Carla Guerrera

Forty Under 40 Winner 2015: Vice-president, planning and community development, Darwin Properties, Age 39

When you’re handling massive land development projects like Carla Guerrera does on a daily basis, you need to figure out how to get a lot of important people to say “yes” to your ideas.

After handling more than $600 million worth of such projects in Toronto, Vancouver and across B.C., the vice-president of planning and development at Darwin Properties feels that she knows how to get the responses she seeks.

“Every single person who touches a real estate or land development project comes with their own lens and their own set of ideals,” she said. “It’s about first and foremost having a clear vision, and making sure that you’ve consulted with and met with all of the stakeholders of a project.”

Large development projects touch a lot of people, she said. “They need to understand where you’re coming from and see that you’re communicating some of their goals and objectives with your vision.”

And any development project must run a gauntlet of review, approval and opposition.

“I think once we can get really clear about what a city and a community wants to see on a specific site, we can usually put together a project that helps to align to those goals and objectives,” she said. “A lot of times it’s rooting through the weeds a little bit to get clear on what municipal staff or council or community members really want to see with a specific property that we have under development.”

Guerrera says her most important lessons have been born out of mistakes on projects, or ideas that have broken down.

Collaboration, communication and clarity are the pillars of any big project, she said. “Oftentimes, in my experience, when teams fall down or projects fall down, it’s usually about one of those things that are breaking down.”

When reflecting on her success, Guerrera points to her ability to find assets in apparent weak spots of projects.

“Being able to take those gnarly edges of a project … and then turn them into what’s really the most celebrated component or aspect of a project is something that I’ve really done consistently in all of my work,” she said. “It’s finding that golden nugget.”

Birthplace: Belleville, Ontario

Where you live now: North Vancouver

Highest level of education: Master of urban planning from Queen’s University

Currently reading: The Big Leap by Gay Henricks

Currently listening to: Julia Finnegan’s debut CD Thoughts Collide. A brilliant 17-year-old singer-songwriter who happens to be my talented niece

When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: I didn’t have a desired career path, but I was exceptionally environmentally and community-focused for my age. I knew I wanted to focus on creating better communities for us to live in

Profession you would most like to try: Psychologist

Toughest business or professional decision: Quitting law school at UBC after first year to pursue urban planning

Advice you would give the younger you: First, get to know your strengths – your genuine assets that set you apart – and trust in them. Second, surround yourself with inspiring people who can mentor you as you move through the phases of your career. I am so incredibly grateful to those who have invested their time and energy to provide guidance and mentorship over the years

What’s left to do: My work has inherently been focused on mitigating climate change impacts in our built environment, but our industry could do more to really tackle this major challenge


Join us to celebrate the 2015 Forty under under 40 Awards January 27, 2016 at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For tickets and event info visit www.biv.com/events/40under40.