How Crown Realty Partners Became Toronto's ‘Go-To’ Value-Add Firm
Crown Realty Partners is celebrating 15 years in the CRE game, a period that's seen major change in the office market. We visited Crown's HQ to get managing partners Les Miller and Jamie Christie to assess the evolution.
(You can hear more about where Toronto office is headed from Crown’s Scott Watson at Bisnow's Workplace of the Future and Adaptive Reuse Revolution event next week.)
We snapped Jamie and Les in the reception area of their office at 400 University Ave, a 25-storey, 1970s-era tower (below) that Crown has spent $10M to retrofit since 2010, including replacing its tinted and leaky single-pane windows with double-pane clear glass as the building remained fully tenanted. The LEED Gold tower is now a sustainability exemplar for Crown, Jamie tells us, among the greenest of the 50 properties (8.5M SF) it’s acquired since 2001, with more than 5M SF currently under management. When it comes to value-add real estate, Les says, “we’ve gained a reputation as the GTA's go-to people."
The makeover Crown gave 901 King St W was another milestone. “It’s the biggest transformation I’ve been a part of,” Les says. Crown acquired the 250k SF, eight-storey office property (below) in 2011 in a JV with LaSalle Investment Management. The partners overhauled the building, attracting hipper creative tenants, namely anchor Twitter, plus Quadrangle Architects and Deluxe Entertainment, for whom it installed a movie theatre. Les says the project showcased Crown’s full-service spectrum, including property management, construction and leasing teams. “Our staff really stepped up on this.”
Crown's grown from five employees to 101 since 2001, a period that’s witnessed a significant shift in the TO office market. “It’s gone from corner offices and hierarchy to equal opportunity for everybody,” Les says. That's revolutionized design, with more focus on collaborative environments and breakout spaces. “You never heard those terms 15 years ago,” he says, but points to 901 King as a textbook example of such a workplace. He reckons there are limits to this collaborative ethos, though. “The pendulum has swung so far over to sharing, I think we may soon go back to being a bit more private.”
Above is 2233 Argentia Road, a 146k SF office in Meadowvale Crown just acquired from LaSalle for $30.75M. Meadowvale is a key growth market for Crown, as is Markham, where it recently purchased Allstate Corporate Centre for $148.6M. The firm’s first fund, launched in 2005, raised $76M. (Crown still owns its first investment: 45/47 Sheppard Ave E.) Now it’s in the market for Fund 4, which Les tells us is poised to generate $225M. "Institutions see us as value-add leaders they can invest with," and most of these partners are repeat customers. “It speaks to our solid track record.”