In the third installment of an ongoing series of partner profiles, icona shines the spotlight on our strategic partnership with Carol Mason, an experienced local government consultant with an accomplished career in regional governance.
Through our partnership, we will ensure that placemaking in areas such as Anmore South include the right mix of housing to support community vibrancy and sustainability.
icona was founded on a commitment to create places that matter—places that showcase world-class design, innovative materials and construction, advanced technology and engineering, and thoughtful planning and community engagement. We selected key members of the icona team because they are leaders in their respective fields and share a fundamental commitment to excellence and embody our values of creativity, community, integrity, vision and tenacity.
Transformative collaboration happens when global innovation and local expertise come together. That's why, in addition to building our own talented team of experts, we make it a priority to partner with some of the most progressive placemaking experts—both locally and globally.
In this ongoing series, we showcase some of the strategic partnerships icona has forged to enhance our core team with globally recognized consultants in areas such as landscape architecture, environmental stewardship, technology, engineering, recreation, retail and more.
While we all define the "perfect" community a little differently, most of us agree on the fundamentals. A community needs to be well run and well resourced. It needs retail and commercial areas that are vibrant and engaging. And it needs green and contemplative spaces that are quiet and immersive.
The essential ingredient for each of these goals? Housing diversity. Creating the right mix of housing, including different price points, styles and ownership models, is the first step in ensuring that a community is healthy, secure, and sustainable.
When a community includes diverse housing options, it starts a powerful chain reaction that creates greater financial stability, economic growth and innovation, and health and happiness for every member.
Few people in Metro Vancouver know more about the benefits of housing diversity than Carol Mason, an icona partner and local government consultant. By helping icona identify the ideal housing mix, Carol also helps ensure the communities we create are thriving, complete and sustainable.
Prior to joining icona, Carol spent nearly three decades working for municipal and regional government, a career that included six years as the Chief Administrative Officer for the Regional District of Nanaimo and culminated in her role as Commissioner and Chief Administrative Officer for Metro Vancouver. Before transitioning into consulting in 2020, she played a central role in guiding the Metro Vancouver Board in approving its first Board Strategic Plan, leading the development of Metro Vancouver’s long-term financial plan, and restructuring Metro Vancouver’s affordable housing program, which set the foundation for implementing a new partner funding model that will revitalize Metro Vancouver housing over the next 30 years.
In her work with icona, Carol provides strategic and governance counsel to ensure the places we create enhance and reflect the needs and values of the existing community in addition to supporting the long-term growth goals of the region. Currently, Carol is partnering with icona to explore opportunities to create a complete community on a 150-acre parcel of land known as Anmore South. Drawing on her extensive background in municipal and regional governance and in understanding regional growth strategies, she is helping us identify the housing solutions that foster the diversity, density and sustainability every healthy community needs to thrive.
Diversity is the foundation of a healthy community, bringing people of different life stages and life experiences together to learn from and interact with each other. This not only brings life and vibrancy to the neighbourhood, it also creates a stable, diversified tax base to ensure the community can stay safe, secure, resilient and sustainable.
But it can't happen unless there is a variety of homes to choose from. When a community includes only single-family homes, it can't accommodate people with different priorities, income brackets and lifestyles. Nor can it collect the tax revenues needed to fund essential services, such as a fire department, schools, transit, roadworks and park maintenance.
Housing diversity also ensure that the people who deliver important services to the community, such as firefighters, teachers and healthcare providers, can live in that community. With the benchmark price for a single-family home in Metro Vancouver nearing $2 million, a community like Anmore can no longer attract the skilled workers needed to keep the community strong. Creating homes for them serves a dual purpose of helping to attract and retain their services as a core component of a community.
Anmore residents recognize the issue and are motivated to embrace change. During extensive consultation, residents ranked housing diversity as a top priority. In surveys, discussions and co-design workshops, residents voiced the need for a range of housing, including apartments, townhomes, rental and one-level living spaces that supported all life stages, from younger adults and young families to people who wanted options for aging in place. As icona envisions a community for the Anmore South lands, Carol is working closely with us to identify an appropriate housing mix that reflects these priorities.
Every community is a part of a bigger picture—a municipality, a region and a province—and each has a role to play in meeting our nation's growth goals. By the same token, as access to affordable housing becomes more critical, each community must find ways to be part of the solution and evolve beyond a status quo that is holding every community back. Throughout her career, Carol has focused on finding the best way to support growth that is sustainable for the community and aligned with its best interests—not just today but in the decades to come.
In the case of Anmore South, Carol has studied both the Village of Anmore's 2019-2022 Council Strategic Plan, the Village's Official Community Plan, and the Metro Vancouver 2040 Growth Strategy to ensure that icona's plans for Anmore South reflect the requirements laid out in these strategies. For the Village of Anmore, the priorities include financial security, diversifying the tax base, enhancing the trail network and exploring alternative housing opportunities. For Metro Vancouver, the goals are to create a compact urban area, support a sustainable economy, protect the environment and respond to climate change, develop complete communities and creating sustainable transportation choices.
Carol's strategic input is focused on ensuring that the community icona creates in Anmore South will be designed to support both municipal and regional goals over the short and long term, with a timeframe that extends at least 20 years into the future.
The idea of housing density often raises alarm bells, but it's an important dimension in creating a healthy and appealing community. The key is to calibrate the density to the needs and desired character of the community. Too little density, and community members become isolated, underserved and car dependent. Too much, and the community becomes uncomfortably crowded. When combined with thoughtful community design, the ideal level of density creates the diversity and vitality that people want in a community while also enhancing its efficiency and ecological stability.
In Anmore South, for example, creating a masterplanned neighbourhood with diversity of homes will allow the municipality to benefit in many ways including an investment by icona to construct modern water and wastewater conveyance infrastructure.
Density can also have an inverse effect on the preservation of green space. A low-density or single-family home subdivision in Anmore South would result in the preservation of only eight acres of parkland with no public access. In contrast, a more compact, masterplanned community that includes multi-family homes and local retail would preserve 75 acres of parkland—nearly 10X as much forest and green space as a less dense community.
First and foremost, a community needs to reflect the needs, priorities and goals of its members. But a community is also part of a bigger picture. For Carol, the challenge is to ensure that every community icona creates balances the needs of both, so that the people who call it home can play an active role in defining its future. By finding housing solutions that reflect an area's unique culture and values and align with the long-term municipal, regional, and provincial strategies that every community needs to meet, Carol helps us ensure that icona communities are vibrant, diverse, healthy and sustainable from day one and for decades to come.
icona is creating diverse and design-forward communities throughout the Lower Mainland, from Vancouver to the Tri-Cities and from the North Shore to Fraser Valley. Our impact is local, but our approach is global, bringing world-leading innovation and design to inspire and enliven the communities we create.
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