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Using commercial real estate for the social good – The Globe and Mail

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Network Hub co-founder Minna Van is expanding the office-space-sharing business with tech classes for budding entrepreneursand support for Chinese and other local businesses.

Darryl Dyck/The Globe and Mail

Late in September, tech entrepreneur Minna Van was at her co-working office space in downtown Vancouver when a convoy of more than 100 logging trucks began a slow journey past her windows, horns blaring continuously.

“I was really irritated, and then I thought, ‘What is this about?’ So, I looked them up,” says Ms. Van, who is also co-founder of the Network Hub, one of the oldest co-working-office-space businesses in Canada. The Hub is an independent business that launched its first location in 2006 at 422 Richards St., in downtown Vancouver. It has since expanded across the country.

Ms. Van discovered that the truckers were protesting the loss of jobs, making their outrage known to the elected officials who had gathered for an annual convention. She saw an opportunity to help.

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Commercial space is what grounds community, it’s what grounds culture and the arts – it’s where creativity and innovation happens. Where else would people convene?

— Minna Van, co-founder of The Network Hub

“I thought about my dad when he came here from Vietnam when he was in his 40s, and I remember what it was like for him to find another job. It’s very challenging, especially in an industry that is forever shifting – and not in a good way.”

With other Network Hub colleagues, she developed a virtual class to help people obtain employment. They reached out to former mill workers in remote locations such as Williams Lake, B.C., so that they could pick up a new tech-focused skillset.

It is one of several tech, arts and culture programs that she has helped develop as a non-profit arm of the business, West Coast Technology Innovation Foundation. The classes are free, and it is part of a business model that doesn’t just offer shared office space, but also an incubator for development, networking for entrepreneurs and a place for people to gather, whether it be for a crafts fair or a chef’s long table.

Building a business and a community

Ms. Van has a unique perspective on scaling her business because she sees commercial real estate as playing a key role within any community. It’s not just about renting space.

“Commercial space is what grounds community,” she says, seated inside her second Vancouver co-worker space, Chinatown House. “It’s what grounds culture and the arts – it’s where creativity and innovation happens. Where else would people convene?”

Their corporate culture is decidedly anti-corporate. There is no organizational chart. There is no C-Suite. One time, a person called and asked to speak to the chief executive and she responded: “No such person exists.”

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The co-working spaces have an earthy vibe, with bikes in a corner, or a guitar on display. The system means lower rents for the workers, who can either rent long-term offices or temporary desk space. And businesses are vetted to ensure that they are a good fit with the culture.

First foray into business was intimidating, but attracted big names

Ms. Van says she developed the strong survivalist work ethic early on. She started her first tech business in high school. The co-working business was serendipitous: When she left university, she needed an office for her tech company.

She and her partners leased the 3,500-square-foot unfinished space and decided to rent the rest of the floor out to other businesses. The Network Hub was born. Capital costs were intimidating for the young owners. They poured $25,000 into new flooring alone.

And although the economic downturn of 2008 put many of their members out of business, the Network Hub survived because the owners had their tech jobs to carry them through. They also survived the arrival of major co-working companies such as Regus and WeWork, which swallowed up a lot of the smaller co-working spaces, she says.

“Everyone was scared. How could they not be? But it was a good thing they did come, because people who really know their market are the ones left standing,” Ms. Van says.

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The beauty of the Network Hub is that it brings skilled people together, she says. They do not have to work in silos – although they can, if they want to. But if a worker were to walk by a class as another member is teaching it, they may just decide to sit in, even if it’s not their interest.

Ms. Van has seen individuals at the Hub start businesses. She’s seen others meet their spouses.

Some of the household names that have used the Hub include Google and Facebook. She believes that “digital fluency” is an empowering skill and is hoping that the Network Hub entrepreneurs will hire the students who graduate from the virtual programs, which take up most of her time these days.

Providing options is the ultimate goal

Ms. Van has no desire to teach, but she does a lot of the programming.

“We want to provide options for people,” Ms. Van says. Chinatown House is reflective of her mission as an entrepreneur: to create space in a holistic way, connecting small business, arts, education and non-profit opportunities.

At Chinatown House, the spaces are rented to non-profit groups with a focus on addressing the challenges of Chinatown residents, whose lives are increasingly being encroached upon by gentrification.

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Scaling a community-based business is not easy, but Ms. Van says it is a necessary model for commercial real estate. The Network Hub has moved into other markets in the province, including Nanaimo, New Westminster and Whistler, as well as Calgary and Toronto.

Spaces must be a minimum of 2,500 square feet. She says that instead of merely “plunking down” and marketing the office spaces, they usually respond to invitations from developers, business people or elected officials who see a need in the neighbourhood. New Westminster, for example, was lacking co-working spaces.

“The community has to be there for me. That’s where I feel the confidence,” she says. “Now I feel that I want to give back. And I have some time to do it.”

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Canadian Commercial Real Estate Industry Offers Support to National Vaccination Efforts – Canada NewsWire

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TORONTO, Jan. 20, 2021 /CNW/ – REALPAC and its member organizations are pleased to announce an industry initiative to support the national vaccination rollout, through providing governments and health networks across Canada with the free use of vacant commercial space (such as retail space in malls, big box space, conference centres, hotels, industrial units, parking lots and office buildings) for use as vaccination sites.

“We see every day how hospitals are facing increasingly fragile scenarios, with provision of vital services being put on hold to divert resources to the COVID-19 response effort,” said Michael Brooks, CEO, REALPAC. “We also understand from governments that for Canada to successfully vaccinate its population by the intended September 2021 target, a very regimented approach will need to be taken.”

