Shindico’s diversified portfolio positioned for opportunities
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The post-pandemic economic environment has certainly altered the dynamics of many sectors of the economy.
Hollowed-out office buildings, high interest rates and construction cost inflation continue to play significant roles in the realities of the commercial real estate sector of today.
But issues such as global supply chain disruptions are now sorting themselves out, and consumers have returned to brick and mortar stores after having binged on online shopping for a couple of years. Industrial real estate continues to be in high demand in Winnipeg and across North America and with many young people being priced out of the single-family dwelling marketplace, developers can’t build multi-family projects fast enough.
So, whereas there were doomsayers worrying about the end of retail real estate — although tier-two enclosed malls have a grim future — there are plenty of opportunities for investors, especially those with holdings spread across different types.
Just as economic diversification moderates volatility in the provincial economy, with the right management it can do the same job for private enterprises.
Shindico Inc. is one of the largest and longest-standing Winnipeg real estate developers. Once known as the strip mall kings, the privately held company has been significantly engaged in multi-family residential and industrial developments, as well as retail, for some time.
It just concluded the sale of the 280,000-square-foot Pembina Crossing centre at Pembina Highway and Bishop Grandin Boulevard that it has managed and co-owned with two Canadian pension funds for the past 25 years.
But it wasn’t sold because Shindico wanted to exit retail.
“We would have been happy to manage it for another generation,” said Sandy Shindleman, Shindico’s CEO.
Its pension fund partners wanted their capital out for their own capital resource management reasons.
Shindico has successfully developed shopping centres, class A office and multi-residential buildings, mostly in Manitoba, and is also active in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Arizona.
It has developed more than eight million square feet of projects and has another 12 million square feet in its pipeline.
Pembina Crossing is currently fully leased with long-term leases from big name players such as Save-On-Foods, Staples, Toys “R” Us and Petland. The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has a lease on the 51,000-square-foot stand-alone building on the property until 2041 for its Access Fort Garry clinic.
Pembina Crossing had gone through tough times over the years. It was built in the 1970s as an enclosed mall and had the unfortunate luck of being built just before St. Vital Centre mall and was caught by surprise by the construction of Bishop Grandin which resulted in some land being expropriated, requiring a reorientation of the property so that it’s now perpendicular to Pembina Highway.
But the property has undergone significant redevelopment and refurbishment, such that it met the high standards of the buyer, Winnipeg-based LS Properties, a company that has been around since 2005 that now owns and manages about 1.5 million square feet of property
“We like the size and scale of Pembina Crossing,” said John Stroich, one of the principals of LS.
It’s a high-quality property with a grocery anchor in a desirable area close to the University of Manitoba with a diverse mix of national retail tenants, government and financial services with lease averages of 11 years.
“We think we could potentially densify the site in future years,” he said. “We are excited about the opportunity.”
Both Shindico and LS Properties are not much exposed to the office market. Both have access to capital that allows them both to be opportunistic when many of their peers would be subjected to high interest rates on the debt market.
With partners, Shindico is in the process of acquiring the Georgetown Park apartments down the street on Pembina Highway and it currently has three new retail buildings under construction on Taylor Avenue with two more in the works.
It’s also got two 124-unit residential buildings on that same Taylor Avenue site with one to be completed next month and the other early next year.
Shindico is also Cadillac Fairview’s development partner on both the old Winnipeg Stadium site and the ambitious development plan for Polo Park announced in January with thousands of residential units to be built in the coming years.
Shindleman said the pandemic sped up the inevitable and culled weaker performers who had not sufficiently invested in their operations.
But service retail — including medical office, veterinary clinics and the like — have continued to be in high demand and rents are strengthening.
While Shindico has some office space, it is well diversified in industrial, multi-residential, service retail and personal storage developments and is lowering its exposure to big box retailers.
It didn’t invent the concept of walkability, but building multi-family residential close to shopping and services is a model Shindico is using on Taylor and is planning for Polo Park.
The pandemic has certainly impacted the commercial real estate market, but for the canny non-institutional operators there remain plenty of opportunities.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.