We confess, that title sounds a bit pretentious, but it’s meant to be tongue-in-check. Granted, The Molinaro Century may not rival the Renaissance or the Age of Enlightenment for historical impact. That’s irreverence talking, not ego.For us it’s simply a way of reflecting upon everything the company has done on this 20th anniversary of the completion of our first post-millennium project, and the impact we’ve had on Burlington since then.
There is a consistent through-line, beginning with the Spencer’s Landing project, completed in 2003,to the current ones nearing completion; Paradigm Grand Finale and Illumina.In between those landmark developments, we completed these iconic and influential buildings, each distinctive in its own way:
- Spencer’s Landing
- Bunton’s Wharf (2007)
- The Baxter (2008)
- 360 on Pearl (2011)
Company President, Vince Molinaro credits his father, Domenic, for recognizing what the city could be.
“Spencer’s Landing was our first project in Burlington, I’m proud to say. When we first came here nothing much was going on. My Dad saw the vision a lot people didn’t, including us,” Vince says.
Executive V-P, Robert Molinaro marvels at his father’s foresight: “He saw something in Burlington despite the rundown downtown. It was not what it is now.”
Built directly across from the future site of Spencer Smith Park, Vince is impressed with how the traditional brick design and classic trim has withstood changing trends.
“The project was truly successful. It was probably the first condo building built in Burlington in 20 years. It’s a prominent address on Lakeshore Rd., with amenities (indoor pool) that were unheard of at the time for a 10-unit structure. These traditional brick buildings,” he muses, “there’s something to be said about them.”
The company’s next two buildings, incorporated lessons learned from the first one. Bunton’s Wharf was notable for the commercial space included on the ground floor. The family expanded on the theme when designing The Baxter, a striking, multi-terraced residence with street-level restaurants and retail that further stimulated local business and street traffic.
“The Baxter was our third building in Burlington, again a mixed-use building with commercial at the bottom,” Vince says. “(There’s) more commercial there than at Bunton’s because it worked so well. Again the name is one of the original pioneers of Burlington. He controlled one of the wharfs in Burlington so we named adjacent buildings after rival wharf owners.”
“People love the architectural look of Baxter with different terracing and obviously the commercial aspect at the bottom with various restaurants and shops. It’s a very interesting building,“Rob says.
The common denominator is that the first four Molinaro buildings is their proximity to the harbour. Not coincidentally, the Burlington waterfront has evolved almost in lockstep. The City of Burlington Waterfront Project, anchored by Spencer Smith Park, opened in early June, 2006. Brant Street Pier was unveiled exactly seven years later. Those two projects enabled the annual cultural and social events that provide the foundation of Burlington’s brand as a great mid-size city.
The Sound of Music Festival in June, the winter Festival of Lights and Canada’s Largest Ribfest (September), all owe their origins to the waterfront renaissance. The Burlington Performing Arts Centre opened in 2011, coinciding with 360 on Pearl, the turning point in the Molinaro Group’s trajectory to become the most innovative developer in the area.
Similar cases may exist in other parts of the continent, but it’s hard to imagine a developer and a community being more closely intertwined on a mutual path to success. In the words of Managing Director Sam DiSanto, the Molinaro Group has always tried to take a collaborative approach:
“We’ve been building here for many years and not just condos. We build relationships.”
“Whether it be with council or city staff or things like that, it’s got to be win-win. We pride ourselves on working with the local ratepayers, councillors, and staff,” Vince adds.
“The (building) names came from the city. It wanted to respect the heritage of the area. Mr. Bunton was one of the original pioneers in Burlington. He actually owned a wharf called Bunton’s Wharf and he did his business there. He sold goods, he had ships coming in. His rival was Baxter’s Wharf which was the next building we built (chuckles) so it’s kind of a cool history and we didn’t mind the city picking the name. We just ran with what they gave us and I think it worked out very well.”
If anything, the Molinaro Group is the modern-day equivalent of those pioneering businessmen who first put the city on the map. Building upon that legacy has worked out well for all parties as the company footprint expands into midtown and beyond. DiSanto says the company won’t rest on its achievements and has plenty of (real estate) inventory to develop far into the future.
If “what’s past is prologue,” as Shakespeare famously wrote, then Burlington and its residents will be the big winners.
NEXT TIME: A New Generation. A Renewed Vision