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RENX’s 2020 summer commercial real estate review | RENX



A street-level view of the 87-storey tower proposed at Toronto’s downtown Bay and Bloor intersection. (Courtesy Herzog & de Meuron)

Labour Day has passed and fall looms. That means it’s time for us to play catch-up on the commercial real estate scene across Canada.

If you’ve been out of the office during the summer (we mean that in the figurative sense considering how many folks are working from home these days), and are wondering if you’ve missed any major Canadian commercial real estate news, then read on.

We present the 2020 version of RENX’s annual Summer Commercial Real Estate Review.

We’ve included a selection of the most-read and most significant stories written for RENX since June, followed by a few of the most insightful submissions from our Columnist Contributors.

As with previous summer reviews, these stories are not listed in order of importance, because depending on your sector(s) and market(s) of interest, what’s vital for one CRE professional to know might not be relevant to others.

So welcome back to work . . . and read on . . .

Dutch firms plan 87-storey downtown Toronto high-rise

Dutch developers Kroonenberg Groep and ProWinko are proposing an 87-storey, mixed-use high-rise which would tower over the downtown Toronto intersection of Bay and Bloor Streets. If approved and built as proposed, it would be Canada’s tallest building. Read the full story

WalMart plans new GTA warehouse, part of $3.5B investment

WalMart will build a fifth distribution centre in the GTA as part of a $3.5-billion commitment to its Canadian operations during the next five years. The centre will join another 300,000-square-foot facility under construction in Surrey, B.C.; and major upgrades to a third facility in Cornwall, Ont. Read the full story

ELAD Canada acquisition talks ‘progressing well’

Shortly after word of the sale of an interest in ELAD Canada to Plaza Partners and Argent Ventures became public, the CEO of ELAD Canada confirmed talks were “progressing well.” The transaction involves an initial payment of $225 million for 37 per cent of ELAD Canada as well as two U.S. properties. Read the full story

RioCan sells 50% interests in Toronto, Ottawa developments

RioCan REIT continued its trend of bringing in partners on major developments, selling 50 per cent interests in two of its residential-based projects to Maplelands Development Inc. (Dufferin Plaza in Toronto) and Killam Apartment REIT (Luma at Elmvale Acres in Ottawa). Read the full story

See also: RioCan continues to develop heavy slate of projects  Read the full story

Dream launches $2.5B Calgary Alpine Park

Calgary’s ongoing economic challenges didn’t deter the construction launch of the massive $2.5-billion Alpine Park mixed-use development by Dream Unlimited. The 646-acre master-planned community will be home to about 10,000 residents, plus retail/commercial space, parks and amenities. Read the full story

498 housing construction projects delayed in GTA: BILD

Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) survey found 498 residential construction projects by its members in the Greater Toronto Area had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Toronto itself, 65 per cent of these projects were delayed three to six months and 32 per cent faced delays of greater than six months. Read the full story

Coquitlam plans dense, vibrant new downtown core

Coquitlam is embarking on a major urban planning mission that will take decades to realize: the transformation of 1970s suburban strip malls and parking lots into a rich, diverse and walkable urban core. Read the full story

Canderel buys Montreal office building, plans new build

Canderel purchased 6600 Saint-Urbain in Montreal from Olymbec in a move by the developer to expand its presence in the Mile-Ex neighbourhood, an increasingly popular hub for artificial intelligence firms. The developer also plans a 250,000- to 500,000-square-foot office development at 155 Beaubien Street West in Mile-Ex. Read the full story

Choice buys Toronto West Block, Weston Centre for $206M

Just a week after reiterating it was in the market for acquisitions, Choice Properties REIT (CHP-UN-T) said it would spend $206 million to acquire two Toronto mixed-use office and retail properties from Wittington Properties Ltd. Read the full story

Signet sells 7 Toronto apartment buildings to Starlight, Timbercreek

IMAGE: 2050 Keele St., in Toronto is part of two apartment portfolios sold by Signet Group to Starlight and Timbercreek. (Google Street View)

