Jon Ramscar has worked in two countries, been employed twice by JLL and has just returned to CBRE for a second time as its new executive vice-president and managing director of the company’s Toronto downtown office.
“I’ve worked across the full spectrum of commercial real estate, including office leasing, investment valuation, office management, capital raising and investment brokerage, so there’s not really a side of the business I haven’t touched on,” said the British-born Ramscar, who succeeds Werner Dietl — who replaced Mark Renzoni as president and chief executive officer of CBRE Canada.
Ramscar earned a joint bachelors degree in geography and urban planning at the University of Birmingham and a master’s degree in real estate at the University of Reading between 2000 and 2006. In between, he spent a gap year in Canada and developed “huge aspirations” to move to the country for its lifestyle, great outdoors and opportunities in the real estate field.
Ramscar began his real estate career in the United Kingdom as a chartered surveyor at JLL in 2006 and moved on to Goodman to work in funds management in 2009.
Ramscar moves to Vancouver
Ramscar’s Canadian dream came true when he became financial analysis director in CBRE’s Vancouver office in January 2011.
“That was a pretty cool experience for me because I witnessed firsthand the CBRE legacy in the Canadian market,” said Ramscar.
“Coming from the U.K., where it’s very regulated, I came into an operation in Canada that, although it was part of a global company, it had a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a unique structure because it had been growing organically over a long period. There was a tight-knit culture across the markets in Canada.”
Ramscar stayed in Vancouver but returned to JLL as senior VP of capital markets in 2014. He was promoted to executive VP of capital markets last January. During that time, he spent a lot of time travelling around the world, as well as to Toronto, to promote investment in Canada.
Ramscar’s return to CBRE
Ramscar assumed his new role with the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm at the beginning of this year.
“It’s been a journey, but a very natural one, since everything has sort of been tied together,” said Ramscar. “It’s involved me coming back to CBRE, but at a different stage of the market, and becoming part of an industry leader in Canada and a leading global city in Toronto.”
Ramscar said he looks forward to building on what Dietl achieved in Toronto, and to working with him now that he’s the head of the Canadian operation. CBRE employs more than 2,000 people in 22 locations from coast to coast.
Ramscar’s goals include integrating Toronto more closely into CBRE’s global network, strengthening the foundation of collaboration with CBRE teams across Canada, and emphasizing personal and professional development for employees.
“A big part of being an executive and being a leader is being able to listen,” said Ramscar. “I care about people, and it’s important for me to look after our brokers as well as our clients.”
Surveying the Toronto office market
In looking at the office market in his new city, Ramscar thinks prevalent trends from 2018 — including the increasing impact of technology companies and co-working spaces — will continue this year.
“Toronto and Canada are well-placed on the global stage as safe havens, so we’re very attractive right now,” said Ramscar. “As a city, we need to think bigger.
“We’re not just operating in the Canadian landscape, we’re part of the global city framework as well. I’m here to help as much on the world stage as I am across Canada.”
Of the 7.3 million square feet of downtown Toronto office space under construction as of December, 62.3 per cent is pre-leased. This includes:
* Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan increasing its footprint from 260,000 square feet to 341,000 square feet in Cadillac Fairview’s 46-storey tower at 160 Front St. W., which is expected to be completed by 2022;
* and LinkedIn committing to 85,000 square feet in Cadillac Fairview’s 16 York, which is on track for a 2020 completion.
Toronto has 24M sq. ft. in development pipeline
Ramscar said there’s another 24 million square feet planned for development which could launch earlier than anticipated.
“We’re seeing a lot of large mega-deal requirements coming through that could lead to large projects moving forward.”
While there’s room to add more office space in downtown Toronto, Ramscar believes that rapidly increasing rents and a vacancy rate hovering at a record low 2.7 per cent could prompt some companies to move to the suburbs for more affordable product.