(By Sheila Brady) – Uniform celebrates five decades of building churches, schools, office buildings and customized homes across the city, and it all started with an ambitious immigrant.

Despite his age, 82 and counting, Walter Stenger is amazing with numbers and dates, remembering the exact day he landed in Toronto 55 years ago with $13 in his pocket and an unbridled ambition to succeed in the world of cement and construction dust. It’s his precise Germanic nature. Stenger had to leave his wife Friedl and young daughter Christl in Germany because he had more dreams and ambition than money. His bank account is now considerably richer and the owner of Uniform Urban Developments has a long portfolio of commercial and institutional buildings across Ottawa. His son and partner, Peter Stenger, and John MacDougall, another partner, head up the home-building division, which has designed and sold a series of successful infill projects of wellheeled homes in the golfcourse community of Stonebridge, single homes and condos in Rockcliffe Park and customized single and townhomes in Westboro. There are also plans for an enclave of estate homes in Manotick and a larger community of single homes on the Richardson escarpment in Kanata. Along the way, there have been a long string of design laurels from the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association and an enduring relationship with Ottawa architect Barry Hobin. The senior Stenger and the Uniform team celebrated 50 years of design, building and concrete this week with a party for colleagues and friends. There was much laughter and many memories over cocktails. “It was July 13, 1954, when I arrived in Commerce City,” says Stenger. The plan was to work in Toronto and then head to Vancouver, but there were professional hiccups. He landed a job with Principal Investments as a “Boy Friday” and novice estimator, mostly because the graduate from a Bavarian college was impeccably trained as a master builder, including specialities in architecture and administration. But this ambitious, self-described perfectionist struggled with numbers and estimating because he trained in the metric system and Canada was a nation of imperial measures and complicated fractions. “I had to practise and learn again. It took four months,” says Stenger, while sitting at the boardroom table in the offices of Uniform Developments. Learn he did, moving to Ottawa four months later to work with a company that launched a new subdivision for the Toronto firm. He finished the assignment and decided to stay in the capital because he had made friends.

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