After leading Canderel’s business development efforts in Ottawa for the past two years, veteran real estate executive Shawn Hamilton is moving to the other side of the negotiating table.
Proveras Commercial Realty announced Thursday that the 54-year-old Hamilton has joined the firm as its newest partner, bringing 30 years of commercial real estate experience to a group that already includes well-known brokers Alan Doak, Nick Maiorino and Bruce Wolfgram.
Founded in 2014, Proveras is an independent agency that exclusively represents tenants and user-owners of commercial space.
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That marks a significant shift for Hamilton, who spent the past couple of years working for a major corporation that owns and manages Constitution Square, Ottawa’s second-largest office complex.
The University of Toronto alumnus, who’s spent most of his professional career in the nation’s capital and previously served in a range of senior positions during a 16-year tenure at CBRE, says his experience at Canderel will serve him well in his new role.
“It’s been invaluable, understanding what goes on in the landlord’s world,” Hamilton says. “It’s not a skillset that a lot of people have.”
While Hamilton has nothing but positive things to say about his time at Canderel, he says he’s looking forward to flexing his entrepreneurial muscles as a principal at a smaller firm that punches above its weight in the Ottawa real estate arena.
“One of the really exciting things for me is to be an owner of a business, be a businessperson, rather than a person who delivers solutions to people on behalf of a corporate entity,” Hamilton explains.
“Now I’ve got skin in the game in terms of feeling the same stresses, the same pressures that a businessperson across the table would feel. I think it was really important to be able to have that empathy and that connectivity.”
Hamilton’s move comes at a critical time for the local commercial real estate industry.
As even the most casual observer of the business knows, the past three years have been turbulent for landlords and tenants alike as both sides try to adjust to the widespread shift to hybrid work during the pandemic.
Soaring vacancy rates
The city’s downtown office vacancy rate hit a new all-time high in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the federal government recently announced it plans to sell 10 of its office properties in Ottawa as it looks to shrink its real estate footprint and invest in newer, more energy-efficient buildings.
At Canderel, Hamilton had an up-close view of the Montreal-based developer’s efforts to reimagine its portfolio in response to its clients’ changing needs. Constitution Square recently underwent about $9 million worth of upgrades that include a completely redesigned lobby and new amenities designed to make workers feel more comfortable and enthusiastic about coming back to the office.
“Rather than space being a static element, it can actually complement your business and be part of your business,” says Hamilton, who spearheaded last month’s Ottawa is Open for Business event that drew nearly 300 people to Constitution Square’s new-look lobby.
Doak, who co-founded Proveras with Maiorino, says Hamilton and his colleagues at Canderel were “ahead of the game in terms of thinking very strategically about how do we keep the tenants that we have, how do we attract new tenants, what are we going to do here.”
Being in the trenches at a company trying to help clients through what Hamilton calls an “existential crisis” gives him a unique vantage point from which to negotiate with landlords, Doak adds.
“We saw it as an opportunity to bring that perspective – the very creative landlord’s perspective – over to the tenants’ side so that we can work better for our clients,” he explains.
Hamilton might be a newcomer to Proveras, but he’s hardly a stranger to its other principals.
He estimates that he’s known Doak for about 15 years and Maiorino for 20, while his connection to Wolfgram stretches back even further.
“Bruce was one of my very first clients in the mid-’90s at Canada Post (where Wolfgram was then the Crown corporation’s manager of leasing and acquisitions) when I was a young commercial real estate agent,” Hamilton says with a chuckle. “We’ve had good chemistry.”
Now, they’re all on the same team. While he knows it won’t always be a smooth ride as the industry adapts to an uncertain future, Hamilton says he remains bullish on the future of Proveras, the future of the office – and the future of the city he’s called home for most of his adult life.
“I enjoyed my time in the corporate world,” he says. “I learned a lot, but I like to think we have the advantage of experience and alacrity in terms of being able to advise and bring experience to our clients.
“Although it’s an uncertain time right now, the future is exciting.”