Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Office makeover for busiest corner

Six-storey mixed-use building planned for Pembina-Osborne hub

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Winnipeg's rapid-transit system is very new, modest in size and may not yet have high traffic volumes.

But that will change in time.

And when it does, real estate developments strategically located along the line ought to gain some cachet.

Adrian Schulz and Imperial Properties are looking to get ahead of that dynamic.

They have plans to build a six-storey, 45,000-square-foot office and retail building on the west side of Osborne Street, just north of the Osborne overpass rapid-transit station.

Bruni Auto Body currently occupies the site as it has for the last 32 years. But the Bruni brothers have sold their business to Pembina Chrysler Dodge Jeep and plan to close this fall.

Imperial's $10-million-plus commercial building will be one of the first new multi-tenant office buildings in the city for many years.

This will also be the first development for Schulz, 29, and Imperial, a 21/2-year-old condominium-management firm that was formed to capitalize on the growing number of condo projects in the city.

When the project gets underway it may also be one of the very few examples of an office development in Winnipeg initiated without any pre-leasing.

"To be honest, the last thing we're worried about is getting the place filled up," Schulz said. "Our goal is to be 50 per cent leased in six months. We already have verbal commitment for about 15 per cent of the space. We're very confident. With the location and the type of property we are building we have no doubt at all we'll reach our goals."

City vacancy rates and demand for class A space -- such as the office towers of Portage and Main -- have not been strong enough to justify a massive new 500,000-square-foot building.

But a small-scale niche building in an exciting location such as south Confusion Corner may just work.

Schulz sites a 2008 City of Winnipeg traffic study as another selling point for the project.

"People think Portage and Main is the busiest corner in the city, but it's not," he said. "This is the busiest strip."

Architects at SNH Architects who have designed the building -- which is to include three 10-foot-by-20-foot electronic billboards to capitalize on high traffic flows -- said street-level retail will pull pedestrians in. "The Osborne Village corridor has been extended by default to the rapid-transit station," said an official from SNH Architects (formerly Daniel Serhal Architecture). "That last block and a half of the south part of Osborne is not nearly as active as the rest. We are seeking to extend that."

From a pedestrian standpoint it really was a no-man's land.

Katia Von Stackelberg, executive director of the Corydon Avenue Business Improvement Zone, said, "I think it would be a phenomenal enhancement to the block. The Brunis have been there forever and ever and they are such wonderful people but it's time for that corner to get beautified."

Felicia Bruni said the plans are to close the shop by November 1.

"We're taking it one step at a time," she said.

Craig Kitching, president of the Corydon BIZ, also believes the presence of the rapid-transit station begs for more dense development in the area.

"I think this would be a very appropriate development," Kitching said. "The city has invested a substantial amount of money in a rapid-transit line to this point. But that's an area with little residential and business presence. I think this is consistent with the kind of development that should take place around a mass transit line."

Schulz is establishing a fairly aggressive development schedule. He's hoping demolition of the auto body shop will occur before the end of the year and construction of the underground parking may start before the new year.

One wonders if he might be a too aggressive when he says they will prepare offers-to-lease with possession dates as early as November 1, 2013.

Schulz is secretive about the land owners and financial backers, but Kitching believes Schulz is easily up for the challenge of pulling together a creative deal such as this one.

In addition to the real estate business, Schulz is also a partner in Regina's Actyl Recruitment and Immigration, which Profit Magazine ranked the 41st-fastest growing company in the country.

Prior to that he was operations manager for Kitching's family-owned business that included a number of fast-food retail shops and real estate development.

"I have worked with Adrian since he was a teenager," Kitching said. "He has an incredible capacity to get things done. I think he'll be a substantial mover in whatever path he takes. I'm sure he will conquer this one."

No pre-leasing

Adrian Schulz and Imperial Properties are going where not many developers dare to go -- starting an office development without any pre-leasing.

Schulz envisions the possibility of a quick-service restaurant chain or coffee shop in the 7,500 square feet of retail space on the first floor and medical, dental and boutique legal offices for the five additional floors of office space with full-floor leasing, half floors or 1,500-square-foot offices.

Schulz will make the building on the west side of Osborne Street, just north of the rapid-transit station, available to any commercial leasing agents.

"We are totally opening it up," Schulz said. "Any broker can participate and get a full commission."

So any broker with a relationship with a tenant can put that tenant into the building and get a full commission as if it were their own exclusive listing.

"That way we'll get many more people marketing the property," he said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 4, 2012 B6


Updated on Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 8:23 AM CDT: Corrects typo

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