CBRE Halifax Celebrates 20 Years
March 1, 2022 3 Minute Read
When CBRE held its Atlantic Market Outlook Breakfast this past November, it was the company’s first live event in Canada since the start of the pandemic.
Hundreds from across the Atlantic Region business community eagerly descended on the Halifax Convention Centre to hear from CBRE and local experts—an impressive show of strength and confidence in a region that has weathered the storms of the last two years remarkably well, with its office and retail markets remaining relatively stable and its industrial market thriving alongside the multifamily sector.
And as CBRE celebrates the 20th anniversary of the launch of its Atlantic Canada headquarters in Halifax, the well-attended 2021 Market Outlook event was a particular source of pride for Bob Mussett, who co-founded the office with Chris Carter back in 2002. “It has been our hallmark,” Mussett says. “We started doing it in our second year and have been doing it for the past 18. We own that space here now. It is the market-leading event for real estate in Atlantic Canada and it’s one of the best things we ever did.”
Chris Carter, Andrew Cranmer and Bob Mussett in 2012.
CBRE was not a known entity to Halifax investors when Mussett and Carter launched the Atlantic Canada outpost following several years of discussions with then CBRE Canada president and CEO Blake Hutcheson, who wanted the company to establish a true coast to coast presence.
Before the deal was done, though, Mussett and Carter, who’d been working for Oxford Properties, first had to be vetted by Andrew Wright, then one of CBRE’s Senior Managing Directors. Hutcheson dispatched Wright to Halifax to suss out the pair, which amounted to beers at a local watering hole, The Thirsty Duck. “We had a good chat and I guess he went back and gave us the thumbs up,” Mussett recalls. “Then Blake knew we were okay.”
They hung out their shingle at a small office at 1801 Hollis Street, opening with a skeleton crew of just five employees. While it may have been a humbly sized team to start, it was loaded with talent, and Hutcheson had great faith in Mussett and Carter’s prospects for growing the operation in Atlantic Canada. “He said he envisioned this being a $10-million business,” recalls Carter. “I had trouble believing it early on—we did something like $600,000 in our first year—but it came to pass. We’ve hit that threshold and have actually gone beyond it now.”
CBRE Halifax has become a respected brokerage in the region, playing a part in most of the landmark transactions over the years. “We haven’t done all the major deals in Atlantic Canada,” says Mussett, “but we’ve certainly done most of them which only speaks to the trust of our clients and strong relationships in this market.”
Few deals were more major than the 2004 sale of the 500-acre Countryview Drive site in Dartmouth to North American Development Group. The site went on to become Dartmouth Crossing, the largest power centre in the region, at over 1.7 million sq. ft.
“That was something we were always proud of,” says Mussett. “It was just asphalt and wilderness when we started, but we put together the model for that development and (North American CEO) Glenn Munro had the vision when he came to town to see the potential and it’s been a huge success for them.”
A year later came the sale of the Marriott Waterfront Hotel, the first million-dollar month for the Atlantic Canada commercial real estate market, according to Mussett.
In 2020, CBRE Halifax — in collaboration with David Montressor and the National Apartment Group — brokered the sale of a 1,503-unit multifamily portfolio from BCIMC to CapREIT, the largest-ever apartment transaction in Atlantic Canada.
On the office leasing side, CBRE Halifax has helped IBM grow from 18,000 sq. ft. to 87,000 sq. ft. at Westway Campus; and TD Insurance's 86,253 sq. ft. lease at Baywest Centre kicked off construction of a 100,000 sq. ft. expansion above a former Hudson's Bay store.
In the industrial market, CBRE assisted Walmart with its first distribution centre in Atlantic Canada, in Moncton, On the retail side, CBRE represented Ikea in securing their first site in Atlantic Canada: a 330,000 sq. ft. building that opened in 2017. And the local Debt & Structured Finance team represented Southwest Properties in securing new refinancing terms on 18 multifamily assets in Halifax.
CBRE Halifax expanded quickly in its early days and after four years relocated to more spacious digs at its current location at 5855 Spring Garden Road.
And the office’s lines of business have expanded along the way, too, to now include Advisory & Transaction Services, Debt & Structured Finance, Project Management and Valuation & Appraisal. “The addition of new business lines has been and will continue to be a key piece of our growth in the region,” says Atlantic Canada Managing Director Andrew Bergen, to whom Mussett passed the torch in 2020.
CBRE’s Atlantic Canada presence has expanded beyond Halifax in recent years, as well, with new satellite offices being established in St. John’s and Fredericton. “The deals aren’t as big in those markets, but the opportunity is there,” notes Carter “We also have really good people on the ground doing great work.”
Mussett and his team faced challenges selling outside investors on why Halifax would be a good market to consider. “But that’s changed dramatically,” he says. “More and more institutional investors are looking at Halifax as a location that’s reliable and steady. We always had to fight that small market perception and lack of understanding in other parts of the country, but it’s been very different today than it was 20 years ago.”
It’s been a wildly successful two decades for CBRE Halifax, and Mussett figures there’s still room for growth in the years to come. “Andrew has got a super team to run the office and he’s made some great additions, and we’re seeing the growth of the collaboration between different strengths in our office and how that can unlock a lot of opportunities for both our clients and us. That’s going to ramp up on a national basis, unlocking collaborative opportunities not just in Atlantic Canada but everywhere.
“We’ve got lots of runway ahead. Thank you to our clients for 20 amazing years. Here’s to 20 more!”
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