A legacy of big buildings and building relationships
Tom Schwartz accomplished a lot. But it wasn't necessarily what he did. It was how he did it. As someone who always took the complex and made it simple, Schwartz, the founder of CAPREIT, would appreciate that sentiment. Though, as the humble person he was, he'd probably find a way to attribute it to everyone else. Sadly, in August, at only 68 years old, Schwartz lost his life to prostate cancer. A pioneer that became an industry icon, Schwartz graduated as a chartered accountant in 1975, and went on to pursue real estate development, where he developed a name for himself as a leader and a visionary. He may have decided not to explore a career as a CA, but he never fell down. He fell up. Way up. Into high-rise buildings. He saw a bunch of highly run-down properties in receivership, and saw an opportunity. In 1996, Schwartz founded CAPREIT (Canadian Apartment Properties Real Estate Investment Trust), alongside Michael Stein, and would become its president and CEO. And those buildings would become some of the highest quality residential portfolios in the world.
Saw people the same universally
Mark Kenney, COO of CAPREIT, was one of Schwartz's first employees. He says Schwartz made this happen, because he was the first to provide service to people in apartment buildings at a standard that hadn't been offered before.
"He saw people the same universally. The company is the same in Canada, Netherlands, and Ireland. He always said a quality home and quality service attracts quality tenants, which results in great business that we can take around the world. But he didn't just say this. He worked hard to get there," said Kenney.
"He was a passionate learner. He'd start off knowing nothing about something and if he felt it to be important, he studied it. I remember, he thought it was important if we sold property in Quebec that we speak French. He took French lessons. Three or four lessons a week. And he became fluent. And he did this in his sixties."
Kenney fondly recounts many stories about Schwartz - and each has similarities. Schwartz would describe himself as shy, but when he knew people well, he was very outgoing. His presence was "tremendous." When he spoke, people would listen. He wasn't a salesperson, but he was so confident, so people just wanted to follow him.
Schwartz was said to authentically model the qualities we all want in a friend or co-worker. Everyone who knew him mentions his hard work, his loyalty, his passion, and his compassion.
Even at his service, Kenney remarks how everyone would speak of the first time meeting Schwartz. Because he made such an impression.
"The reason you're hearing the same things over and over is because he was very unique and consistent. He got his hair cut at the same place for 25 years. When we'd travel, we'd go to the same places. Same restaurant. Meet with the same people."
To continue reading the entire article written by Dahlia Kurtz