Some real estate investors from Calgary have finally taken an office building in uptown Saint John off the market.
Brock Rogerson, along with two other investors from Calgary, has purchased 75 Prince William Street.
Rogerson currently owns about 133 residential units in Saint John, including his last investment, Harbour View Towers on Union Street. But at 34,500 sq. ft. and 12 units, it’s the largest office building Rogerson has bought yet.
“This building has been on the market for a long time with limited interest,” said Rogerson.
“I talked to some investors to see what their appetite was and they both seemed to see the potential of the building and then we started [the process]. Little did we know coronavirus would also start shortly thereafter and it made the close a little bit more complicated.”
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Rogerson said the big appeal of 75 Prince William Street was the location, right across from Fundy Quay, the site of a planned commercial and residential waterfront development.
“Anything in uptown Saint John I’m interested in because of the momentum that has been created there,” he says. “Specifically for this one, right across the street from the potential development on the Fundy Quay.”
But the Fundy Quay development on the old Coast Guard site is in limbo at the moment, with the province yet to promise funding to help with necessary repairs to the land’s seawall to allow construction to start.
But Rogerson says he’s still optimistic the project will ultimately go through, especially as the province looks to stimulate the economy after Covid-19.
“I think when this is actually done and people are looking at developments that actually create jobs and revenue, paying attention to the fiscal realities of a project like that will be that much more important,” he said.
“I’m still cautiously optimistic and if we didn’t feel that still had a potential chance, we would not have invested in this project.”
Yet the delay of the Fundy Quay project has made Rogerson pull back on some of his plans for the building. If the project were going ahead as planned, he says they would be working to fill vacant office spaces and looking at options for converting some space into residential units.
“That is all out the window. The biggest reason is the Fundy Quay [delay], not coronavirus,” says Rogerson. “We will not be building anything new if Fundy Quay stays as a parking lot. If they do go ahead with it, then yes, we would definitely still look at that.”
In the meantime, the plan was to work to fill in vacant office spaces and do any necessary renovations. But with COVID-19 immediate issue, those plans are also put on hold.
“What we have budgeted for renovations is probably going to go into potentially rent relief with some of the tenants,” says Rogerson.
The building’s current tenants include two nuclear power companies, Budget Car Rental, Carbon60, Introhive and a law firm. Rogerson is currently reaching out to tenants to see what, if any support they will need.
“It’s still a limited pot of funds that we can allocate to that, but where we can help we will if it makes sense to help them and prolong the lease so we can have a good long-term relationship,” he says. “Then we will look at deferring rent and spreading it out over the rest of the lease.”
Though conditions for purchasing 75 Prince William Street didn’t end up as great as Rogerson hoped, he says Saint John is still an appealing place for people to invest in real estate.
“There is interest in investing in Saint John from people in Alberta. Diversifying away from oil and looking at some of these different cities where real estate prices are much more manageable is quite attractive,” said Rogerson.
“And as long as the government and everything continue on its current course, it would be fairly easy to attract more capital to invest in other projects down the line. There’s been great progress made by Saint John in the last five years, especially in the last two years.”
A version of this story was published in Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.