REALPAC, in partnership with its member organizations, has undertaken an initiative to identify unused commercial real estate space across Canada, to make available for free to governments and health networks to assist with the logistical rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. The goal is to provide an easily scalable portfolio of real estate assets that can form part of Canada’s distribution network to support the country’s vaccine mobilization effort. As reported by the BBC, a similar process is seeing success in the U.K., where the government is repurposing spaces such as convention centers and halls to serve as vaccination clinics.

REALPAC has secured the support of numerous CEOs, CFOs and COOs in its membership to participate in this initiative. These real estate owners are large, national operators with considerable real estate assets from coast to coast to coast, and are willing and eager to loan free space to government.

Participating members confirmed at this time include:

“Activating vacant real estate space as clinics for either vaccination or other medical services could reduce the logistical burden on hospitals and healthcare settings,” added Brooks. “REALPAC members are keen to work with the government to repurpose their unused spaces to function as vaccination sites, or storage spaces for vaccines, essential equipment, and medical supplies, which could greatly assist the vaccination rollout effort.”

REALPAC welcomes the opportunity to discuss this initiative with governments, policy makers, public health officials and healthcare networks, and direct inquiries to our participating members.

The commercial real estate industry remains committed to working with governments and healthcare networks to identify areas where space is needed and meet their needs to the best of our abilities. The industry would also like to sincerely thank governments, healthcare providers and front-line workers for their continued efforts to support Canadians during this pandemic. 

About REALPAC
Founded in 1970, REALPAC is the national leadership association dedicated to advancing the long-term vitality of Canada’s real property sector. Our members include publicly-traded real estate companies, real estate investment trusts (REITs), pension funds, private companies, fund managers, asset managers, developers, government real estate agencies, lenders, investment dealers, brokerages, consultants/data providers, large general contractors, and international members. Our members represent all asset classes in Canada – office, retail, industrial, apartment, hotel, seniors residential – from coast, to coast, to coast.

SOURCE REALPAC

For further information: on this initiative, please contact: Michael Brooks, CEO, [email protected], 416.642.2700 x225, www.realpac.ca

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Planon acquires a majority stake in real estate software company Reasult BV – Canada NewsWire

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NIJMEGEN, Netherlands, Jan. 20, 2021 /CNW/ — The Planon Group and Reasult today announced that Planon has acquired a majority share in Reasult B.V., founded in 2000 and headquartered in Ede (the Netherlands). Reasult is a software company that optimizes the financial performance of real estate portfolios and projects. Reasult’s leading software solutions are used by real estate developers, asset managers and housing corporations in the Dutch- and German-speaking markets. Example customers are Amvest, a.s.r. real estate, VolkerWessels and HANSAINVEST.

The Reasult software suite includes solutions for real estate development, asset- and portfolio- management, valuation management and financial planning. Planon will combine the Reasult applications with its own solutions for asset management and tenant management and engagement, into one software suite. By doing so, Planon aims to support real estate owners and investors in optimizing the performance of their property portfolio from a financial, building operations and tenant engagement perspective.

 “This acquisition is one of the first steps in Planon’s ambitious goals to accelerate its future growth. Planon firmly believes in the strength of Reasult’s solutions and its organization, both from a technical perspective and due to its extensive market knowledge and experience. It is therefore Planon’s plan to continue to expand the Reasult software suite, as it has done with previously acquired solutions such as SamFM and conjectFM. I am very excited about this acquisition and the possibilities it will offer to customers of both organizations to further develop their current solutions into an end-to-end property portfolio management solution,” said Pierre Guelen, CEO and founder of the Planon Group.

“As co-founder of Reasult 20 years ago, I am very excited about becoming part of a fast-growing global specialist in the field of building operations and service digitalization. With this move, Reasult will be able to further fulfil its strategy of offering a leading platform for optimizing real estate in the broadest sense. As part of a market leading organization, our customers and employees will benefit from this strategic step. The Planon and Reasult solutions are complementary which drives synergy and innovation. This collaboration will allow us to serve our customers in the best way possible and deliver innovative products to help real estate companies be ‘the best in class,'” said Aart Zandbergen, CEO at Reasult.

SOURCE Planon

For further information: Planon: Kayley Costa, [email protected], +31246413135; Reasult: Inge van Hal, [email protected], +31318672930, https://planonsoftware.com

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Medicine Hat's real estate market holds steady in 2020 – CHAT News Today

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But as far as sales go, it’s very close to the city’s standard and is comparable to the 10-year average.

House prices have even gone up a little bit. Devine says the 6 percent increase is due to the cost of the new and bigger houses being built.

Meantime, the average residential home price is almost $300,000 for homes in Crescent Heights, Crestwood, and Ross Glen.

Relatively speaking, Devine says our city has been fairly stable during COVID-19 in the housing market and it hasn’t changed a whole lot.

“I think overall, people that have money still have money. COVID doesn’t affect those people too much. Working people, obviously the interest rate makes a big difference. For young people buying their first homes, interest rates make a big difference. I think due to the diversity of Medicine Hat and the economy here I think that’s why there are so many people buying and getting into starter homes.”

Devine expects 2021 to be a busy year for Medicine Hat in the real estate market

“I think the biggest factor is going to be probably people wanting to get out of cities and to a city of our size that has a lot to offer and has room to basically spread out and people aren’t so congested. I think it will be a very good thing for the city a size of Medicine Hat.”

For the December 2020 market trend summary from the Alberta Real Estate Association visit this link.

And as far as real estate goes, Devine says Medicine Hat is probably one of the most stable places in the country.

“Due to the diversity of the city. Obviously, the oil patch has an effect on us, but the size of the city is very good, farming and ranching community, manufacturing community, we have a lot of different things going for us in this area, so it works really good for the real estate market and keeps it very stable.”

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