Richard Crenian has a retail strategy he believes in so the chief executive officer of ReDev Properties is in the mood to buy. Shopping malls. Several malls, if he can acquire them.
“We’ve got a 10-year game plan, and our game plan is specifically this; we want to do more development, mainly in the retail sector,” Crenian told RENX during an interview. “I’m just looking for good deals right now.”
After selling a couple of properties in recent months, ReDev has capital in its coffers and he has a specific plan of what to do with it.
“The money we’re going to use to pay back some of our joint venture partners; our investors that we accumulated over the years, and so that will be No. 1: make sure they get a great return,” he said.
The other part of his plan involves those acquisitions.
“We’re looking at buying either more land or we’re looking at getting another mall, or two malls, or three malls right now. We’ve got offers out on three malls so we’re waiting to hear back,” he said, confirming all three are located in Alberta — home to the majority of ReDev’s holdings.
Portfolio based in Alberta, Ontario
ReDev is a real estate investment asset manager with a portfolio of about 25 small and mid-sized shopping centres in Alberta and Ontario.
Like most stakeholders in retail real estate, Crenian ponders the effects of Amazon’s bullish expansion of online retail. Of course, he’s also noticing the retreat of department stores such as Sears and the fading of the big-box business model.
As a result, Crenian has been implementing a strategy to ecommerce-proof as much of the tenant mix in ReDev’s properties as he can. A review of ReDev’s online portfolio reveals mostly drive-up shopping centres with drug stores, restaurants, grocery stores, banks and tire shops.
He said his investment and leasing philosophy is simple: he likes restaurants, wellness shops, fast food and pharmacies. “Whatever you can’t get on the internet, you are coming to my place to (get) it.”
Crenian says the strategy is working.
“If you need your tires changed, where are you going to go? You can’t do it online,” said Crenian. “My goal is to be everything that I cannot do online. I am more interested in filling (my shopping centres) with those non-online tenants.”
Sold two Edmonton shopping centres
ReDev is fresh off a busy third quarter in which the Toronto-based company sold the Daly Grove Medical Centre in Edmonton, a 33,000-square-foot of rental retail and office space it purchased in 2007. Its major tenants include a KFC, a convenient store and a pharmacy.
It also closed the deal on the sale of Whitemud Crossing, also in Edmonton. ReDev had bought the 93,300-sq.-ft. shopping centre 12 years ago. It has 34 local and national tenants.
“With its high-traffic location, it was the right time to sell the plaza and provide the maximum return to our partners,” Crenian said. “We hope to complete a similar deal on another property during the fourth quarter.”
ReDev has also been busy refinancing many of its plazas at rates lower than maturing mortgages. In a press release, the asset manager framed the move as a “springboard towards acquiring new plazas and future development deals during the rest of 2017 and into 2018.”
Crenian “comfortable with Alberta”
ReDev partners with high-net worth individuals, family offices and institutions on joint venture opportunities, and assists developers with acquisitions, equity, financing and business expertise. Since 1981, Crenian and ReDev Properties have developed, owned and managed commercial real estate worth more than $2 billion.
Crenian grew up in Swift Current, Sask. He said many of his peers as young men joined a mass migration to Alberta and took up roles in the Alberta real estate industry. He went, too.
“As a result, I feel like Alberta is my home as well,” he said, partially explaining ReDev’s focus in the province though the company is now based in Toronto. “I’m very comfortable with Alberta.
“I’ve seen Alberta boom, bust, boom, bust, boom, bust.”
He said the province is less dependent on oil than most think. (Oil, gas and mining in Alberta now accounts for about 16 per cent of its GDP, according to the provincial government. That’s down from 24 per cent less than five years ago.)
“They do have tech industry that is very exciting. I know they have tried for years and years since the 1980s to get off their reliance on oil,” he said. “Commercially, I’m not worried at all about Alberta.”
Want to read more about Richard Crenian and his views on CRE and the retail sector? Visit his The Long View column on RENX.