Andrew Maravita has a clear idea of the job ahead of him as the newly hired managing director for Colliers International’s Quebec operation.
“The mandate is basically to grow Collier’s presence in Quebec, become the leader in this market,” he said.
Maravita, 42, most recently with GE Real Estate, said that unlike its position in most other markets, Colliers lags behind leaders such as CB Richard Ellis and Cushman & Wakefield in Quebec. “We’re not first or second, so that is my mandate. To position the Colliers brand in Quebec and build the team and provide services to our client base here in Quebec.”
Maravita said Colliers will concentrate on its strength in office (tenant and landlord representation) and industrial (leasing and sales). Currently the company employs 25 brokers out of two offices in the Montreal office and adding to its team of brokers is key to expansion in the province. “We want to double that number in three years,” he said, who described the strategy as “more feet on the ground and a more focused approach.”
Maravita started his career as a real estate lawyer in 1990. After obtaining his MBA, he joined Intrawest in 1996 in resort development, working on the early development of the Mount Tremblant resort’s condo, hotel and retail projects and from there joined TD Bank’s real estate development group. For the past nine years he was with GE Real Estate in various executive roles.
The new Quebec managing director wants to take a team approach in specialty areas such as tenant and landlord representation, investments sales, industrial leasing and industrial sales. “Today you really have to know your products and the different geographic locations so you need to focus on a line of industrial expertise whether it is industrial or office,” he said. “There is no ‘Jack of all trades’ anymore. The industry is moving to a more refined approach with more depth and expertise that is going to be required from our brokers.”
Maravita, a Montreal native who has worked in the real industry for the past 15 years, noted that the Quebec market has unique characteristics both in the industrial and office sectors.
Much of the 350-million square foot industrial real estate market in the province centered on Montreal is undergoing repositioning or redevelopment, he said. There is a “large inventory” of needle-trade properties that is looking for new users as well as low-clearance (15 to 18-foot ceiling) properties that also face an uncertain status going forward. “What is the best use for these assets right now?”
The industrial market, which is more diverse than the automotive-heavy Ontario market for example, has suffered with the economic downturn. The industrial market is slowly growing again. The west island area also witnessed the departure of a number of pharmaceutical companies and those 100,000 to 200,000 sq. ft. buildings are seeking users. “There is a lot of opportunities here and there is a lot of land available for new construction.”
Montreal’s “very tight” 85-million square-foot office market is also poised for some significant changes, he said. “I think we are going to see our first new office tower going up in the next year or so. There is a lack of contiguous space for major tenants that want the 100,000 to 200,000 sq. ft (footprints). They are basically spread out right now on various floors.
“We will see a new office tower once a core tenant is anchored,” he said. That new tower could come from Cadillac Fairview or from local developers, he added. “We are going to see a lot of construction and expansion going on the office side.”
Cadillac Fairview has said publicly that it wants guarantees of 50% occupancy before starting construction on what would be Montreal’s first new privately financed downtown tower since the early 1990s. “They are all in a race to secure those large anchor tenants. But the need is there. The office market is very, very tight in the downtown core.”
Occupancy rates in Montreal are currently about 6% and could fall to 3% by 2014 if no new office space is built, the Montreal Gazette reported last month, citing Cushman & Wakefield, Quebec. The paper also reported that Cadillac Fairview is competing with two other developers to win Rio Tinto as an anchor tenant. Kevric Real Estate Corp. has 230,000 square feet of office space to fill as part of the company’s mixed residential Altoria project in the Quartier International and the Westcliff Group is interested in developing up to 600,000 square feet of office space near the ICAO building at the Place de la Cité Internationale.