Eastern Promise: Jennings Real Estate Moves to Atlantic Canada with Halifax Acquisition

A thriving real estate management firm in Ottawa has chosen one of Canada’s fastest-growing cities for its first acquisition outside the National Capital Region.

Jennings Real Estate — which made headlines last summer when it bought the 12-story Gillin Building at 141 W. Laurier Ave — closed last month the purchase of a 12,000-square-foot industrial complex in the Halifax suburb of Dartmouth.

Jennings CEO Ken Jennings declined to reveal how much his company paid for the two-acre site, calling the deal a “medium-sized” acquisition for the company.

Jennings Real Estate closed a deal this week to purchase this property at 2396 St. Joseph Blvd. which is home to a Giant Tiger store. Photo courtesy of Jennings Real Estate.

He said he and his brother Christian, who own the four-year-old company, have been scouting the Halifax region “for a few years” in search of properties, drawn by the Nova Scotia capital’s healthy growth trajectory and strong government sector. which acts as a “stabilizing influence” on the local economy.

“This particular property became available and it just checked all the boxes,” Jennings said, adding that the deal gives his company a foothold in Atlantic Canada’s largest city and provides a “springboard to other opportunities.” search the area.”

According to the most recent census, Halifax was home to Canada’s fastest-growing downtown area between 2016 and 2021, when the city’s core population grew by more than 26 percent. The population of the Halifax metropolitan area, of which Dartmouth is a part, grew by 9.1 percent over the same period, a percentage eclipsed only by Kelowna, BC and Jennings’ home of Ottawa.

“We love the city. There are a lot of similarities with Ottawa.”

Meanwhile, the industrial real estate availability rate in the Halifax region plunged to a record low of 1.9 percent in the first quarter of 2022, CBRE said. Average net rent demand rose 3.5 percent year-on-year, a rate not seen since before the pandemic as demand for industrial space in the region continued to outpace supply.

“It’s a really growing city, (with) a lot of development in the center and also on the periphery,” said Jennings. “We love the city. There are many similarities with Ottawa.”

The company has also secured a long-term tenant, industrial products manufacturer IPEX Group, to occupy the entire building.

Jennings said signing IPEX, which will also handle some of the property management duties, will provide the company with a steady stream of rental income as it appears to be making its mark in the Halifax area.

“We are very excited about the property and the tenant,” he added.

The company is also expanding its interests in its hometown. Jennings signed a deal this week to purchase an industrial property at 2396 St. Joseph Blvd. in Orléans, where a Giant Tiger store is currently located.

Jennings said the renovation of the Gillin building is going smoothly. He said the lobby makeover of the Class A office tower is on track to be completed by the end of the month and modernizations of the common areas on other floors are continuing.

“The work has gone according to plan, even with all the fits and starts with the downtown protests and supply chain issues from COVID,” Jennings said. “We’ve been pretty much on track and we couldn’t be happier with the reno.”

Taking into account the acquisitions of Dartmouth and Orléans, the company now has 13 buildings totaling more than 450,000 square meters in its management and ownership portfolio, including several industrial properties in Nepean and Kanata and office buildings on Hunt Club and Walkley roads.

Jennings said more Ottawa-property acquisitions are in the works, and a few more deals are expected to close later this quarter. He said the company is “bullish” on the capital’s office and industrial sectors, noting that vacancy rates have been on a downward trend in both segments lately.

“Things are starting to get back to normal,” he said. “We are generally optimistic about the Ottawa market. If we think we can add value to the building… we are certainly open to looking at all sectors of the market.”

Still, the Bank of Canada raised its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point to one percent last month in a bid to curb rising inflation and signal that it could raise interest rates by a similar amount in June. to be a “little cautious” when it comes to predicting where the market will go.

“It’s harder to forecast,” he said. “Once (rates) stabilize in some way, I think it will be a benefit for everyone.”

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