Members of the Schulich Real Estate and Infrastructure Club had the privilege of visiting RioCan’s head office to attend three presentations lead by RioCan representatives and participate in a networking opportunity. The presentations provided first-hand knowledge on RioCan’s mixed-use initiative “RioCan Living”, and how RioCan has been able to strategically position itself in a new market, while maintaining the core values that has made it one of the most successful REITs in Canada. The event started with the three presentations, followed by an extensive Q&A period, and an hour-long networking opportunity for SREIC members. The RioCan employees who graciously took the time to speak to our members included:
Senior Vice President, Investments & Residential
Mr. Gitlin provided SREIC members a glance into the vision of RioCan Living from an executive point of view. The RioCan executive team recognized a shortage of urban and transit oriented residential around the GTA, and identified an opportunity to use their current land holdings to fill the intensification need. Strategically selecting current land holdings to undergo mixed-use redevelopment has achieved highest and best uses for many of RioCan’s sites. Mr. Gitlin explained the many differences between developing retail vs. mixed-use; emphasizing a major shift in the way RioCan leases their retail units. RioCan must ensure their tenant mix bodes well with their multi-family target market, rather than lease to the strongest covenant. It has been a challenging, but rewarding experience for all involved.
Melissa is involved in the design, planning, development and project management of RioCan’s medium/high density residential and commercial projects throughout the GTA. Melissa walked SREIC members through the municipal approval process and provided insights on how RioCan strategically works with the municipalities and community members to ensure a successful redevelopment for all stakeholders. Also, Melissa provided a list of requirements that a property must meet in order to qualify for inclusion into the RioCan Living portfolio. SREIC members were very fortunate to listen and talk with Melissa, as she provided real-life experiences, insights, and tips on how to work with the municipalities and what to look for when trying to find a property with the potential for a change in land-use.
Director, Investments & Residential
Xi Huang is involved in property acquisitions, dispositions, joint ventures and all things finance at RioCan. Xi made it clear to SREIC members that working in the Real Estate Development and Investment industry requires a lot of cross-functional cooperation. Xi provided a strong framework on how RioCan structures their RioCan Living redevelopments, through partnerships and equity restructuring, to ensure that the redevelopment improves the value for their shareholders. The introduction of RioCan Living has resulted in many partial dispositions and joint venture partnerships, which has provided Xi and his team with many unique opportunities. SREIC Members were very fortunate to speak to Xi, as he provided finance and partnership strategies to achieve the highest value for the ownership group and their shareholders.
Kalliopi (a Schulich grad!) works under the RioCan Marketing umbrella, which encompasses branding, customer experience, product vision, residential interior design, residential suite mix, and much more. Kalliopi is in charge of the marketing arm of the RioCan Living initiative, and talked about how her position is unique to RioCan – as the importance of marketing increases tenfold when introducing residential vs. retail. Kalliopi provided an outlook on the intense marketing efforts by the RioCan team to ensure that RioCan can transition their strong retail brand equity to multi-family developments. Kalliopi provided SREIC members with a tremendous insight on how RioCan plans to differentiate itself from other multi-family rentals, specifically focusing on providing a variety of amenities and services through their strong management capabilities.
Schulich Real Estate and Infrastructure Club would like to thank RioCan, Jonathan, Melissa, Xi, and Kalliopi, for taking the time to provide our members with incredible insights from current industry leaders. Thank you!