When BlackBerry Ltd. divested about three million square feet of real estate in Waterloo, Ont., and area in 2014, some out-of-town naysayers warned of a calamitous office space glut in a region once dominated by the former tech titan.
“With 2.8 million square feet coming back on the market, there was a significant reluctance from the out-of-town investor to consider buying real estate in the Region of Waterloo,” says John Whitney, owner and chief executive officer of Whitney Commercial Real Estate Services. A fourth-generation Waterloo real estate broker, he helped BlackBerry decades earlier to acquire some of the same buildings that went on the chopping block. He says the skeptics told him, “You are crazy; you will never deal with all that space.”
It took about two years to upend the gloomy predictions. Over 26 months, public- and private-sector entities scooped up 2.3 million square feet of BlackBerry’s 2.8-million-square-foot portfolio over 21 buildings in the Waterloo area. After a 10- to 20-per-cent dip in 2014-15, lease rates began to recover last year.
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