Toronto-based Elad Canada has rebranded as Almadev as the multi-billion-dollar real estate development, investment and asset management company aggressively expands its residential development portfolio.
Almadev has 4.4 million square feet of construction in its pipeline, more than 6,000 residential units under development and 7.4 million square feet of income-producing properties.
CEO Rafael Lazer told RENX Almadev had been part of the Elad group, but the main shareholder sold the company recently to a Canadian group of investors.
“So we changed hands and as part of this transition of ownership our modus operandi did not change, but our name and branding was in for a change. This is what prompted it,” said Lazer. “And we think beyond the legal and corporate requirement, it was really time for us to refresh.
“Alma means ‘world’ in Aramaic and it also means ‘soul’ in both Spanish and Portuguese.
“So we feel it has a very important and very significant meaning as it kind of shows a forward-thinking approach toward things and how we wanted to bring a bit of opportunistic change to our existing brand. It was the time to create a new identity for us and be something more updated.”
The genesis of Elad Canada/Almadev
Lazer said when Elad Canada was established in 1997 it was focused on income-producing assets across various real estate classes from office to industrial to retail and multiresidential. At one point in time, it even owned a casino in Fort Erie.
“We’ve been all over . . . mostly focused on Quebec and Ontario,” said Lazer. “At some point we started to become more and more entrepreneurial as it relates to development.
“It started with conversions of certain assets and then it slowly progressed into full-blown, ground-up construction of multifamily communities, which is, if you wish, our niche, what we are known for today.
“A lot of the older, more historical projects that we’ve completed, if it’s Emerald City in Ontario or Cite Nature and Le Nordelec in Montreal, were actually spinoffs of the income-producing assets portfolio we had.
“We basically identified surplus land, we serviced it and then we added density and built multifamily mixed-use residential communities on those asset lands.”
The company continued to progress as it began buying sites. Lazer said almost 8,000 units later, it has become known for its development of master-planned communities.
“Large-scale projects . . . . Most of our projects are thousands of units, millions of square feet, multi-phased communities rather than your standalone tower here and there. We try to engage in the economy of scale in this continue value-add that those phased communities provide while focusing around development activity.
“We didn’t let go of our income-producing aspirations. We also own about 7.5 million square feet, mostly industrial and office, the bulk of it, about 6.5 million square feet, in the U.S. in 11 major markets.”
The mix of condos and rental apartments
Initially, Elad Canada owned thousands of multiresidential rental units, which were sold over the years and excess land was converted into construction of those mixed-use communities. Today, those communities are primarily comprised of condos, though a significant amount of rental remains.
For example, Lazer said Emerald City, the 35-acre master-planned community in North York, contains about 3,000 condo units and a few hundred rental units. It was recently completed.
“We see the value of both asset types in providing solutions for both. To have a fulsome community, a wholesome community, you have to consider both elements,” he said.
Lazer said the company has between 7,500 to 8,000 units in various stages of development and almost seven million square feet of construction in the pipeline including what is being built and being proposed.
Almadev is currently developing Galleria on the Park, a master-planned community that will transform a 1970s-era shopping centre in Toronto into a vibrant mixed-use community that includes a 95,000-square-foot community centre and nearly eight-acre park.
Located at Dufferin and Dupont, it will have 2,746 residential units with about 150 affordable rental units, including the Wallace Emerson Community Centre, an aquatic centre, a childcare centre, a gym with a running track, a community kitchen, eight-acre park amenities with BMX/skateboard park, a multi-purpose court with basketball hoops, splash pad and a children’s garden.
The project is expected to complete by December 2024.
Lansing Square is another big project at Sheppard and Victoria Park with 706 condo units and 80 affordable rental units, which is scheduled to start construction as early as next year.
Lazer said the company also has active construction in Montreal of two rental buildings comprised of about 340 units.
The company also recently acquired a well-connected 11.6-acre site in Vaughan, adjacent to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. That project is in the design stage.
“We haven’t yet obtained the density and the zoning there, but we’re hopeful it’s going to be a very significant site with thousands of units as well,” he said.
Almadev and the condo market
“In the last little while, we have seen some softening in sales but I would still say that condominiums are still coming. There are launches. There are sales. It may take a bit more time to sell but the demand is still there,” said Lazer.
“When you look at the market in Toronto and the GTA as a whole, even Ontario, you have to look at the macro, and the macro is, so long as this great country will require a constant flow of immigration to support GDP growth, the demand would always seem to exceed the supply, especially when we see all across that certain measures are made to reduce the supply in a way making things a bit more difficult in various jurisdictions.” he explained.
“As long as that demand increases, this is above the supply and we can’t even meet the demand on a regular year let alone have sufficient supply to cover for the backlog of delays of gaps between supply and demand from prior years. There’s a big shortage of housing in Ontario.”
Even with rising interest rates, Lazer said he still sees demand for housing.
Real estate is a cycle; there are periods when it goes up continuously and periods when it slides. However, investment in real estate, he said, is probably still the most stable, safest route of investment you can find.
“If you want to find a market where you have a very good chance of stable, over-inflation return, it’s still your best bet.”