Q&A WITH MICHAEL BROCCOLINI: MONTREAL CONSTRUCTION GIANT SETS SIGHTS ON TORONTO
Bisnow, May 24th 2016, Read the article
Michael, Broccolini's VP of business development and finance, is snapped here at Montreal's Trudeau International Airport, where he spends a lot of time.
Bisnow: Your company is a very well-known quantity in the construction world, but you've been developing more of your own real estate projects these days. Can you trace the evolution?
Michael Broccolini: When my father (Joseph) and uncles (John and Paul) started in the business in the '80s, they acted as a general contractor doing design-build construction for third parties. About 15 years ago, they began doing more development. The company's been around 68 years, so real estate is a relatively new entity for us, and there's a lot of potential there. Today, half of our volume of work is for our own developments; the other half is for third parties, where we build for retailers, landlords or developers. Last year, we did just under half a billion dollars in total construction volume, and that's consistent with what it's been over the past five or six years.
Bisnow: What's been your role?
Michael Broccolini: As vice president of business development and finance, I've been going back and forth to Toronto for almost three years, leading our real estate and development here and business development, whether it's for our own real estate initiatives or third-party construction. I'm constantly meeting with clients and brokers, trying to secure new business, secure new property. I'm also involved in the financing of our projects company-wide.
Bisnow: You've been doing more work in Ontario over the past decade. What's on the slate at the moment?
Michael Broccolini: Right now in Kanata, we're managing construction of a 250k SF office and lab project (505 Innovation Rd) for Ciena. In downtown Ottawa we're building ourselves a condo-hotel project, The Slater, a signature project (a 250k SF, 21-storey tower with condos and a boutique hotel). We'll be the owner of that development. We've been in Toronto for about five years now, and last year was the first year we had more volume of work in Toronto than in Montreal. We have seven projects on the go here.
We're building with Capital Developments and Freed Developments 150 and 155 Redpath; we're managing construction and are a minority owner in those projects. And we're handling the renovation of Erin Mills Town Centre. We just finished the Saks Fifth Avenue at CF Sherway Gardens. In North York, we're building the new MEC store; we're also a 50% partner in Park Towns, the townhouse project behind it. And we're building MEC's new flagship at Queen and Peter. We're building Canadian Tire's 1.5M SF distribution centre in Milton, the largest industrial building under construction in Canada, and our own DC, a 640k SF in Halton Hills that'll be a long-term hold for us.
Bisnow: What's the strategy for Toronto moving forward?
Michael Broccolini: We're going to be building a lot more industrial for ourselves, and we'd like to be building a lot more residential downtown for ourselves and for third parties. The Toronto market is so big; today we're at 50 employees, and I don't see why we wouldn't be able to grow that exponentially in a few years. We hope to double our volume of work in the near future in Toronto. We have a great team today; it took us time to build it, but now we finally have it in place, so we'd like to continue to build off that.
The volume and size of projects in Toronto has got to be close to 10 times as much as in Montreal. The GTA has 100,000 people moving here every year, so every 10 years the city is essentially building a new city of Ottawa. There's lots of growth here. There's also a lot more competition here versus Montreal, but we're actively and aggressively looking for opportunities here.
Bisnow: You're the third generation to be involved in the family business. How did you get to where you are today?
Michael Broccolini: We're a close family, and growing up we'd always have family events where I'd see my dad and uncles talking amongst themselves about business. Then when we'd have dinner at home I'd ask my dad how his day was and hear more about the business. When I was 15, I started working on job sites during summers; I begged my parents to let me. My first summer I was working three days a week, doing things like grout work on columns of industrial buildings. I did that every summer till I finished university, learning the business inside out. At school I decided to study financing and accounting, because I'd become more interested in the real estate side of things.
After university I started working for the company in Montreal as a real estate manager, and maybe two years later we launched L'Avenue project (seen below), by far our biggest and most complex project to date (50 storeys, 300 units). I was lucky because my father and uncles let me and my cousins take the reins of that project. I was involved in the acquisition of the land and in establishing partnerships with our partners. I led the sales and marketing and the financing of that development, too. So right out of school I was given a lot of rope from my father and uncles. I was really lucky to have that confidence and support from them with that opportunity. It's my baby.
Bisnow: Is this an indication of what we can expect from Broccolini in Toronto?
Michael Broccolini: Yes, we'd like to build something just as iconic downtown. It's more difficult to do that here (given the dwindling supply of sites), but it's something I aspire to. It think it would be a great landmark for our company in Toronto.
Education: Majored in finance and accounting at John Molson School of Business (Concordia)
Good reads: The Outliers by Malcom Gladwell and Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.
Favourite show: House of Cards is one of them.
Favourite musical artist: If I had to pick one, Drake.
Favourite travel spot: Capri, Italy
Place you'd most like to visit: Rio de Janeiro
Best business advice you've received: Don't be afraid to ask for more.