Key sector growth include Agri-food, Technology, Digital Media, Bio-Pharma and Manufacturing
London is front and centre for site selectors, investors, and small to medium-sized companies looking for a well-located, affordable city with great quality of life.
“It has big-city amenities with a small- town feel,” says one veteran commercial realtor. “We are not going to compete with Toronto for Amazon, but we are the perfect place for companies of 500 to 3,000 people.”
“London offers a great value proposition. It has the least expensive industrial land in southern Ontario for a city its size.”
As well, the municipality has removed development charges for the manufacturing sector.
“The big story is London landing the Maple Leaf Foods plant. That will bring 1,450 jobs and many more spinoff jobs.”
Key London Sectors: Agri-Food, Digital, Advanced Manufacturing & Life Sciences.
Whatmore said the City has targeted agri-food investment for a number of years and he expects that to continue paying off.
London benefits from strong highway corridors to the GTA and the U.S. border, proximity to agricultural producers, and access to 50 million people within a day’s drive.
For years, serviced industrial lands were in short supply but the municipality has expanded two major artery roads south of Hwy 401 to unlock more industrial lands.
Another strong sector of growth is technology and digital media. A number of companies have invested in downtown office space, including repurposing heritage space. Mobile video game developer Big Blue Bubble and software developer Autodata Solutions have
both moved into the core, largely due to employees who want an urban work experience, says Whatmore.
“It really has become a big employee retention issue.”
Tech startups are attracted by lease rates of $15 to $20 per square foot in London, compared to $40 to $50 a square foot in downtown Toronto.
Fanshawe College has also added to its presence downtown, adding a large addition on the former Kingsmill’s department store that is “nothing short of spectacular,” said Whatmore. Several thousand college students now study downtown, including those in hospitality, culinary, tourism, performing arts and information technology programs.
Downtown restaurants and shops are also benefitting from major investments in condo developments that are projected to continue for the next few years, says Whatmore.
Across the city, the commercial retail sector remains strong.A large big-box power centre is slated for the southwest sector and some major announcements are coming for Westmount Mall, says Whatmore.
On the residential side, the inventory of home listings is not enough to keep up with demand, says Earl Taylor, president of the London St.Thomas Association of Realtors (LSTAR).
“The market is still very strong in London. People are coming from the west, the GTA and the Kitchener area because home prices are more affordable.”
LSTAR expects to see the strong sellers’ market continue through 2019, due to immigration into the city, low interest rates and strong job growth.
The average home price in London– St.Thomas is $370,247, less than half of prices in the GTA.
“In the early spring of 2017, all of a sudden we were bombarded with calls from the GTA. Ninety-five per cent of our sales that summer were people coming from the GTA,” said Sue Wastell, president of Wastell Homes and president of the London Home Builders Association.
“It’s been very busy in multi-residential. There are lots of new townhouses, which are hitting a good price point. They are affordable to many buyers.”
But Wastell says there is much more to London than just affordability.The city boasts great schools and hospitals, a vibrant quality of life, and a strong local economy.
“London is also located in a great spot. It’s an hour or less to Lake Huron and Lake Erie, two hours to Toronto and the U.S. border. London is just a great place to live.”
To learn more about the commercial real estate market across the greater London Ontario Region, please click here and visit CBRE.