Winnipeg ready for its close-up

Real estate investment forum puts spotlight on local opportunities

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Winnipeg is viewed by some as the new Canadian hot spot for investing in commercial real estate, and hundreds of industry officials are gathering in the city this week to find out why — and to see how they can get in on the action.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/05/2016 (2446 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg is viewed by some as the new Canadian hot spot for investing in commercial real estate, and hundreds of industry officials are gathering in the city this week to find out why — and to see how they can get in on the action.

“I’ve heard investors from Toronto say Winnipeg is the new Calgary,” said Arni Thorsteinson, president of Winnipeg-based Shelter Canadian Properties Ltd. and chairman of Tuesday’s fourth biannual Winnipeg Real Estate Investment Forum.

“For the last 20 years, they couldn’t invest enough in Calgary, but that’s come to a screeching halt,” Thorsteinson said. “With the severe recession in Alberta, a lot of people have ceased investing (there). And to balance their portfolios, a lot of them are turning to Manitoba and are interested in lending or investing in Manitoba.”

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That view is shared by George Przybylowski, vice-president of construction and real estate at Informa Canada, which organizes the biennial Winnipeg event and 18 other real estate forums in Canada.

“You look for the quality in the asset, but in this day and age, you also measure risk and you analyze risk,” he said. “You’re looking for stable returns that you can count on and can put away in the vault, and I think Winnipeg comes into the picture a lot in that regard. If there’s one thing (you can say) about Winnipeg, it’s ‘steady as she goes.’”

Przybylowski recalled being approached numerous times in the first half of the last decade by local real estate officials who wanted him to hold a forum in Winnipeg. He repeatedly turned them down because real estate investors in the rest of Canada showed little or no interest in attending such an event.

But that changed during the 2008-09 global economic recession, when Winnipeg was one of only three major cities in Canada still showing positive economic growth.

Przybylowski said when he contacted many of the same people in 2009 to see if they’d attend a forum about the Winnipeg real estate market, “the response was ‘absolutely! I’ll be there for sure.’”

And when the inaugural forum in 2010 sold out, he knew there was enough interest in the Winnipeg market for it to become a regular event.

Interest is even stronger than ever, he said, with a record 650 people booked for this year’s event, including more than 225 from outside the province.

“And we have space already put aside for 2018.”

Forum participants will include real estate managers, brokers, developers and investors, as well as people involved in the financing, leasing and marketing of office, retail, industrial and multi-family residential properties.

Newly minted Premier Brian Pallister will give the opening address, followed by presentations and panel discussions about the main drivers behind Winnipeg’s economic growth, the major trends in the office, industrial, retail and apartment markets, availability and cost of investment capital and the type of development activities and opportunities in Winnipeg.

While the forum is a one-day event, with a chairman’s reception a night earlier at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Thorsteinson said most of the out-of-town delegates will likely stay most of the week, visiting properties and discussing investment opportunities.

That should generate spinoff economic benefits for hotels, restaurants and other local businesses.

But an even bigger benefit, he said, is many of these out-of-province delegates represent major lenders and institutional investors who have billions of dollars to invest and are looking for a safe, reliable market.

“There is kind of a greater concern about risk,” he said.

“So they’re saying, ‘Maybe our next bet, because we don’t want to take on too much risk, is to take a close look at Manitoba because it’s a very diversified, safe economy. We might not make 15 per cent a year like we did in Alberta, but we’re not going to lose our shirt. We’re quite happy to earn returns of eight or nine per cent.’”

Know of any newsworthy or interesting trends or developments in the local office, retail or industrial retail sectors? Let real estate reporter Murray McNeill know at the email address below or at 204-697-7254.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Monday, May 16, 2016 7:54 AM CDT: Adds photo

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