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CanFirst breaks ground on spec Mississauga industrial project

272,379-square-foot building in GTA West to target LEED Gold, net-zero-ready status

A rendering of the spec industrial development now under way at Erin Mills Parkway and Mississauga Road, in Mississauga. CanFirst Capital Management is undertaking the development. (Courtesy CanFirst)
A rendering of the spec industrial development underway at Erin Mills Parkway and Mississauga Road, in Mississauga. CanFirst Capital Management is undertaking the development. (Courtesy CanFirst)

CanFirst Capital Management has broken ground on a 14.08-acre site in Mississauga where it's developing, on spec, a 272,379-square-foot industrial building.

The site, at the Erin Mills Parkway and Mississauga Road in Meadowvale, was acquired from Europro in October 2021 for $50 million. It was previously occupied by 17 single-storey, late 1970s-built office buildings totalling 142,772 square feet.

“The opportunity was attractive to CanFirst, given the opportunity to acquire a site that was already improved with 17 office buildings at a purchase price below land value at the time of acquisition,” executive vice-president of investments and business development Mark Braun told RENX in advance of the August 16 groundbreaking ceremony.  

“The site was also 74 per cent occupied, providing cash flow to support the project ahead of redevelopment and the option to not develop if market conditions changed.”

Leases with the 70-plus tenants had demolition clauses, so the site’s existing buildings are being torn down to accommodate CanFirst’s new structure.

What the property will offer

The new building will feature: a 40-foot clear height; 42 dock-level doors; two grade-level doors; 50-foot-wide by 54-foot-deep bays; and a 60-foot staging bay. 

The property will include parking for 226 cars – including 12 dedicated EV stalls – as well as 37 trailer parking stalls. 

CanFirst is working with INVIRO Engineered Systems as its sustainability consultant to make the facility LEED Gold-certified and zero carbon-ready. INVIRO is also the mechanical and electrical engineer.

Features that will be included to achieve LEED Gold include:

  • improved natural lighting and air quality in the warehouse;
  • the installation of solar panels to mitigate electricity drawn from the grid;
  • and improved water efficiency inside and outside the building.

“One of our goals is to future-proof the property to the best of our ability,” Braun explained.

“We decided to build to zero-carbon-ready and, more specifically, ensure that at the time of construction we minimized carbon in the building and reinforced the building to support solar on the roof and improvements that would be very difficult and cost-prohibitive to complete later. 

“The market is indicating interest in zero-carbon buildings, but few requirements, and the decision was made to construct a carbon-ready property if required by a tenant, but not on spec.  

“There may also be improvements in the near future — more efficient HVAC units and solar panels, for example — that would merit delaying for a short time a carbon-zero property.” 

Colliers Strategy & Consulting Group is the development and project manager, Ware Malcomb is the lead architect, Cecchini Group is the construction manager, MHBC is the landscape architect, Counterpoint Engineering is the civil/structural engineer, Gravity Engineering is the structural engineer, Pinchin Ltd. is the geotechnical and environment engineer and TYLin is the transportation engineer. 

Occupancy is slated for the fall of 2024.

Confidence in building on spec

The Meadowvale site offers excellent access to labour, public transit, highways, intermodal rail terminals and Toronto Pearson Airport, Braun noted.

“There's really not as much new development happening in Mississauga as there is in the rest of the GTA,” he added. “I still think Mississauga is the most desirable industrial node in Toronto.”

Marketing and leasing is being handled by CBRE and Braun expects interest from companies already in Mississauga as well as those looking to move into the area.

While spec industrial construction is slowing, Braun is confident the quality of the location and asset, combined with the trailer parking, will make it very attractive to tenants.

A single tenant is being targeted, but the building can be demised.

CanFirst and its funds

Toronto-based CanFirst, founded in 2002, is a commercial real estate private equity company that co-invests with institutional and private high-net-worth investors in industrial and office properties that have growth potential.

It’s involved with development, redevelopment, asset and property management, financing, leasing and construction.

The Meadowvale property was acquired with the $250.5-million CanFirst Industrial Realty Fund (CIRF) VII LP, which closed in July 2020 and is now fully invested. 

CanFirst is fundraising for CIRF VIII and looking to close it at the end of the summer. 

CanFirst is also fundraising for the open-ended CanFirst IncomePlus Real Estate Fund (CIPREF), which has seen steady growth since its creation in June 2018 to invest in core and core-plus private real estate opportunities across Canada.

Its focus is industrial properties in major markets with lease terms of between five and 10 years.

CIPREF has accumulated more than 775,000 square feet of properties valued at more than $155 million that have delivered an annual net return of 11.4 per cent. 

Recent transactions

CanFirst acquired buildings and land in Abbotsford, B.C., Saint-Hubert and Vaudreuil in Quebec, and Vaughan, Cambridge and Ottawa in Ontario, while selling two industrial buildings in Calgary and the Factory Square Campus in Waterloo, Ont., last year.

The Vaughan portfolio is comprised of 710,389 square feet of multi-tenanted, small-bay industrial product across 13 properties.

CanFirst is investigating converting several of the buildings to industrial condominiums in the next year or two.

The Cambridge portfolio, acquired from the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) in November, comprises three buildings totalling 231,700 square feet on Jamieson Parkway. 

They’re all under one title, so CanFirst is severing them into separate titles. One of the buildings is about 75 per cent vacant and will be repositioned.

Industrial real estate remains strong

“We are still bullish overall for the Canadian industrial market,” Braun said. “The fundamentals still support rental growth, albeit at a lower rate than rents have grown over the past several years.”

There’s still an imbalance between supply and demand and Braun said the approximately 44 million square feet of industrial assets under construction nationally represents just over two per cent of inventory. 

He does, however, expect vacancy to drift up over the next few quarters from 1.9 per cent at the end of Q2.

CanFirst’s strategy is to constantly evaluate its portfolio and seek acquisition opportunities, while remaining aware of potential headwinds with the economy, according to Braun.

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