Blockbuster property deal fuels philanthropic venture; Concert sustainability practices helping cut greenhouse gas emissions

Making good 
Making good


Vancouver-based seniors' home operator Retirement Concepts Seniors Services Ltd. has acquired Maple Leaf Quay in Toronto for $150.5 million in a deal hailed by Toronto apartment broker David Montressor, executive vice-president of CBRE Ltd., as "one of the more notable multi-residential transactions completed in Canada in recent years."

Montressor brokered the sale of the property by the England Group of Vancouver, whose long-term, conservative approach reaped significant returns for the 600-odd investors to whom it syndicated the investment.

Bought by the England Group in 1996 for $42.5 million, the property needed significant investments in a difficult economic time.

Group principal Kevin England won the confidence of both Sun Life, the mortgage holder, and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., and invested more than $3 million in the property's 502 residential suites, 21 commercial units and amenities.

England, who recently distributed proceeds to investors, pegs the return on the initial investment at a whopping 876%.

England and other investors are now pledging some of the sale proceeds to the BC New Hope Recovery Society, which operates Baldy Hughes Therapeutic Community near Prince George.

A gala fundraiser on July 2 will boost the more-than $300,000 former investors in Maple Leaf Quay have pledged to date for the community, which supports men recovering from addiction.

England, together with Lorne Mayencourt, Don and Bernice Willoughby and Stephen Gammer, founded BC New Hope in 2007.

Green sheen


A recent Concert Properties Ltd. report shows the impact sustainable practices can have across a portfolio of residential, commercial and industrial properties.

With approximately 5.5 million square feet of space, Concert's company-wide emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to climate change totalled 16,368 tonnes in 2012. That's an increase of 16.1% since 2010, according to an audit of Concert's operations by Climate Smart Businesses Inc., a Vancouver-based non-profit enterprise.

This was slightly behind the growth of Concert's portfolio of investment properties, which increased 17.2% over the same period. Concert credits changes in corporate practices and tenant behaviour with keeping emissions in check despite additions to its portfolio – especially in Alberta, where emissions from power generation significantly boost the tally associated with building operation.

Nevertheless, Concert's figures indicate that greenhouse gas emissions have dropped an average of 0.9% per square foot across its portfolio since 2010.

Aggregate gains were offset by practices such as teleconferencing, which allowed Concert to cut corporate air travel 27.3%, from 829,378 kilometres in 2010 to 603,240 kilometres in 2012.

A comprehensive recycling program for residential tenants has helped cut emissions associated with landfill waste by 39.1%, or approximately 600 tonnes in real terms.

But Concert has no plans to buy carbon credits to offset remaining emissions, preferring to invest in building systems and programs that will further reduce emissions.

"We have chosen to direct those resources toward upgrading the buildings within our portfolio to reduce their carbon footprint," said Jonathan Meads, sustainability manager for Concert.

Prying eyes


Vancouver's Urban Design Panel will critique the latest design for Credit Suisse's planned office tower at 819-827 West Pender Street in the heart of the city's business district on July 3.

The proposed tower will incorporate a renovation of the former Vancouver Stock Exchange at 475 Howe Street, but the most contentious part of the proposal is how the 392-foot-tower respects the views and privacy of its neighbours.

Jameson House, next door, rises approximately 380 feet and was one of the last sites where condos were allowed prior to the 2004 moratorium on the rezoning of downtown office properties for residential use. Residents on the upper floors have expressed concerns at office workers potentially peering in on their private lives.

Yet the neighbours are part of what urban life is all about, even in the rarified atmosphere of the 30th storey – or 58th, given concerns residents of the 646-foot Shangri-La tower had regarding Holborn Group's plans for a 617-foot tower on the opposite side of West Georgia Street.

With images of the current Credit Suisse design in the media for much of this year, the design panel's feedback will be keenly awaited by neighbours and urbanistes alike. •

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