In the western region of the Greater Hamilton Area, an array of new hotel, condo and tourism development is expected to bring valuable economic opportunities to the community.
John Mehlenbacher is the COO of The Condo Store (TCS) and a founding partner of The Rosseau Group (TRG). Together with Simon S. Mass, CEO of TCS, the two new construction experts have been collaborating on Bridgewater Residences and the Casablanca Hotel, a series of mixed-use projects that are set to transform the waterfront of Lake Ontario.
Livabl spoke with Mehlenbacher to find out more about these new developments that are moving forward in Burlington and Grimsby.
Livabl: So John, tell us more about your real estate ventures.
John Mehlenbacher: Our goal while starting and operating TCS was to pick the right projects and developers in a market flooded with inventory that we felt would outperform the average in an already strong sector.
While many smaller firms who claim to be our competitors sell dozens of projects in a year, and market a new one at least once a week while selling very little per project, we picked three to five projects at the most. We purchased a major portion of the inventory so that we could obtain a discount for our clients by saving costs the developer normally incurred launching a sales campaign.
The biggest risk a developer incurs when developing and building a condo tower is sales. If the developer cannot make sales on time and at a price allocated in their budget, then the whole project is at risk. Having such a strong sales and marketing arm makes us very valuable to the projects we decide to invest in, and allows us to receive many investor-friendly incentives that we pass along to our clients.
Once we started developing our own projects at TRG, our confidence was high from the beginning as we were able to design and build an experienced sales team whose input was invaluable. We now have over 15 projects under development, and we are excited for the future for both firms.
L: The Bridgewater Residences in Burlington is about to enter its final closing stage in the coming months. How did you and TCS become involved in this project and make it such a success?
JM: The original developer of Bridgewater was a longtime client of a TCS sister firm, TCS Marketing Systems. We were already working on the project as the sales and marketing team hired to design and sell this very high-end development that features an incredible waterfront location in Burlington in collaboration with renowned interior designer, Brian Gluckstein.
When the option came to purchase the development shortly after the site was launched, we were already well versed in the project, so it was a simple decision that I made with my partner Simon S. Mass over a coffee at our office. Since we were just starting out as developers at that time, we did not feel comfortable taking over the entire project on our own. At that time, Burlington was apprehensive with out-of-town developers and we knew that there would be trust issues if another developer that the local market wasn’t familiar with took it over.
Since we had a great working relationship with Jeff Paikin and his company, New Horizon Development Group, it only made sense to go to them and see if this is something they wanted to do. It is by far the best site in Burlington, so it was an easy decision for Jeff and his team. This allowed a well-known local developer with a great reputation to step in to develop and build the project while allowing our firm, The Rosseau Group, to remain a part of the ownership group. TCS Marketing Systems stayed on as the sales team, and together, we made it a resounding success.
L: You are a Toronto native and live in the Burlington-Oakville community. How do you think your familiarity of the area played a role when it came to investing in Bridgewater Residences?
JM: It was paramount in the decision to invest in Bridgewater. We may have gotten the sales contract due to my personal experience in the region and due to our relationship with the original developer, but it didn’t hurt that I knew the market as a resident.
When it came to investing in the project, I do believe that we would have never taken on such a big project so early in TRG’s life without believing in the exit. At the time of launch, Bridgewater broke the ceiling for condo prices in Burlington, and had many units priced over $1 million, which made the project a risk if you could not achieve the needed sales. Knowing the market gave us comfort.
L: Both you and Simon have made a purchase in the Casablanca Hotel project that is coming to Grimsby on Lake Ontario. What was behind your decision to pursue this master-planned opportunity in the commercial and tourism sector?
JM: This was an easy decision. We made our first land investment in 2010 next door to The Casablanca Hotel, and met the previous owner of the hotel by doing so. Many years later when he wanted to sell the hotel, he remembered us and called me to see if we wanted to buy the property. Since we were already officially retained by two developers in the area, we knew the market and understood that this was a hot area.
Buying the hotel and rezoning it to what we hope is a one-of-a-kind and truly phenomenal development, we can be proud of what was a very strategic and well thought-out strategy that allowed us to rethink the entire investment, time and time again. There is a new GO Transit station being built across the road from the hotel, and we know that brings in a whole new market of commuters and investors. We are delighted with the potential this site has to offer, and a brand new convention hotel to boot.
I sit on the board of the West Lincoln Hospital Foundation as well, which is in the same town as the Casablanca Hotel, and it’s become a very important matter in my personal and corporate life in terms of helping the hospital be a pillar of strength, unity and stability in the community. Everyone involved is striving to improve the quality of patient care and accessibility throughout the community. Through hard work and unwavering support, I hope to continue the tradition of excellence at the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital for future generations.
L: The Casablanca project is designed by the internationally recognized WZMH Architects. Was the involvement of this renowned architecture firm an attractive feature for TCS in becoming involved in this project?
JM: Our development company, TRG, engaged WZMH Architects to design this site, so we knew the value of having a well-designed product.
When we design buildings, we are involved in the process from the beginning, so having the right team in place allows you to maximize the process and have the best chance of success when launching the product to the market. WZMH has a storied history through the years, and is a global force in architectural design with a showcase of buildings in every large Canadian city and many throughout the world, including the CN Tower and the Royal Bank Plaza in downtown Toronto.
L: What do you think is the advantage of working on a small number of real estate projects, as opposed to many projects at a time?
JM: Our philosophy is the same across all our companies, which is quality over quantity.
We prefer to work with fewer sites, whether in development under TRG, or sales, marketing and investments through TCS, and we do our job really well. This allows us to pick and choose what we work on and keep the high standard we strive to achieve. We are trusted because of our way of doing business, not because of working on projects on intersections of downtown Toronto that everyone relates to on some level.
Above all, trust remains the most important core value for our companies. Our business is earned through referrals from existing clients and built on the back of our strong industry reputation.