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Informa creates new Southwestern Ontario Real Estate Forum

Informa Canada executive director of real estate Roelie van Dijk.
Informa Canada executive director of real estate Roelie van Dijk. 

It’s an idea that had been discussed for several years; now Informa Canada’s first Southwestern Ontario Real Estate Forum is scheduled for the Crowne Plaza Kitchener-Waterloo on May 10.

“Interest from investors, developers and tenants from outside of the region grew exponentially in the last few years,” Informa Canada executive director of real estate Roelie van Dijk told RENX.

He cited a dynamic and growing region as well as high costs and low land availability in the Greater Toronto Area forcing people to look outward to a wider area to meet their commercial real estate needs.

Skyline Group of Companies co-founder and chief executive officer Jason Castellan, who will chair the forum, said his Guelph-based company used to try to avoid the competition found in larger markets. More recently, however, southwestern Ontario has become hot and acquiring new properties has become more difficult.

While the region's industrial real estate market continues to hum along, multiresidential activity has slowed due to higher interest rates.

Though the supply of affordable housing isn’t keeping up with the number of new immigrants to Canada, Castellan said an advantage many southwestern Ontario municipalities have over Toronto is that development approvals can generally be obtained much faster.

On the negative side, some communities that have traditionally experienced slow growth lack the infrastructure, ability to provide water and services, and public transit that are needed or desired to accommodate more people and businesses.

Forum’s areas of coverage

As with other Informa Canada events across the country, the Southwestern Ontario Real Estate Forum will offer insights into market trends, issues, strategies and opportunities.

The forums are designed for real estate executives, brokers, developers, investors, asset managers and other professionals active in the acquisition, leasing, financing, management and marketing of office, industrial, retail and multiresidential real estate. 

The program will examine markets across southwestern Ontario, including Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Hamilton, London, Windsor and more. 

Castellan told RENX companies are approaching Skyline because their businesses are looking to grow in these cities but can’t find a sufficient number of large commercial buildings or enough housing for their employees.

Discussions will focus on what's facilitating growth in the region’s real estate market and how it’s performing from a leasing, investment and development point of view. 

“The idea is to cover the perspective of how southwestern Ontario markets are unique in their own nature,” Neha Marpakwar, Informa Canada head of product process and delivery for real estate, told RENX.

“We will talk about the planning priorities of the cities of southwestern Ontario, their preparedness, vision and development moving forward.”

An advisory board of 20 curated the agenda, which will cover such topic as: tenant and landlord real estate strategies; the continuation of development activity; issues and solutions related to housing affordability; infrastructure and public transit; the future of work environments; and environmental, social and governance investment.

There will also be case studies looking at businesses and industries that have impacted southwestern Ontario.

Speakers at the forum

Aside from Castellan, confirmed speakers include:

Castellan said many private individuals, families and companies help drive the southwestern Ontario commercial real estate market and many were reluctant to become panelists for this first regional forum.

“They've just operated under the radar and they see no benefit to sharing and bringing competition into markets, but that's just part of the beast as it evolves and grows out here.”

Similar issues have been encountered for past forums in the Prairie provinces and Atlantic Canada, according to van Dijk, who said they lessen with time.

“It starts to thaw when they come to some of the events and they enjoy the networking and realize that 30 per cent of the people are from outside of the region that the event is in and you can broaden your network and maybe do some JVs and broaden your capital pool,” van Dijk observed.

Future growth is expected

A sellout audience of 350 is expected at the forum.

“I think this is going to really be a catalyst to further investments and further development in these markets,” said Castellan. 

“It's a really great opportunity to shine a light on a market that I think has lots of room to grow, but it's going to experience growing pains doing it.” 

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