As many of you know, it was reported last week that Evergreen Centre (the Western Foods mall) was sold to Partners REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust). The sale completes this month. I had the opportunity to interview Adam Gant, CEO of League Assets Corp, a Victoria-based company which manages the REIT. We talked about League and what their plans are for Evergreen Centre and their track record with similar properties on and off the Island.
A real estate investment trust is sort of like a mutual fund, except that it is made up of (usually income-producing) real estate properties instead of stocks and/or bonds. The REIT looks for, negotiates and purchases properties its managers believe will produce income for the trust, and provide a return on investment for investors.
League Assets sought out Evergreen Centre because the REIT tends to focus on retail properties which have anchor tenants such as grocery and drug stores. Evergreen was attractive because of the long-standing Western Foods and the brand new Shoppers Drug Mart. The new medical centre (which is going in where the old Shoppers was) is also a draw. These stores and services are everyday necessities, which are somewhat recession-proof, and are a reliable source of revenue. Adam also noted that the centre is over 96% occupied, obviously an important factor.
We talked about Sooke in general and how it is poised to be the next big growth area. Adam mentioned what many of us here in Sooke already know – that outsiders – in particular, off-island people – see Sooke as a separate community, far-removed from major metropolitan areas. But being Victoria based, League knows that Sooke, more and more, is part of the greater Victoria region and South Island economic region. The continuing redevelopment of our downtown and investment in the form of commercial properties like the new hotel, and Mariner’s Village are further proof that Sooke is a sound place to invest.
League has a track record of improving the properties it manages – one example is up-Island in Duncan, where they completely redeveloped a centre which formerly housed Wal-Mart, greatly increasing its appeal and value. Their plans for Evergreen are no different. While the centre’s buildings are in decent condition, it could certainly use a facelift, and simple cosmetic improvements are contemplated. Adam also talked about the office component of Evergreen and how it could be made more useful and accessible by adding an elevator. He also hinted that there is still room on the site for another building, a possibility that may be explored in the future; League tends to hold properties for the long-term rather than improve and sell.
I’d like to thank Adam Gant for taking the time to chat with me and welcome him and League Assets to Sooke. It’s good to have Evergreen Centre under local ownership and management once again. I’m excited to see what they do with the property.