Previously owned by Minto, the buildings are the six-storey 979 Bank St., with 104,716 square feet of leasable space, and the adjacent 1031 Bank St., with a leasable area of 11,510 square feet. They are located in the Glebe neighbourhood, south of the downtown core.
“The price was right. For BTB, it’s an accretive acquisition,” BTB (BTB-UN-T) president and chief executive officer Michel Léonard told RENX.
“It’s a great investment and the properties are really well-located. You can live, work and play in the same neighbourhood,” he said. “When I saw it at first on paper, I liked it, but when I went to visit, I really enjoyed it and thought that this is a property we should acquire.”
The Lansdowne Park acquisitions
The buildings are 95 per cent leased. Tenants include The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, BMO Nesbitt Burns, Canadian Internet Registration Authority, Field Effect Software and CPCS Solutions.
“We already have tenants who are looking to relocate,” he said. “We’re speaking to tenants already.”
The properties were brokered by CBRE and BTB came out on top in a bidding process.
BTB financed the $38.1 million acquisition (excluding transaction costs) by securing a first mortgage for $24.8 million, with the balance coming from cash on hand and an existing acquisition credit facility.
A ground-level retail portion of 979 Bank, which includes a restaurant, was not acquired by BTB. There is also an underground parking garage at the site that is owned by the City of Ottawa.
The buildings were completed in 2015 and feature glass curtain walls with views of Redblack games and other events in the stadium from the offices.
No capital improvements are foreseen in the coming years, which was a major investment criterion for BTB, Léonard said.
“Sometimes you buy a property and you think that you have a great purchase price and then you turn around and see there’s a lot of investments to be made. In this case, it was a recent property, it was extremely well-maintained, extremely clean from the guts to the tenant suites.
“Minto really did a good job maintaining this property.”
Ottawa an attractive market for BTB
Ottawa real estate is a natural investment for a Montreal-based company like BTB, he said: “You hop in your car, you drive for two hours, you do whatever business you have to do and you can come back home the same night. You don’t lose a lot of time.”
In addition, with its high number of federal government and professional organizations as tenants, the market is very stable, Léonard noted.
“The rest of Canada is not looking at Ottawa the way a Montrealer would be looking at investing in Ottawa,” he said. “There’s a lot of investment from Ottawa into Ottawa, but it’s a natural progression for a Montreal-based organization to go to Ottawa first.”
BTB now owns 10 office and industrial properties in Ottawa and neighbouring Gatineau.
According to Altus Group’s Investment Trends Survey for Q3 2021, the Ottawa market is ranked as Canada’s fourth-most preferred market by investors, behind Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
Another Altus report found that in the first three quarters of 2021, all asset types in Ottawa outperformed the same period in 2020, except for offices which have had the most uncertainty during the pandemic.
BTB seeks to diversify geographically
Léonard said almost 80 per cent of BTB’s investments are in Quebec and most of the remainder is in Ontario. Most BTB activity in the coming years will be in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada, outside of Quebec, “because we’re trying to balance our investments.”
Last fall, for example, BTB acquired nine industrial properties and one office building in Saskatoon and in the Edmonton area.
Most of the industrial properties are well-located, recently built and in good shape. All have single tenants and good floor-to-ceiling clearances of 24 feet or more, he says.
“For a while, we wanted to have some kind of diversification geographically, and so for us it became important to look at other cities in Canada in order to have this geographic diversification.”
BTB is also keen to buy suburban office space in the Toronto area, where it has made several attempts to invest in recent years.
“We were left at the altar many times in our quest to purchase in that market. Hopefully in the coming year, we’re going to be able to conclude transactions in suburban Toronto because it’s been on our radar for the last three, four, five years.”
BTB now owns 73 properties, representing a total leasable area of approximately 5.7 million square feet and a total asset value that surpasses $1.1 billion.
Léonard said BTB’s goal to achieve $2 billion in total assets by 2026 is ahead of schedule.