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True North, George Partners, Terrain Dev. merge, form Kadus Group

Toronto- and Ottawa-based firm seeks national profile in real estate, development services sector

The founding partners of Kadus Group, from left Justin George, Jennifer Murray and Andrew Thomson. (Courtesy Kadus Group)
The founding partners of Kadus Group, from left: Justin George, Jennifer Murray and Andrew Thomson. (Courtesy Kadus Group)

It may be the new kid on the block, but Kadus Group already boasts 75 years of experience in Canada’s real estate development scene and $400 million in projects on the go.

That is not simply beginner’s luck. That’s because Kadus was recently created through the merger of three veteran industry players: Toronto-based True North Group and two Ottawa firms, George Partners and Terrain Development Consulting. 

“Each of (Kadus Group’s) three founding partners essentially rolled in their experience, time and commitment to set up a brand new entity,” says Justin George, managing partner at Kadus Group.

Filling out the trio of key leadership roles at Kadus are Andrew Thomson as senior partner of real estate advisory and Jennifer Murray as partner in charge of planning and feasibility.

All three executives have been in the real estate industry for decades. George and Murray each have more than 20 years in the industry, while Thomson is 35 years into his career in the sector.

Thomson founded True North, whose projects included the rollout of 180 Home Depot stores across Canada.

Murray has deep experience in non-profit and public sector projects such as the National Holocaust Museum in Ottawa plus numerous private sector residential initiatives for Minto Developments.

George was most recently head of development at Colonnade BridgePort, the largest privately owned property manager in the National Capital Region. He also sits on the government affairs committee at BOMA Ottawa and on an industry steering committee at the City of Ottawa.

George says they want to carve a fresh path in the marketplace by focusing on innovative technology and “purpose-driven” projects. 

Innovation through technology 

Operating out of offices in Ottawa and Toronto, Kadus will provide a range of concept-to-completion services for the development sector including site acquisition, feasibility analysis, financial modelling, development management, investment management and asset management. 

Why start a brand new company at a time when the industry faces so many challenges, from inflation and rising interest rates to high costs and a dearth of capital?

Kadus hopes to spot opportunities arising out of the current environment. Murray says the pandemic sparked sweeping changes that will ultimately reinvent and revitalize the entire sector.

“It’s a time where there’s a lot of questions in the industry about what to do,” Murray acknowledges, “but it’s also a time that feels like transformational change.

"You sort of realize that things have been done a certain way for a long time and people get really entrenched. Then the pandemic was a big disruptor. It really is causing everyone to have to rethink how they’re doing things and what they’ve been doing.”

Technology is a big part of the Kadus approach to embracing change and even spearheading it.

The firm’s Kadus360 incubator scouts for promising new proptechs, helps startups test their capabilities, then gives Kadus clients access to use the tech tools within their own business operations. 

The incubator has partnerships with Tuuli (a digital program that estimates the environmental impact of a project’s materials and design before shovels ever hit the ground) and BuyProperly (an online platform where investors can directly buy an ownership stake in individual buildings for as little as $500). 

“When you look at fintech and what that did to the financial services industry, we think we’re on the cusp of something similar for real estate. So we’re going all-in on (technology),” says George. “It’s a bit of a differentiator for us.”

Purpose and community

Another potential differentiator, according to George, is the type of projects Kadus will take on. 

In his LinkedIn profile, George says the new company will focus on “sustainable and community-oriented projects.”

Elaborating in an interview, he says Kadus will try to devote 50 per cent of its activities to charitable or community projects “with a purpose element,” such as affordable housing, health-care facilities or subsidized seniors’ housing. The other 50 per cent of Kadus’s activities will involve private sector real estate clients. 

“If (some developers) have ambitions that are purpose-driven, rooted in being a good community citizen, making a difference, doing the right things for the right reasons, then we can use our experience to help them get there,” George says. 

As for the $400 million in projects already on Kadus’s dance card, George says they include: 

  • advising a national private landowner disposing of more than 1,100 properties on over 100 acres of land holdings across Canada;
  • a feasibility study on adding 240 new beds to an existing subsidized long-term care facility;
  • exploring options with Ottawa Community Housing for a potential 50-acre non-profit development; and
  • an affordable housing project featuring 300 high-rise units and a large park component.

Kadus has eight employees and hopes to increase its head count with future hires in “Ontario as well as out West,” says George.

“We’re currently in discussions with a number of individuals to expand into the Calgary market,” he says, with the firm also eyeing the U.S. somewhere down the line.

“The aspiration in the future is to expand into the United States,” says George, “but first we want to make sure we’ve got a good, strong foundation (in Canada) and that our clients are happy.”



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