Manulife Investments Acquires Open-Air Retail Centre Garibaldi Village in Squamish BC: Interview

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Manulife Investment Management recently acquired Garibaldi Village I, an open-format shopping centre in Squamish, BC, which complements its purchase of the Garibaldi Village II property back in 2011.

Gregory Sweeney, Senior Managing Director & Head of Canadian Real Estate Investments at Manulife Investment Management, said the two assets create a 120,000-square-foot plaza-styled shopping centre on the 9.93-acre site and the combined properties have more than 1,000 feet of direct frontage along a major highway, providing prime visibility in a thriving community that is experiencing tremendous growth.

Sweeney said the strategic acquisition will provide common ownership to this prominent retail centre and foster opportunities for improved efficiencies in the operation and management of the two properties.

Image: Garibaldi Village I

“We look forward to continuing to serve this growing and vibrant community’s retail needs,” he said.

Gregory Sweeney

“Garibaldi Village is really is a natural extension of that initial acquisition. Part of the buildings actually abutt each other. There’s a shared common parking lot. So we really felt that Garibaldi Village I was a strong complement to that initial acquisition.

“We do think that these two properties can benefit from some improved efficiencies primarily relating to the operational side, leasing, management and also facilities. But overall I think we believe there’s clear demand for retail services in the Squamish community. It is ranked among Canada as one of the fastest growing cities and then you have a tremendous amount of activity going between Vancouver and Whistler where Squamish is kind of half the distance between the two. So you have a lot of passing traffic through there. And Squamish has certainly become a great recreational destination as well.”

Image: Garibaldi Village I

Manulife Investment Management has $10.2 billion of real estate in Canada and $25.4 billion globally.

“In Canada (there are) three accounts that we invest on behalf of and so we do have diversified holdings across office, industrial, retail, multi-family and we do have some positions for land as well for development,” said Sweeney, adding that the portfolio is fairly-well balanced.

Manulife Investment Management develops and manages commercial real estate for thousands of customers around the globe as part of its comprehensive private markets’ capabilities. As of December 31, 2021, the real estate portfolio totals over 64 million square feet of office, industrial, and retail space strategically located in markets across Canada, the U.S., and Asia.

Garibaldi Village I was purchased through Manulife’s Canadian Pooled Real Estate Fund.

It is located along the Sea to Sky Highway and the property functions as part of a major commercial hub for the local community as well as a highway rest stop for travellers. The demand for retail services in the community is further supported by a growing number of tourists visiting Squamish.

Garibaldi Village I has 13 tenants and one vacant space while Garibaldi Village II has 21 tenants and one vacant space. Garibaldi Village I also has 13 Tesla spaces. The shopping centre is primarily for retail use but there is some second storey office space.

Anchor tenants include Dollarama, Boston Pizza, London Drugs, BC Liquor and Marks Work Warehouse.

Garibaldi Village I (Image: Colliers)

“The two assets are core stabilized assets. In our view, they represent a major commercial hub for the local community. So in the near term there’s really no immediate plans for the centre,” said Sweeney.

“We are investors obviously within the retail sector. We’re principally focused on more open format centres like Garibaldi Village. We’re not significant players in the enclosed mall space.”

Sweeney said those open-format centres have performed incredibly well over the past few years and the expectation is that they will continue to do so in the future, particularly as Manulife Investment Management is investing in strong markets with growing populations.

“We like need based retail where they really are servicing the community. Open format obviously worked well during the pandemic when there were some closures,” adding open-format centres have direct access for customers from the outside.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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