Concert Realty Services

Q&A: Rod Pirie, Concert Realty Services

Concert Realty Services' Rod Pirie on how amenities make an apartment building work
Monday, August 3, 2015
By Erin Ruddy

Founded in 1989, Vancouver-based Concert Realty Services is a multifaceted company with operations in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. To date, Concert has completed more than $2.5 billion worth of projects, developed more than 10,000 rental and condominium units, and built and acquired more than 10.7 million square feet of income-producing properties.

Overseeing Toronto’s purpose-built rental portfolio is Rod Pirie, Director, Property Management. For this issue, which focuses on amenities, Rod took Canadian Apartment Magazine on a behind-the-scenes tour of one of Concert’s prized purpose-built apartment towers, Motion. Centrally located and packed with high-grade, resident-friendly features, it’s not hard to believe the 29-storey tower hasn’t had a vacancy in its two-year history—or that Concert’s other new apartment towers are experiencing similar success.

We spoke with Rod about what makes an apartment building work and how he came to find himself in the business of property management.

How did you get your start in the property management industry?

I got my start by sheer accident. As a student, I used to spend my summers working for our family business. One year, my father bet me that I couldn’t find another job. I took that bet and found work with a small building owner and operator called Boardwalk Properties Limited, in Calgary. For two summers I worked there—landscaping, cleaning, painting and renovating units as they turned over. I was exposed to almost every part of the property management business, in and out of the office. In April 1988, I graduated and joined Boardwalk as a property manager. The company grew into Boardwalk Equities Inc., a public company, and I grew along with them becoming the Vice President of Property Management and an Executive Officer. In 1999, I moved over to Minto in Toronto as the Vice President of Canadian Operations. In 2001, I retired and spent the next eight years with my young family. In late 2009, I decided I wanted to get back in the property management game, and Concert Properties gave me that opportunity. I began managing their Toronto portfolio of new, purpose-built rental buildings, and have seen the portfolio grow to over 2,100 units.

The purpose-built rental scene is surging all across Canada. Tell us about Motion and what makes it state-of-the-art.

Motion is a luxury, purpose-built rental building offering residents a lifestyle on par with any newly constructed condominium. Our units are modern and efficiently designed. The building has a state-of-the-art mechanical and BAS system that is highly efficient and helps minimize utility consumption. We have green roofs and a water retention system for irrigation. This reduces heat loss and recycles rain water to lessen our impact on the city’s water system while also reducing our utility costs. Motion is the first new, purpose-built residential building in Toronto to have a “Garbage Lounge” rather than garbage chutes.  Residents bring their garbage, recyclables, and organics to the lounge, helping maximize our recycling potential and reduce unwanted waste and expense.

In the broader sense, what makes Concert unique in the marketplace?

Concert’s focus on superior customer service and quality purpose-built and operated rental homes sets us apart from our competitors.  We provide real value to our residents. We have 24-hour on-call service and a dedicated on-site management team at each of our properties. Additionally, all our buildings are conveniently located within minutes from transit lines throughout the city. We strive to provide our customers with a place they can call home, with a community feeling within the existing community that our properties are located in.

This issue of Canadian Apartment focuses on amenities. Describe some of the amenities available at Motion and your other properties.

Motion is equipped with multiple amenity spaces totalling 14,455 square feet, and 10,664 square feet of retail space. On the ground floor, our five retail tenants provide dining, esthetic and banking services to our residents. We have ample bicycle parking, a generous amount of car parking, and three ZipCars available to those with memberships. On our upper floors we have a large party room equipped with a full kitchen; a BBQ terrace with four Weber barbecues; a resident lounge with free WiFi; and a communal games room. One of our most popular amenities is our state-of-the-art theatre room featuring full-size rocker seats and a 6’x9’ wall screen. Another popular space is the fitness room, which is open to residents 24 hours. The building also has a library, private meeting rooms and a large sunny terrace overlooking City Hall and the downtown skyline.  All the amenities can be booked for private functions at no additional cost.

Given Motion’s downtown location, are your residents mostly students and young professionals?

We have a mix of students, medical professionals, young professionals and empty-nesters.  Our residents have a busy, ‘on-the-go’ lifestyle and enjoy living in the heart of the city.  They like being minutes away from all that the city has to offer and can get around on bike, transit or foot.

What green features can residents find at your properties that they can’t find elsewhere?

The fact that we have done away with the traditional garbage chute at our last two new multi-res rental properties makes us unique on the ‘green’ front.  We were awarded LEED gold at both Motion and One32, located at 132 Berkeley Street. Additionally, we target a minimum, Tier 2 Toronto Green Building Standards on all new builds. We include green roofs and water retention systems to reduce heat loss and energy costs, and we sub-meter all utilities within each suite. We are continually challenging our operations team and building residents to “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” and we just had all of our multi-family properties certified as members of FRPO’s “Living Green Together” program. Also, Concert has a national agreement with ZipCar in which we provide our residents with a discounted membership upon move-in. We have dedicated electronic car charging stalls available in our last four constructed buildings.

Where do you see purpose-built rental going?  Specifically, what features do you think will be important in the future?

A master-planned community that provides opportunities for residents to mix and socialize is going to be the future of apartment living. Interactive community programming that gives updates about activities within the rental community and the surrounding area. The focus needs to be on community-building, which results in longer term residents. Amenities should include spaces for private meetings and studying now that more and more people are working from home.  Community living spaces, such as libraries, theatre rooms, and party rooms, will be important because they enhance a resident’s living space as units become smaller.

If you were renting an apartment in the city, what would be your top three needs?

  1. Superior customer service and professional property management.
  2. Finding value in the unit and building amenities.
  3. Location, location, location – close to transportation, shopping and entertainment.

Erin Ruddy is the editor of Canadian Apartment Magazine.

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