March 7, 2012
By Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor
Avison Young, the largest independently owned commercial real estate services firm in Canada, continues its rapid expansion south of its border with the purchases of Bethesda, Md.-based Realty Management Co., and the opening of an office in Reno, Nev.
Avison Young has been undergoing quite a growth spurt, and it has been talking the best and the brightest along for the ride. “We started this whole expansion a couple of years ago, and what we have found is that our business model — which is a high-value add, principal-led business model — is different from the vast majority of commercial real estate services companies out there,” Earl Webb, president, U.S. Operations with Avison Young, told Commercial Property Executive. “As a result of that we have appealed to a lot of experienced real estate professionals who are looking at how they’re going to spend the next 10 to 15 years of their careers.”
Stepping up its presence in metropolitan Washington, D.C., Avison Young acquired Realty Management Co., a fixture in the region since 1976. Industry player Donna B. Kay became owner in 1988 and began operating the firm under a third-party property management model. The firm brings to the table a management portfolio located in D.C., Suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia, and encompassing approximately 2 million square feet of real estate, including office and medical buildings, as well as less traditional commercial properties such as embassies. Realty Management also comes aboard with a longstanding history of top-notch client service and a collaborative culture — and therein lies the synergy between the two firms that have now become one.
Supported by her team of more than 30, Kay will remain at the helm as principal in the Bethesda office, which marks Avison Young’s first location in the State of Maryland and its fourth in the National Capital Region. The company made its entrée into the market in November 2009 with the opening of an office in downtown D.C.
Avison Young is expanding in certain markets, and making a debut in others. Like Reno. The opening of an office in Reno comes less than four months after Avison Young entered Nevada by setting up shop in Las Vegas. The firm hit the ground running in Reno by tapping local heavy hitter John Pinjuv to serve as managing director of the new office. Pinjuv comes to the company from his role as president at commercial real estate services firm of Grubb & Ellis|NCG, bringing approximately 30 years of experience, in addition to 14 brokers and staff members from, yes, Grubb & Ellis.
“This is the time in a cycle where high-quality professionals will listen to a new idea, a new story and a new approach to the business and that’s why we thought the timing was really ideal for us [to expand],” Webb said. “That was the idea a couple of years ago, and low and behold, our success today has proven that we were right. We are a Canadian-based company with a very strong culture of partnership and performance and as a result of that, it resonates both with our clients, as well as with the people that we want to go out and recruit.”
In 2011 alone, Avison Young acquired Ramsey-Shilling Commercial Real Estate Services Inc. in Los Angeles, snapped up the Millennium Realty Advisors L.L.C. in the D.C. area, and opened new offices in Dallas, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. They’re not done yet, not by a long shot. The company’s U.S. expansion endeavor kicked off with the establishment of a full-service presence in eight core markets: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, D.C., Houston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. The second phase consists of populating those markets to provide owners and occupiers with agency leasing, tenant representation, property management, project management and investment sales services in the office, industrial, retail and multi-family sectors. And then there’s the third phase.
“Phase three is opening in other key strategic regional markets where you don’t necessarily have to be providing the two-by-five-by-four full matrix of service in that market,” he explained. “Las Vegas is an example of that because there are certain elements to that service matrix that you can serve from outside–maybe from California or the Midwest–and so we don’t necessarily have to have people in Vegas, but yet we need to be in Vegas. And it’s really blossoming into what will be a really nice regional business for us.” Avison Young also has its eye on Seattle, Denver, Miami and Philadelphia. “They are great real estate markets and we’ll cover both client sets but we’ll provide certain service lines, and certain others we can provide from the regional hubs.”
Avison Young now has 11 locations in the U.S. In October 2011, the company announced that private equity firm Tricor Pacific Capital Inc. had invested $40 million in the company for the purpose of financing continued growth and expansion efforts in the U.S. and Canada.