Anthem Properties diversifies with $200 million acquisition and accelerated expansion into Alberta

Competing developers hail B.C. company’s deal to buy United Communities
Anthem Properties CEO Eric Carlson wants his company to expand both geographically and in areas of expertise

Anthem Properties’ strategy to expand deeper into Alberta and diversify operations by buying United Communities for $200 million is being applauded by other developers.

The cash-and-debt transaction announced March 6 expands Anthem’s expertise from being primarily a condominium and mixed-use developer into developing single-family homes.

“Geographic diversification was a key driver,” Anthem CEO Eric Carlson told Business in Vancouver. “We’re heavily exposed in B.C. I wanted to go somewhere not too far away but where there’s different demographics and market dynamics.”

Anthem has about $300 million worth of multi-family projects and 2,000 condominiums in various stages of development in Calgary, so being in Alberta is not new.

United’s forte is in buying and entitling land, subdividing it, putting in roads and sewers and then selling it to homebuilders. The acquisition has added that expertise to Anthem.

It also gives Anthem a stake in about 2,000 acres of land owned by various joint venture partners and a small home-building division in Sacramento, California.

The transaction highlights the trend of Vancouver developers being active in Calgary. Macdonald Development Corp. (MDC), has about $100 million worth of single-family homes in development in Calgary as well as $240 million worth of condominiums.

“Anthem’s purchase of United was so smart that I wish I’d done it,” MDC owner Robert Macdonald told BIV. “United has great assets.”

Embassy Bosa CEO Ryan Bosa also believes Carlson is wise to increase operations in Alberta, although Bosa prefers to keep his company focused on building multi-family homes in Calgary.

Bosa grew up watching father and Bosa Development Corp. owner Nat Bosa build condominiums in Vancouver north of the Main Street SkyTrain station before Yaletown was a residential area.

He sees emerging demand for condominiums in Calgary as being in a similar stage as it was in Vancouver 20 years ago.

Carlson agreed. He said that’s why Anthem has completed 450 condominiums in Waterfront Calgary and has an additional 170 condominiums under construction. It also plans to build another two or three phases in the Waterfront Calgary project.

His biggest B.C. project is at Station Square in Burnaby, where, in conjunction with Beedie Group, Anthem is renovating an old mall next to Metrotown and has plans to build five residential towers with 1,800 condominiums.

The first of those towers, a 36-storey, 255-home structure, is under construction and will include retail space for a Save-On-Foods, a TD bank and a Caffè Artigiano. Another two buildings in that project are set to go on sale in April.

In the last few years, Anthem has been buying land in Gastown and Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, including the Save-On-Meats building at 43 West Hastings Street where Anthem built several floors of office space. Anthem also bought buildings at 190 Alexander Street and 425 Carrall Street.

Carlson founded what is now Anthem in 1991. He took the company public in a March 1998 initial public offering that generated $36 million. Six years after Anthem was listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, Carlson made the company a private entity again after souring on the concept of being public. He felt the market was not valuing his company accurately. Carlson was also frustrated with public company expenses. •

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