"When I look at this year's winners, I see a group of radically authentic women who remind us all of what it means to stand up with courage, for ourselves and those around them," said Sherri Stevens, Owner and CEO of WXN. "By recognizing and celebrating the strength, fearlessness, resilience and heart these women demonstrate, we can inspire more of the same in generations to come."
Ms. Julia Zhang achieved the distinction of being named among them. This honour, more than testifying to her career, which has seen her to rise to the vanguard of industry as a true pioneer, changemaker and ground breaker, is evidence of her inimitable character.
After receiving her Bachelor Degree in English Language and Literature, and her Master's Degree in Law, Julia worked with the United Nations in 1990, where she helped numerous organizations to enter the Chinese marketplace. After 10 years of managing highly successful business ventures, 2008 saw her establish the JD Development Group in Markham, Ontario—maintaining her role as President and CEO since then.
Julia discovered that Canada was about a decade behind the U.K., Europe, and the U.S. when it came to building luxury rental housing for its growing student population. She met the need for this under-serviced sector in Canada. Today, through much hard work, dedication, plenty of challenges and resistance, her company's student residences house close to 3,000 student tenants per year who attend University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College. She has created a new standard of excellence and proved that the demand is real, even with remarkable resilience in a downturn season caused by a pandemic, seeing a staggering 97% occupancy rate.
"It was a new sector that was underserviced and that needed new thinking and hard work," Zhang says. "My dream was to build a home for a student who's away from home."
All evidence tells us that she accomplished this dream, and more. In the decade that Julia has owned and operated JD Development Group, the company has built a significant property portfolio beyond high-end student residences, and created a well renowned property management arm. Though JD has gained recognition as one of the premier developers and operators of student residences, it doesn't change the fact that construction was, and still is, a male-dominated industry.
"Sometimes I look around and I'm the only woman in the room," Zhang says.
While the construction industry remains as it has been for decades, Julia has been creating a 'different way of living'—her company's touchstone—the moment she started, expanding the JD Development Group portfolio to include high-quality, innovative residential communities of condominiums and townhomes across Ontario. As a testament to this success, JD Development's Jefferson Homes project accepted the 2019 London Home Builder's Association 'Best New Single-Family Home over $1,000,000' for the Wickerson Hills industrial home, located in London's most sought after neighborhood.
Julia's dedication to her community speaks volumes and is made even more apparent when considering how her company is a proud supporter of Markham Stouffville and, in March 2020, supported the Markham Cares Campaign by helping to raise more than 100,000 units of PPE in support of healthcare workers in our community. Julia continues to lend her generous support to organizations such as Chinese Student and Scholar Association, Laurier Economics Club, University of Waterloo, African Student's Association, Laurier Quartet Musical, All-Star soccer team, Electric CarClub, U18 Girls Curling team, Engineers for Hope, Ladies Professional Golf Association, Walk for Women, and Kidsability. Julia also serves as one of the board of directors of Hong Fook Mental Health Association for 10 years since its inception with her focus and care of the students/young people's mental health. Her altruism has been absorbed by her company, with JD Development Group working to foster and create an environment that is more inclusive and gender balanced.
JD Development Group is converting sites with high, untapped potential into thriving student, residential, mixed-use and commercial developments. With projects in Southern Ontario and across the GTA, JD Development is building for a future standard, a home for generations to come. Coming soon, their latest project is MW Condos, a contemporary high-rise community located next to the Cooksville GO Station, one of Mississauga's most exciting up-and-coming neighbourhoods. It will consist of 312 suites with an entire level dedicated to both indoor and outdoor amenity programming – perfect for the modern Mississauga resident.
Julia is not only an inspiring leader to other women in the industry, she is a role model for women everywhere. Reflecting on her journey, she is proud of where she is now, and her place among Canada's Most Powerful Women could not be more deserved.
About JD Development Group
JD Development Group represents quality design, innovative process and long-term value. With partners, investors and residents in mind, they strategically convert sites with high, untapped potential into thriving student, residential, mixed-use and commercial developments. JD Development Group is driven by one comprehensive goal: to provide distinguished design, efficient service and communities that prove valuable investments for generations to come.
Visit JD Development Group - A Better Way to Live to learn more about our services, upcoming projects and the latest news.
Women's Executive Network (WXN), a member-based organization, is North America's #1 and only organization that meaningfully propels and celebrates the advancement of women at all levels, in all sectors, and of all ages. WXN delivers this advancement through training, events, mentoring, networking, and award and recognition programs for members and partners. WXN operates in Canada and the U.S.