A major Winnipeg real estate asset management company is expanding outside the province for the first time, aiming for a future in the land of living skies: Saskatchewan.
MMI Asset Management President and CEO Martin McGarry said while investment opportunities in Manitoba continue to exist, our closest western neighbor is ripe for the picking when it comes to industrial markets. and offices, which make up the bulk of MMI’s million-square-foot portfolio here. .
âThere was a recent article in the Western investor who called him a Saskaboom,â McGarry said in a phone call with the Free press. The article referred to a highly competitive suburban office market in Saskatoon, with significant availability for investment in the city’s central office sector, where “double-digit vacancies” have created opportunities, which have partly stimulated by the instability inherent in the pandemic.
“Whenever there’s market upheaval, there’s always an opportunity to acquire and redevelop, but probably not to build something new,” said McGarry, who also serves as CEO of Cushman & Wakefield, and said the asset company is considering Saskatchewan for a while.
He got to the point where it felt right, he said. Since its inception in 2009, MMI, a sister company to the Cushman-Wakefield Real Estate Group, has focused on bringing groups of investors together to purchase AAA commercial real estate and then providing professional asset management. At that time, McGarry said there were no private equity players in town doing just that.
In the decade since, MMI has raised $57 million in capital from 150 investors across the country, with more than $200 million in assets under his management, spread across 17 projects. Among its largest holdings is the Steele Business Park, a three-phase, 17-acre industrial development in Centreport Canada’s Inner Harbor, announced in fall 2020 with an estimated capital investment of $46 million.
Building on its local track record, MMI has hired business developer Mike Brown, who the company says has nearly 20 years of asset acquisition and management experience, as well as knowledge of Saskatchewan, which he called in a statement “the epicenter of growth and development right now”. .”
For McGarry, the neighboring province presented a stable option through which MMI could diversify its own holdings, particularly on the industrial side â a segment that has maintained strong momentum in Manitoba and Saskatchewan throughout the pandemic.
According to Collier’s Canada’s most recent National Market Snapshot, Winnipeg’s industrial market has enjoyed strong demand, with three transactions over 100,000 square feet in the last quarter. Multiple offers have taken place on rental transactions, which Collier’s says is a local rarity. Meanwhile, quality existing properties are trading at higher rates as owners view their value as comparable to new buildings.
Local industrial vacancy, according to Collier’s, is down this quarter to 2.3%. Meanwhile, average asking rents for local industrial properties are hitting $8.95 per square foot, marking a strong upward trend. Saskatoon’s industrial market is in a similar position, with a vacancy rate of 2.1% and higher net rent at $11.82, although it has been trending lower over the past three quarters. In Regina, industrial vacancy and asking rents have both declined over the past year.
In McGarry’s estimation, while Winnipeg is still a bastion of opportunity, Saskatchewan is poised for growth. “He’s firing on all cylinders,” he said.
With about 100 employees in Winnipeg, McGarry estimates that MMI will have 20 in Saskatchewan within three to five years.