Toronto firms enter Ottawa-Gatineau market with $57M apartments acquisition

Cambridge St.
Marlin Spring and Greybrook's Ottawa-Gatineau portfolio acquisition includes 324 Cambridge St. N. Photo by Fynn Schwartz.

Two Toronto real estate firms have staked their claim to the Ottawa-Gatineau market with a pair of apartment building acquisitions in the National Capital Region.

Marlin Spring and Greybrook Realty Partners announced last week they’ve made a joint purchase of two apartment complexes in the area. The deal, worth $57.15 million, will see the firms acquire a 520-unit portfolio of buildings, including 324 Cambridge St. N. in Ottawa and 42-44-46 Bedard St. in Gatineau.

Marlin Spring CEO Ben Bakst tells OBJ the two firms have worked together many times on similar property partnerships, with his company usually sourcing the acquisition and Greybrook working on the capital markets side of deals.

Though Marlin Spring is based in the Greater Toronto Area, Bakst says the firm has property portfolios in a number of major North American cities, including Montreal, Miami and Houston. The latest deal is the firm’s first foray in the National Capital Region – a market Bakst says the firm has had its eye on for the past four years.

“We have very, very big plans for the Ottawa-Gatineau market. We absolutely adore it."​​​

“We have very, very big plans for the Ottawa-Gatineau market. We absolutely adore it,” he says.

Bakst says Marlin Spring was attracted to the nation’s capital because of its “extreme level of stability,” which many observers attribute to the presence of the city's largest employer, the federal government. As rental vacancy rates in Ottawa-Gatineau tighten, Bakst says now was the time to jump into the market through its new four-building portfolio.

Marlin Spring’s development philosophy, in addition to ground-up construction, sees it target existing apartment buildings from the 1960-80s with room for fresh fit-ups. Rather than start from a blank canvas – an empty plot of land – Bakst says the firm often prefers to work within the constraints of an existing building in order to cut down on construction costs.

“Everyone acknowledges that land has future potential. Apartment buildings, we view the same way,” he says. “They’re built, they’re done, they’re sitting and waiting … You’re just further along the process.”

Bakst says that by instead bringing an aging building up to 2019 standards, Marlin Spring is able to charge more affordable rents than a builder trying to recoup the costs of a new build.

“We think that value is enormous,” he says.

Don’t expect Marlin Spring to wait another four years before making another purchase in the National Capital Region, Bakst says. Now that the firm and its partner have a foothold in the area, it could be a matter of months before they find another suitable property to grow their new Ottawa-Gatineau portfolio.