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Real Estate Bisnow
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November 15, 2012  
Timbercreek LTile3
Record Land Deal

Metrus Development has agreed to pay Helmhorst Investments $175M for a 191 acres northwest of Bathurst and Major Mackenzie in Vaughan. (And to think, just 200 years ago they could've owned all that land for the price of a flag.)
“In total dollar terms, it’s the largest ever land transaction, ICI or residential, in the GTA,” according to RealNet Canada. It’s the third GTA development site transaction worth more than $142M this year. But unlike Pinnacle’s 7 Yonge deal in July and Camrost-Felcorp’s March purchase of 21 Avenue Rd, Metrus’s acquisition, inked last Thursday, is for low-densities. With only 142 developable acres, RealNet calculates the adjusted per-acre price at $1.2M, nearly double the $631,000 year-to-date average for GTA low-density sites. (Oh, and Canada’s biggest ever land deal was in 1670, when Charles II granted the Hudson’s Bay Co. 7.8M square km. You can read our coverage of that old deal here.)

Unprecedent Vacancy in North Yonge
John Haire thought he’d seen it all over four decades in the suburban GTA office business, but 4.9% vacancy rates and virtually no new space under construction? “It’s unprecedented,” the CBRE SVP says. Tenants are squeezing more into their space and though 800k SF of leases will expire in the next 36 months, John says that won’t go far. “Expanding firms lack options.” A handful of sites have been identified for new towers, and developers are likely just waiting on lead tenants. “It also looks like competition from residential condos for sites will ease, and that might spur office investment.”

Menkes Cleared In Bird Deaths
Yesterday, a provincial court dismissed a lawsuit brought by two environmental groups, Ecojustice and Ontario Nature, claiming Menkes Developments is responsible for deaths and injuries to birds that collided with Consilium Place towers in recent years. The groups argued that reflective glass on the buildings at McCowan Road and the 401 fools birds into thinking they could fly through. Menkes, which sold Consilium Place this summer, worked in recent years with a group called the Fatal Light Awareness Program to install a film on the glass that has significantly reduced collisions. The environmental groups expressed disappointment at the decision. Cadillac Fairview faces a similar suit involving the Yonge Corporate Centre.

Key Changes At Dundee’s RE Offices
It’s been a huge year for Dundee’s Brad Cutsey. His research skills earned him Thomson Reuters’ Starmine analyst award as Canada’s top stock picker. Now he’s been tapped to replace Onorio Lucchese as managing director for RE investment banking at Dundee Capital Markets. (Onorio has taken a similar gig with BMO Capital Markets.) “It’s exciting, but I had to think about it a bit. It’s a big change, having been doing research for 15 years.” Brad has provided Bisnow readers with quarterly REIT sector checkups, as well as a few picks. (Though he refuses to give us any tips on the ponies. C'mon, we just need one trifecta and we're outta the game.) The pressure is now on Brad’s replacement, Frederic Blondeau, distinguished himself while based in Montreal.

The Dirt On Rising Development Costs
The Eglinton LRT tunnels will displace enough soil to create a 580-metre-tall column that would fill the Air Canada Centre rink. But that’s a tiny fraction of the 25M cubic metres of construction soil excavated annually in Ontario, and a new RCCAO report concludes much of it ends up in landfill unnecessarily, driving up development costs and harming the environment. “Soil can be a valuable, reusable resource,” says Andy Manahan, the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance’s ED. But current regulations that treat nearly all of it as if it were contaminated may add 15% to the costs of private developments and public infrastructure. The report at rccao.com presents suggestions for new “best management practices,” including a soil-matching system that has proved successful in the UK. (So forget what your moms said people: play in the mud!)
Those Movember moustaches must be getting good. Show other Bisnow readers the best in your office by emailing stephen.wickens@bisnow.com.
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