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Developer Gillespie and Hootsuite CEO Holmes team up to buy block in Mount Pleasant while city considers zoning tweaks

December 4th, 2015 · 8 Comments

The Mount Pleasant industrial zone has turned into one of the hottest pieces of real estate in the city. A story I did last year, based on planner Andy Yan’s maps showing assessment increases, indicated even then that prices had soared.

That’s because all kinds of companies have spotted this as a fantastically located and designated hip area to do business. It’s close to downtown, to Main Street breweries and hipster/tech employee renters on the east, to the Canada Line on the west, and to a whole bunch of new residents in Olympic Village.

The city’s been working to preserve it as industrial, sort of. Two years ago, it allowed landowners to redevelop buildings to add office, as long as one-third of the space was preserved for industrial. That’s led to some interesting new buildings. But even that wasn’t enough to slake the demand by tech companies and others to get in. (Although apparently one accounting firm has moved in, with a deal that put the Vans shoe people into the industrial part of the building.)

Then came the news among those in the know down there that Westbank Corp. developer Ian Gillespie had teamed up with Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes to buy an entire block down there. (The two formed a corporation, 111 E 5th Properties on Aug. 13 and the sale went through on Sept. 15, from the look of land records.)

That comes while there’s also news that the city’s planning department is looking at tweaks to the existing zoning. My more complete Globe story on all of the above is here.

But I’m still trying to understand exactly what might happen on that block and in that area.

Hootsuite people have been talking for at least a year about wanting to create a big co-ordinated campus for employees, who are now spread out in three buildings (two of them on the block that Gillespie and Holmes just bought).

Gillespie told me yesterday that it’s not clear what they’ll do with the property yet, but his longtime architect associate, Gregory Henriquez, has been talking to others about a plan for a campus. As well, I’ve heard via a well-connected grapevine that the financing for a five-storey building on that land has been organized.

Then it’s quite unclear what direction the city might take on all of this. It’s had Avison Young doing a study on the potential impacts of a change in zoning. From talking to several brokers down there, it’s apparent that some are panting for the change so they can get more clients in, while others are worried that it will just turn the area into an office zone or that it will favour some landholders over others.

Anyone with more information on any of this, please get in touch.

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