2050 Keele St., in Toronto is part of two apartment portfolios sold by Signet Group to Starlight and Timbercreek. (Google Street View)

Starlight and Timbercreek purchased seven Toronto apartment buildings from Signet Group for $193.7 million. The portfolios, which comprise 675 apartments located within the City of Toronto, range from a 187-apartment high-rise to an 18-apartment block. Read the full story

Rosefellow to build 3 Montreal, Ottawa-area industrial sites

Montreal developer Rosefellow and its financial partners will invest about $160 million to acquire and develop three industrial sites in Pointe-Claire in Montreal’s West Island; in Montréal-Est; and in Casselman, Ont., near Ottawa. Read the full story

Q2 2020 was RioCan’s ‘most unusual quarter’: Sonshine

Ed Sonshine called it “the most unusual quarter” of his 26 years as CEO of RioCan REIT. Q2 2020 will go down as one of the toughest financially for the trust, but both Sonshine and president/COO Jonathan Gitlin focused on restoring future value and growth during a financial results call with analysts. Read the full story

A sector-by-sector analysis of Canadian CRE: Altus

Accelerated evolution in all commercial real estate sectors, particularly in technology and work-from-home strategies, was a key theme as Altus Group offered a sector-by-sector breakdown on the impact of COVID-19. Read the full story

Office sublease market growing in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in sublease office space in major Canadian cities, particularly Vancouver and Toronto. Market experts expected the trend to continue and to expand to other cities as occupiers take stock of the coronavirus impact and future work habits. Read the full story

Rocky View County’s explosive growth continues

The recent announcement of a 1.23-million-square-foot Lowe’s Canada distribution centre in Balzac is the latest example of how the area just outside Calgary has become a magnet for huge commercial real estate developments and job growth. Read the full story


Can this many transit-oriented developers be wrong?

John Clark, Value, Weighed & Measured: Land values continue to rise. Real estate continues to sell. Developers continue to commit millions toward new developments where the emphasis is on intensification. Read the full column

Top-6 ways the workplace is changing post-COVID-19

David Bowden, CRE Matters: The “great work-from-home experiment” has resulted in changes and realizations. We have adjusted how, where and when we perform our duties. We have accelerated our adoption and use of technology. We might have shifted our views on how we would like to work and interact within our offices. Read the full column

If we want affordable housing, the numbers must work for everyone

Naama Blonder, Design, Policy and Canadian Cities: Earlier this summer, Toronto Mayor John Tory announced the locations for Housing Now’s Phase II sites. They are part of Toronto’s initiative to increase the supply of new affordable rental housing within mixed-income, transit-oriented communities on city-owned lands. Read the full column

Investors should be parking cash in industrial CRE

Barry Stuart, Saskatchewan Edge: In spite of the negative economic impact of COVID-19, the sale and lease activity within our existing industrial market continues. Saskatoon’s vacancy rate rose marginally by 0.12 per cent, to 5.86 per cent, according to ICR Commercial’s recent Q2 report. Read the full column

The proven way to accumulate wealth

Greg Placidi, CRE Wealth Insights: Amassing a fortune doesn’t typically happen overnight. Building wealth takes time. Sure, you can make a quick buck . . . but we all know Aesop’s old fable: slow and steady wins the race. Read the full column

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Saint John tenants nervous about Historica real estate deal –



A major real estate transaction in uptown Saint John has many tenants concerned.

Hazen Property Investments has sold 20 of its buildings to Historica Developments.

They include the McArthur on Germain Street and another 12-unit building on the west side to name just a couple.

“My gut feeling was anxiety — stress,” said Jeff Arbeau, who has been renting from Hazen for years.

Hazen is known for good-quality units at reasonable prices.  

Historica is known for fixing up older buildings and turning them into luxury units.

We kind of realize there’s probably too many high-end expensive units that most people, we understand, can’t afford.– Keitch Brideau, Historica

Their prices “far exceed” Arbeau’s price range.

Historica rents typically range from $1,200 to $2,000 a month, while Hazen’s are $400 to $700.

