Michelle is a planner with a unique background in private sector development, land use planning, policy and planning research and international business. Michelle completed her Masters in Urban and Regional Planning at Queen's School of Urban and Regional Planning in April 2007. She then spent four years working for Urban Strategies Inc., a planning and urban design firm in Toronto, and in 2010 moved back to her hometown of Ottawa where she is currently working as the Director of Development for Taggart Investments and Tamarack Homes.
Ever since high school I have always been interested in the balance between development and preservation, growth and sustainability. Before beginning my masters in planning at Queen's, I completed a Commerce degree at Dalhousie University, with a specialty in International Business. I took a year off between degrees to travel and see the world, spending time in India, Burma, South-East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and islands in the south pacific.
I joined SURP in 2005, and knew right away that I had found my calling. SURP offers an excellent balance of planning theory and practical application. My favourite course was the Land Use Project Course, in which we developed a land use concept to accompany the proposed LRT corridor along Montreal Road in Ottawa. Students have their own offices, just down the hall from the classrooms and professors, leading to a strong sense of community and collaboration. All the professors are enthusiastic and engaged in the program, offering a dynamic curriculum and constant support.
Between first and second year, I did an internship with the Canadian Urban Institute, undertaking a project to evaluate the opportunities and constraints of mid-rise developments along Toronto’s Avenues. When I completed the program, I started right away with Urban Strategies Inc., a full-service planning and design firm in Toronto. I was exposed to a wide array of exciting projects. I was the project manager on the award-winning Tall Buildings Plan for Downtown Toronto. I worked with Metrolinx, the public authority that manages transportation planning in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, to recommend land use configurations around major transit stations for the new regional transportation master plan. I also worked with the private sector, submitting rezoning applications for interesting and dynamic new mixed-use projects.
I always knew I wanted to join my family’s land development business in Ottawa and have been putting my Queen’s education to good use as the Director of Development, leading teams of consultants to acquire new land, design projects with highest and best use, engage with the community through public meetings and forums. As a planner, I get to see all sides of the business, from engineering to finance, from public consultation to policy analysis. It’s an exciting field, with new challenges arising every day.
All things considered, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to become an urban planner. My experiences at Queen’s University opened many doors for me, and prepared me for entering the industry with a solid background of planning theory and practical applications.