CBRE Victoria is Expanding Into a New Office for a New Era

May 8, 2023 3 Minute Read

Victoria Waterfront at night

Chris Rust remembers when he became CBRE’s sole representative in Victoria.

It was 2008, and Rust, fairly new to the commercial real estate business at the time, felt there was a need for another commercial brokerage firm in Victoria, which had been dominated by Colliers, with J.J. Barnicke taking some of the action.

So he approached CBRE’s then Vancouver Managing Director (and future President and CEO) Mark Renzoni with a proposal, and the two decided Rust would launch an outpost on Vancouver Island, working out of a small shared office space at 1026 Fort Street in downtown Victoria.

Meanwhile, Ross Marshall had been keeping a keen eye on his hometown from Vancouver, where he was working as a broker at the time, and he knew the potential Victoria held for commercial real estate investors. “I also saw how under-serviced the market was.”

In 2011 Marshall made the move over to Victoria, landing a job with DTZ Barnicke. “I didn’t want to work with Colliers or Chris,” says Marshall with a grin. “I wanted to compete against them.”

Rust and Marshall quickly realized they were kindred spirits, both working around the clock to get deals done. They agreed to join forces, with Marshall renting space in the same premises as Rust, “along with a bunch of other entrepreneurs, like luxury car brokers and financial advisors,” says Marshall. “We didn’t have our own office.”

Slowly but surely, however, CBRE’s modest Victoria operation began to grow, and soon the founding duo had hired an assistant and added some junior brokers. “And before we knew it we had taken up the whole office space at 1026 Fort Street, and pushed everyone else out,” says Marshall.

Chris Rust and Ross Marshall
Chris Rust and Ross Marshall

New Digs

Fast forward to today, and with CBRE Victoria having had several of its best years to date, and growing the team to 12 people, “it’s great to be close and collaborative, but we’re now tripping over each other,” says Marshall. “Relocating means a new exciting chapter for CBRE, our employees and our clients.

CBRE Victoria’s new home will be at The Atrium at 800 Yates Street, a seven-storey, LEED Gold building owned by local landlord Jawl Properties. The lease has been signed and the hope is to be in the new space by late fall 2023.

The office will be built-out in true CBRE fashion with an open-plan concept, inspiring collaboration space, the latest technology and finishes that mirror Vancouver Island’s awe-inspiring beauty.

For Jason Kiselbach, SVP & Managing Director for CBRE in British Columbia, the move to The Atrium signals much more than more square footage.

“This new space represents CBRE’s continued belief in Victoria and Vancouver Island,” he says. “It also reflects our intention to offer the next generation of real estate services and support for our clients on Vancouver Island  where there is so much opportunity.”

The space will also offer the design and amenities that reflect the values of a modern workforce. This includes the building's environmental and wellness features and a variety of workspaces to accommodate different needs.

The new office will better support the growing CBRE Victoria team and provide runway for additional expansion in the market, with increased geographic and asset-class coverage.

“We could have grown our team faster or earlier,” says Rust, “but we wanted quality over quantity. We wanted the right people in place and the right opportunity to come along, and that’s what’s happened ahead of our move to The Atrium.

“All the pieces have aligned nicely and we’re building on that momentum.”

Outhustling the Competition

When Rust and Marshall were first building the CBRE business on Vancouver Island, they were taking on whatever listings they could in order to get established, from investment sales to leasing transactions.

“It was obvious to our clients and vendors and purchasers that we were willing to outwork everyone else,” says Marshall. “Our lights were on earlier and stayed on later. In the early days Chris and I were in the office by 6:00 am and often didn’t leave till after 6pm. Every day, not just some. We plain outworked our competition.”

“That’s how we became partners,” adds Rust. “That shared mentality produced results and won us the respect of our clients. It’s the backbone of what we continue to build that differentiates us from the competition.” 

Rust and Marshall might have been running a small operation, but they had the might of CBRE’s Global platform on their side, giving them an advantage straightaway. “We were a boutique shop with the world’s biggest firm behind us,” Marshall says.

The two travelled a lot early on, heading to Vancouver and Toronto to meet face to face with clients “who weren’t used to seeing people from Victoria,” says Marshall. “Ten years later, Victoria is more on the radar than ever and I hope we’ve played a small part in that.”

Mount Washington
Mount Washington Alpine Resort

Putting Victoria on the Map

Rust and Marshall worked to put Victoria on the map for institutional and private buyers across North America. “I think we’ve played a huge part in drawing attention to this market with some landmark deals,” says Marshall.

In 2015, for example, he and Rust brokered the sale of Mount Washington Alpine Resort near Courtenay, B.C., to U.S.- based Pacific Group Resorts.

In 2018 Marshall assembled several blocks in downtown Victoria’s Harris Green neighbourhood, which Starlight Investments acquired and now plans a three-phase development with 100,000 sq. ft. of commercial and retail space and 1,500-plus residential suites.

Then in 2021 Rust and Marshall brokered the sale of an eight-building, 500-unit rental apartment portfolio, also to Starlight Investments, Canada’s largest residential landlord.

“Once you bring a big player like that to the market, the small and mid-sized guys follow,” Marshall says. “They’re all wondering, ‘What are we missing? The big guys are in, we should follow.’”

“The fundamentals were always strong in Victoria,” Rust says, “but it took a while for the momentum to build and people to realize there’s huge potential here.”

“There’s better yield on investments and less competition than in Vancouver,” he adds. “We don’t see the lows the other markets see – we might not see the booms either, but it continues to perform very well.

“And now there’s an influx of people moving in from out of the province and country. They see that something is happening here.”

With their new headquarters opening this fall – and a north island expansion on the horizon – Marshall, Rust and their deepening bench of talent will be well equipped to help connect all those people with the right real estate opportunities across Vancouver Island.

“I can’t wait to see what we can achieve with our clients over the next decade,” Rust says.

Harris Green Village
The Harris Green neighbourhood development

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