Retail Real Estate: NAIOP Panel

Joe Fresh’s opening in Saanich’s Uptown saw crowds wrap around the block.

Local industry insiders gather to discuss retail real estate developments and trends

This morning the Vancouver chapter of NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association held a panel discussion on B.C. retail real estate entitled “Unconventional Retail—The Unique West Coast Retail Real Estate Market.”

Lenora Gates, owner of Orange National Retail Group Inc. and president of Gates Real Estate Services Ltd., moderated the discussion between three retail real estate experts: Dave Morris, principle broker and founding partner of Form Retail Advisors Inc.; Geoff Nagle, director of development for Western Canada, Morguard Investments Ltd.; and Lawrence Rank, founding partner and chairman of Property Development Group.

Development was the topic of the day, with two retail real estate projects getting high billing: the new Uptown development in Victoria and The Mills, an enclosed mall, being built in partnership with Tsawwassen First Nation.

Nagel’s Morguard Investments Ltd. is the lead developer of the 860,000-square-foot urban mixed-use neighbourhood, Uptown, in Greater Victoria’s Saanich.

Now five years into the project, Nagel says that 80 per cent of the retail space has been leased, with anchor tenants includingh Walmart and H&M already seeing the benefits of the development: the Walmart branch has yet to fall out of the company’s top three Canadian locations in month-to-month sales, and Forever 21 opened in late December 2012 to a lineup of more than 750 customers.

The Mills, being developed alongside the Tsawwassen First Nations by Rank’s Property Development Group, is in its infancy, but is earmarked to be a single-floored enclosed mall with 1.2 million square feet of leasable retail space.

The Mills, near Tsawwassen’s ferry terminal, is set to open in late 2015 and according to Nagel it is primed to become a shopping destination, including 17 anchor stores with nearby restaurants, theatres and hotels.

Discussions then turned to downtown Vancouver’s retail real estate space, which Morris sees as going through a major period of transition: “three or four years ago it was getting stale—Robson was overpriced,” he said.

As far as developments in the downtown area, Morris points to the Canada Post building at Georgia and Hamilton St., saying that he hopes to see retailers move into the space, creating a second shopping centre outside of the Robson St. area.