“It would have a massive impact ability on my ability to live,” said Arbeau.

Many of his neighbours are also worried.

The information package they received from the new owner asked for debit pre-authorizations for rent payments and promised continued “exceptional” service but didn’t make any assurances about future rental fees. 

Keith Brideau is reassuring Hazen tenants their rents will not be going up. (CBC)

“They don’t have to worry about it,” said Keith Brideau, president and founder of Historica.

Brideau said his company is not planning to increase rents for any current tenants or to change fees for parking, heat or lights.

That’s because he won’t have to recoup investments for any major upgrades.

“They’ve done an excellent job of taking care of their properties,” said Brideau. “Some of them are real gems.”

As tenants move out, he said, units will get things like fresh paint, refinished floors, and new countertops. 

Future tenants, might be charged $50 to $150 a month more than the current rates.

“We definitely aren’t going to be pricing people out of the market,” said Brideau.

Brideau partnered with investors Dr. David Elias and Alex Elias to purchase the Saint John City Hall tower in 2018. (Julia Wright/CBC)

Historica is looking to expand into the “middle market,” he said, where rents range from $500 to $1,000 a month.

“We kind of realize there’s probably too many high-end expensive units that most people, we understand, can’t afford.”

Arbeau said another concern of his is about losing the “mom and pop” service he had from Hazen.

“You can contact them with a need, and they’ll get to you right away,” he said. “They know your name. They help you any way they can.”

Brideau said his company is aiming to match or improve the level of service.

Coun. Donna Reardon says she’s been hearing from concerned tenants for the past two months, since Historica began inspecting Hazen properties. (CBC)

“I’ve spent many a Christmas Day in a furnace room trying to get a furnace going with my dad,” said John Hazen, general manager of Hazen Property Investments.

Hazen’s grandfather bought the company’s first building 100 years ago.

Hazen said he had a heavy heart about the sale, but it was a good business opportunity and the right choice for his family.

Hazen had 13 employees. That’s being reduced to about seven.

Historica’s Park Place redevelopment on Canterbury Street. (Julia Wright/CBC)

Some of the people losing their jobs were close to retirement, he said, and all are receiving severance packages based on their years of service.

Hazen still has 270 units, including Regency Towers on the east side, some on Coldbrook Crescent, and one on the west side.

Municipal leaders have been inundated with messages about the Hazen sell-off.

Their buildings are “little micro-communities,” said Coun. Donna Reardon, who represents Ward 3, which includes the uptown and central peninsula.

“Those neighbours will look after each other,” Reardon said. “People who are in them are there for a long time. … If you’re there seven or eight years, you’re one of the newbies in a lot of Hazen’s buildings.

“So, that is upsetting to think that your neighbours may have to move, or you may have to move out.”

Everyone’s “major concern,” she said, “is that rent will go up extraordinarily.”

There aren’t any rent control mechanisms available to the city, but Reardon said she expects the market will control itself to some degree.

“He can skyrocket the rents, I suppose,” said Reardon, “but what will the market bear in Saint John?”

Reardon said she’d be interested in exploring best practices across the country on rent controls, but she is reluctant to do anything that would stifle development and growth.

Information Morning – Saint John22:06Historica developer pledges no rent hikes

Hazen Apartments was in the rental business in Saint John for 100 years. This week they sold all 20 of their buildings to Historica Developments. We hear from a former Hazen tenant, developer Keith Brideau, who bought the properties and an expert on affordable housing. 22:06

Some are worried that Historica may own too big a share of the local housing market and that this will give it monopoly-like power over prices and availability of apartments.

Historica now owns nearly 40 buildings containing a total of about 400 units.

Brideau estimated that represents five per cent or less of the rental market.

Julia Woodhall Melnik’s big concern is potential gentrification — the displacement of people who live uptown because it’s affordable.

“Where are they displaced into?” asked the assistant professor and director of the laboratory for housing and mental health at UNB Saint John.

The north end is one possibility, said Woodhall Melnik, but deficiencies in the public transit system would make it difficult for vulnerable populations to get to uptown services.

