family-style ownership values. Melcor is the largest land developer in Edmonton and area – and in many of the communities where it builds in Canada. With every economic hiccup, war, pandemic and changing times, Melcor adapted seamlessly. Rapid adaptation of new technology.

Onboarding new processes. Inclusion. Diversity. Melcor demonstrated and led in how being flexible and responsive benefits the team, the shareholders, the corporation and the people it serves.

“Personally, I find it rewarding to be in an industry that meets the basic needs of families and businesses. It’s rewarding to offer a service that is necessary and appreciated. It is also rewarding to see the fruits of our labour as real estate development and having a tangible impact on communities takes time. The development of some communities and commercial projects can span multiple decades. The home is the biggest investment most people make in their life, and being part of that, being chosen as the community where a family decides to build their life together is an honour,” says Timothy.

“I’m grateful to the Melton family for having the confidence in me and providing support and cooperation. The Meltons have had a huge impact on the longevity of the business. I also acknowledge the important contributions of Melcor employees and our Board of Directors throughout the years.
“While I appreciate all the recognition that I’ve received over the years both personally and on behalf of Melcor, I’m particularly proud of the YMCA Fellowship of Honour. This is the YMCA’s highest honour recognizing outstanding service, exemplary leadership and significant impact on the YMCA movement. I was inducted in Ottawa in January 2013 by the Governor General of Canada. The YMCA has been near and dear to me and my family for many years, and I’ve served as both member and volunteer.”

Over the course of a century, Melcor has already changed the face of Edmonton, Calgary and communities locally and abroad. What will Melcor do next?

“That will be up to the next generation,” smiles Timothy. “They’ve got to continue to live by our values, maintain our good reputation, operate with integrity and continue to maintain the solid financial footing that has been so important in our first 100 years.”

Edmonton: 1.780.423.6931
900, 10310 Jasper Avenue NW, Edmonton
Calgary: 1.403.283.3556
210, 101-6 Street SW, Calgary