Developer and philanthropist Harold Shipp passed away last night at the age of 88. As a tribute, we have re-printed a profile of him that ran in the February-March 2012 issue of Building.
Still setting lofty goals after 67 years in business
By Sheri Craig
Harold Shipp says he tries to reach for new heights every day. He then mentions, oh so casually, that on January 21 he went sky diving for the second time to commemorate his 86th birthday.
The chairman of Mississauga, Ont.-based Shipp Corporation has always set high personal goals.
The development company he helped grow was started by his father, Gordon S. Shipp, as a small home building firm in 1923. Shipp joined in 1945 at 19, straight out of high school, building and selling three houses on his own to earn a profit of $1,500. The following year he became a full partner in G.S. Shipp & Son.
It’s a different business today, Shipp says. He views as ironic that what he could accomplish in months in 1950 can now take years to achieve.
In January, 1950, he bought land on the south side of the Queen Elizabeth Way, then a four-lane undivided road leading to Toronto, and built 2,000 homes in a former apple orchard that became the Mississauga neighbourhood of Applewood Acres. “We had the land zoned and plans approved and then if you went in before noon, you could pick up your building permits the same day. The first homes were built and opened five months later on Mother’s Day,” he recalls.
Now, any developer buying raw land in most municipalities can expect to carry that land from six months to a couple of years. “It can take a month or more to process a building permit for each house,” Shipp says. ‘The bureaucracy has grown bigger and the process has slowed down to add to the costs.”
Shipp remembers that the first houses he built were of brick and then by 1959 of brick veneer with increased insulation. Today houses are built with the emphasis on green technology, and home owners have been getting a far better house over the years, he adds. And there is the home building warranty ensuring that the developer stands behind his houses.
“But our company always stood behind our houses. We were always proud of what we built. About 1958, we started putting a glazed brick about knee level just outside the front door. The brick reads ‘Shipp-built,’” he says, adding that it is always satisfying to meet people who tell him they were raised in a Shipp-built house.
“A suit has a label. A car has a name. Why shouldn’t builders put their name on their products?”
Shipp Corporation’s home base continues to be Mississauga. Shipp developed the Applewood Village Shopping Centre in 1954 and Applewood Place in 1973, a 26-storey, 400-suite rental building, the largest high-rise apartment building in Mississauga at that time. In 1980, the first office building of the four-building, 1.2-million-square-foot Mississauga Executive Centre was opened. One year later, the first two buildings of the Shipp Centre, now the Clarica Centre, were opened at Islington Avenue and Bloor Street, in Toronto. The third building, which opened in 1991, completed the complex, also 1.2 million square feet, connecting it to the Toronto subway system.
At the same time, 1979 to 1981, Shipp was developing Shipp’s Landing, on the southern tip of Marco Island, south of Naples, off Florida’s west coast. The residential enclave includes a seven-storey building, a 21-storey building and 44 garden suites, with attached boat docks.
There is also Shipp Place, a 69-condominium townhouse community, near the Square One shopping mall in downtown Mississauga. More recently, Shipp developed land acquired in Milton, Ont., in 1972, as Main Street Village, a 2,600-site home complex.
Shipp is justifiably proud that he followed his father as chairman of the Toronto Home Builders Association and the Canadian Home Builders’ Association. They were also both elected to the Canadian Home Builders’ Hall of Fame and his father is the only Canadian developer in the U.S. National Association of Home Builders’ Hall of Fame.
Shipp was honoured in 2009 with the first Lifetime Business Achievement Award by the Mississauga Board of Trade. It recognized his and his company’s achievements as the longest active builder and developer in Mississauga. It also recognized his role with many community groups and non-profit organizations.
“Put more in than you take out and that’s what makes this a better place to live,” he said at the time, adding “Personally, we like to always hoist our mast as high as we can reach.”