Job title: Director of Development, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation
Why she's a 2014 Top 40:
Kate Thompson is leading the team that is responsible for the development of the entire East Village project, helping to turn this inner-city spot with lots of potential into a vibrant new neighbourhood.
photograph by jared sych.
Lots of people say they build bridges in their work, but Kate Thompson actually does.
Thompson’s job is to oversee what the City of Calgary hopes will one day be one of the most vibrant and diverse neighbourhoods in the city; she’s leading the team that’s rebuilding the East Village from the ground up.
Thompson is a study in contrasts. While chatting about the work she does overseeing the ultra-urban East Village project’s budget, timing and vision, it comes out she owns land and cows.
“It’s a little surprise to most people, thinking the architect wearing all black wouldn’t have any experience branding!” says Thompson.
But she does, not to mention lots of practice helping to restring fences. Thompson and her family live a downtown lifestyle during the week but spend most summer weekends in a cabin they built using old power poles. Yes, she not only oversees major urban projects, including the Simmons Building redevelopment and the new Central Library, Thompson designed and helped build a log cabin with her own hands.
After years of working as an architect, Thompson decided to buck tradition and move into development; the lure of breathing fire into a whole community at once, rather than giving life to one building at a time, was just too tempting. She joined the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) — the development arm of the City of Calgary — in 2013, and has since become responsible for overseeing the team for the development of the entire East Village project, which also includes the new St. Patrick’s Island bridge.
Thompson says she has two passions in her life: her work and her family (which includes her two boys, ages four and six), and, while she dedicates most of her waking hours to them, she still finds time to mentor students at the University of Calgary through the Architecture Association of Alberta and sit on the board of the YWCA.
An “impressively fast runner,” according to friends, Thompson often uses her lunch hours to weave her way through the work she’s done.
What gives Thompson the drive to keep aiming bigger, higher and stronger? It could be that she finds knowledge and inspiration all around her, especially from the transformation of the East Village from downtrodden barrio to gritty urban hot spot.
“This neighbourhood is an example of what you can do,” she says. “I think it shows the vision that’s in Calgary … at a huge scale. People need a kind of tangible example of what the can-do attitude can be.” —Erin Lawrence