Millennials and Canada’s start up culture are contributing to the growth in new business and speculative commercial development.
Investment capital, tenants and talent are all heading westward from the GTA and Guelph has shown itself to be pro-business. But commercial product supply is short, says Chris Valeriote, SALES REPRESENTATIVE – CONSULTING & ADVISORY SALES & LEASING for Avison Young.
“Guelph is no longer a secret. Good quality product in Guelph doesn’t last long because a lot of people are coming into the market or expanding their portfolio.There are a lot of exciting projects underway and a lot coming in the next three to five years. Guelph will take on a different shape.”
There has been strong industrial, residential and retail development in the south end of the city, along with intensification in the downtown. Yet Guelph is retaining its character, heritage and small-town,“fiercely green” vibe, says Valeriote, a city native.
“I think we are going the right way. Guelph isn’t growing just to grow but strategically and with a plan.”
Guelph is a smaller market and somewhat insulated, said Darren Shaw, vice-president and broker at Colliers in the Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph area. Guelph’s industrial market is about 23 million square feet, compared to about 60 million square feet in the Waterloo Region.
“But Guelph is fortunate, maybe more fortunate than the broader region because it has a greater supply of available serviced employment land and has seen good activity centred around that.”
The Hanlon Creek Business Park, a 675-acre development in Guelph’s south, offers Class A industrial and office product with easy access to Highway 401. Cooper Construction has built on spec in the park, confident in the market interest in Guelph, says Peter Whatmore, executive managing director for southwestern Ontario for CBRE.
“Those spec buildings are coming to market at a very timely point because, like many southwestern Ontario markets, there is a lack of industrial product in the larger than 40,000-square-feet range.”
Newcomers benefit from lower land costs and development charges relative to the GTA and the Waterloo Region, though limited inventory and strong demand are putting upward pressure on lease rates and price per square foot sale.
Whatmore says demand from advanced manufacturers warehouse users has been particularly strong, building on a strong foundation in agri-business and agricultural science, a key driver in the Guelph economy.
The office market is a smaller component – 2 million square feet in Guelph, compared to 12 million in Waterloo Region. But Guelph is headquarters to big employers, including Linamar, The Co-operators and OMAFRA, and the tech sector that has driven office development in Kitchener- Waterloo is emerging now in Guelph, says Shaw.
The municipality has approved plans for a 436-hectare Guelph Innovation District that will provide homes for more than 6,500 residents and space for more than 8,500 jobs.
“We’re starting to see some start- ups and there has been a lot of work to foster and support that segment,” Shaw said.“Guelph is a good fit and complement with the Waterloo Region, especially with the agricultural and environmental technology centred around the University of Guelph.”
Guelph’s story has received plenty of attention recently. It was named among the top three millennial hot spots for 2018 by real estate analysts Point2 Homes.The evaluation, including affordability, average income, unemployment rates and life satisfaction, placed Guelph as the top Ontario city.
It was also named the best place to get a job in 2016 by BMO, with annual employment growth of 9.1 per cent, and the most attractive city for real estate investment value in Canada by MoneySense in 2017.
Shaw says there are also plenty of skilled employees and Guelph offers a terrific quality of life for young people and families.
“Talent is so readily available without it being a suburb. Guelph is a complete city.”
Read the full feature on living, working, and doing business in the City of Guelph through our latest Globe & Mail insert here.