Saint John promotes itself as having relatively low housing prices when it comes to buying, she noted, but limited rental stock means rents are less affordable.

Woodhall-Melnik is hoping developers and landlords will take advantage of government funding available for rent subsidies and affordable housing developments.

Information Morning – Saint John15:33We continue the conversation on affordable housing

We continue our discussion of affordable housing in Saint John. Hazen Property Investments talks about the decision to sell 20 of their buildings. And Ward 3 city councillor Donna Reardon tell us what her constituents are saying and what the city can and can’t do to keep rents reasonable for people. 15:33

Brideau agreed affordable housing is a big issue and said he “would like to be part of that solution.”

He said Historica might announce something on that front within the next year.

Brideau said more construction is happening now in Saint John than he’s seen in the last 20 years. He noted one non-profit building is going up now on Wellington Row.

Reardon said affordable housing is “on everybody’s radar.”

She noted there are still many vacant lots in peninsula neighbourhoods.

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Toronto's hot real estate market may cool down in coming months – Toronto Sun



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A new survey shows the aggregate price of a home in the GTA increased by 11% year-over-year to $922,421 in the third quarter of 2020.

This Royal LePage House Price Survey says the median price of an average two-story home increased 12.2% year-over-year to $1,082,502 in the third quarter of this year.

The price of a bungalow jumped 10.6% year-over-year to $887,156.

During the same period, condominiums in the GTA  saw prices rise 6.8% year-over-year to $599,826.

Strong home price gains were seen in Toronto where the price of a home rose 11.1% year-over-year to $975,980.

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The median price of a standard two-story home rose 15.5% year-over-year to $1,483,510. And the price of a bungalow increased 11.3% year-over-year to $974,295.

The average price of a condominium increased 4.9% year-over-year to $644,903 during the same time frame.

“Demand from the delayed spring market has continued through the third quarter,” said Debra Harris, vice president for Royal LePage Real Estate Services Limited. “The seasonal slowdown is expected in the coming months, but given the recent strength of September, we will likely see a more brisk fourth-quarter market than the previous year.”

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Cape Breton University to honour physician and real estate tycoon –




An oncologist and a real estate mogul will be this year’s recipients of honourary degrees from Cape Breton University.

Dr. Ronald MacCormick, oncologist, and Louis J. Maroun, real estate, will be presented with their honourary degrees during the university’s fall convocation set for Nov. 7.

“Both Dr. MacCormick and Louis J. Maroun have represented our island in their respective careers and they have impacted thousands of Cape Bretoners; one in life-saving cancer care and one in international business and philanthropy,” said David Dingwall, university president and vice-chancellor.

MacCormick is the chief medical oncologist at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre.

Dr. Ronald MacCormick, oncologist. CONTRIBUTED
Dr. Ronald MacCormick, oncologist. CONTRIBUTED


He completed his medical training at Dalhousie University and his specialty training at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. His highly-reputable medical practice and his role in developing the state-of-the-art regional cancer center has impacted patients from across Cape Breton Island and parts of mainland Nova Scotia. 

“Although I was not born in Cape Breton, both my parents are from here and I have spent the vast majority of my career here and raised a family here. My connections to Cape Breton Island and the people I care for are deep and I am a proud promoter of Cape Breton,” said MacCormick.

Maroun was born and raised in Sydney and holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of New Brunswick and is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Considered one of the most prolific executives in national and international real estate transactions, Maroun first began his career in real estate in 1982 after seven years with the Nova Scotia provincial government.

He has built a highly-notable career and has been dedicated to his philanthropic work with such charitable organizations as the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation, the Canadian MS Society, Casting for Recovery Canada and Cape Breton University’s Shannon School of Business. 

“I credit my Cape Breton roots with giving me the drive, ingenuity and determination to succeed in my business career. It also taught me the value of caring for each other during adverse times, which led to my desire to give back to my community,” said Maroun.

Cape Breton University has been awarding honorary degrees since 1989.

The fall convocation will be celebrated through a virtual platform and to view the ceremony, visit


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