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Hudson's Bay Co. Launches Real Estate Arm To Break Into Mixed-Use Development

Hudson's Bay Queen Street in Toronto

The oldest surviving retailer in the English-speaking world is becoming a real estate developer as well.

Hudson's Bay Co., which started as a fur-trading operation in 1670, announced on Monday the formation of HBC Properties & Investments, a new arm of the company dedicated to managing and redeveloping the roughly 40M SF it owns or controls, either solely or as part of a joint venture, Toronto Storeys reports.

Hudson's Bay owns the brands Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks Off Fifth and Lord & Taylor, as well as its own Canadian superstore chain. For years, the most well-known piece of real estate it owned was the flagship store of Lord & Taylor on New York's Fifth Avenue, until it sold the building to a WeWork-led joint venture for $850M. The deal closed in 2019, two years after the initial agreement was reached, and the store itself had already closed in 2018. WeWork reportedly sold the building just a year later to Amazon for over $1.1B.

HBCPI will be built on the foundation of Streetworks Development, the New York-based company Hudson's Bay purchased last year. Ian Putnam, Hudson's Bay president of real estate and chief corporate development officer, was named HBCPI's new CEO, Toronto Storeys reports.

In the announcement, Hudson's Bay signaled its intent to add uses of all kinds to its properties, including more retail, apartments, office space and entertainment venues, and highlighted its portfolio of "marquee flagship properties in prime metropolitan markets," as Putnam said in the release. One such property that fits the bill and could be ripe for redevelopment is the Saks flagship store at 611 Fifth Ave. in Manhattan, which lost $2B in value between 2014 and 2019.

Hudson's Bay's latest transformation follows its decision to take the company private for $2B, a deal that was completed weeks before the coronavirus pandemic began sweeping across the continent.