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Regarded by many as ‘the benchmark for real estate law in Canada’, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP’s ‘top-level market knowledge’ and ‘creative approach to finding solutions’ continues to distinguish it as a market leader. Among its core areas of activity are sales and purchases of real estate, property finance, real estate investment and development matters, and its enviable client base includes pension funds, developers, banks, REITs, and property owners and occupiers. Led jointly from Toronto by Chris Huband (‘extremely bright and great to work with’) and Thomas von Hahn, the team also calls on experienced partners in Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary. In a recent headline deal, Huband advised Omers-owned Oxford Properties on the $1.1bn sale of a 50% stake in a portfolio of office buildings in Toronto and Calgary to CPPIB. Huband also acted for Ontario Pension Board and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board in the acquisition of a 50% interest in a portfolio of office buildings in downtown Vancouver and a 50% interest in the shopping mall CF Pacific Centre. Other key names in the team include Vancouver-based Jeffrey Merrick, Toronto’s Silvana D’Alimonte and Montreal’s Pierre-Denis Leroux.

The ‘responsive, pragmatic and commercial’ real estate group at Goodmans earns praise for its ‘deep and broad real estate offering’ and for bringing to bear the ‘strong support of other related disciplines within the firm, such as corporate and tax’. REIT-related work is a notable strength and the firm also shines in property acquisitions and disposals, real estate finance and property development. Juli Morrow is as an expert in the area and represented the special committee of OneREIT on its C$1.1bn privatization through its acquisition by Strathallen Acquisitions and Smart REIT. In another REIT-related highlight, group head Andrew Wiseman advised H&R REIT on its sale of a 50% interest in two shopping centres to Montez Core Income Fund IV LP. Elsewhere, Bram Green advised Leadon Investment on its C$1.1bn acquisition of SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts, a portfolio of 25 upscale hotel properties across Canada, from British Columbia Investment Management Corporation. The firm has also recently undertaken work for RioCan REIT, Mainstreet Health Investments and InnVest REIT. Among the other names to note, Fred Rubinoff and Jeffrey Shore are highlighted together as ‘smart, practical and adept as making deals happen, even when the opposing counsel is not as practical’.

Great real estate firmMcCarthy Tétrault is ‘simply superb on all counts’, according to a client. Praise is levelled at the firm’s ‘extremely strong lawyers’, who have ‘strong commercial sense and broad knowledge of the industry’. The national group’s bench also impresses, fielding ‘truly excellent lawyers at all levels of seniority’ across its bases in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary. In Vancouver, Keith Burrell QC stands out as ‘one of Canada’s most respected real estate partners’; he is highly sought after for his experience advising real estate developers and investors on major transactions. Also in Vancouver, ‘partner to watch’ Conrad Rego played a key role in the firm’s advice to Bluesky Hotels & Resorts in its C$1.2bn acquisition of InnVest REIT – Toronto’s Jamie Orzech led the deal. Toronto is also the seat of group head John Currie, whose ‘practical and user-friendly approach is a breath of fresh air’. Other distinguished names in Toronto include senior specialist Abraham Costin (‘rightly recognized as market leader’) and investment expert Danny Grandilli. Among the Toronto office’s newer partners, Jonathan See had an active year and advised BMO Capital Markets and BMO on RioCan REIT’s C$1bn unsecured operating credit facility.

Considered by some as ‘the best in Vancouver’, Stikeman Elliott LLP’s ‘consistently strong’ national real estate team also has well-staffed platforms in Toronto, Calgary and Montreal. In Toronto, Eric Carmona is a high-profile name and advised Hines on its purchase – together with Ivanhoé Cambridge – of 81 and 141 Bay Street, part of the iconic Bay Park Centre development project. Also in Toronto, Douglas Klaassen is advising Hudson’s Bay on real estate matters relating to its Netherlands expansion, involving a proposed 20 new department store leases over the next two years. In Vancouver, office managing partner Ross MacDonald is ‘simply fantastic’ and continues to act for Concord Pacific Group on the C$10bn development of the Concord Pacific Place mixed-use waterfront project. In another headline development mandate, Calgary’s Gregory Plater is advising the West Campus Development Trust on the C$4bn West Campus Project. The Montreal office also had a busy year, and ‘effective and commercial’ Stefan Fews acted for Cara Operations on the real estate aspects of its C$537m acquisition of Groupe St-Hubert, involving 117 restaurants. Vancouver’s Richard Jackson and Toronto-based Mario Paura are also recommended.

Bennett Jones LLP’s team is praised for its ‘excellent industry knowledge’ and ‘very good strength in depth’. The firm’s broad national presence is also a hit with clients, who praise its ability to provide ‘equally strong teams in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary’. In Toronto, Paul Mantini is widely acclaimed for his ‘remarkable commercial acumen’ and advised Gateway Casinos & Entertainment on its acquisition of two bundles of casino facilities from Ontario Lottery and Gaming. He also paired up with Toronto’s John van Gent to advise Omers Realty on the C$90m sale of the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel to InnVest REIT. In Calgary, the ‘very knowledgeable’ Gregory Liakopoulos advised ReidBuilt Homes on several financing transactions. The department also benefits from the senior expertise of Vancouver-based Larry Sandrin, Toronto-based Simon Crawford and Calgary-based Wayne Whitlock QC.

Key strengths of Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP’s real estate team include its ‘instant availability’ and ‘first-class business knowledge’. The group, which is split between Toronto and Montreal, is also applauded for its ‘rare ability to staff a file appropriately’. In Toronto, pre-eminent partner Gregory Howard is a ‘consummate professional’; he advised CPPIB on its C$1.1bn acquisition of a 50% interest in a Canadian office portfolio from Oxford Properties. On the development side, Howard is advising Ivanhoé Cambridge on its development, with Hines, of the iconic Bay Park Centre. Infrastructure specialist Robert Bauer and Gabriella Lombardi are also recommended in Toronto. In Montreal, Hillel Rosen is advising Cadillac Fairview on the $2bn Quad Windsor development, while ‘up-and-comer’ Anthony Arquin advised Carbonleo Real Estate on the C$1.7bn Quartier Royalmount project. The Montreal group also includes highly regarded counsel Pierre-André Themens.

Torys’ ‘broad understanding of the real estate area’ gives the Toronto-based practice a ‘unique insight into solving problems’, says a client. David Dell is ‘very experienced’ and advised Cadillac Fairview and Ontrea on the C$250m sale of Promenade Mall. On the investment side, Dell acted for Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Cadillac Fairview on the structuring of new real estate vehicle Ontario Teacher’s Cadillac Fairview Properties Trust. Among the team’s development mandates, Donald Roger and Sabrina Gherbaz are advising Rogers Telecommunications – as the owner of the land and the development – on the new C$1.5bn M City project in Mississauga, which will host ten condo towers and more than two acres of public parkland. Graham Rawlinson, Rose Bailey and Simon Knowling are also senior names on the team. Sources also reserve praise for the ‘impressive quality of the group’s associates’, including ‘rising star’ Andy Gibbons.

Highlighted as ‘great to work with’, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s real estate team ‘treats all clients like its most valued client’. Vancouver is the seat of national lead David Longcroft, who is recommended for his broad practice encompassing property investment, project development and real estate acquisition and disposal. In Toronto, Murray Shopiro is ‘very prompt and proactive’ and acted on a multimillion-dollar land sale. Also in Toronto, Noella Milne advised Montez as borrower on a C$250m financing for the Londonderry Shopping Centre. Senior counsel David Mydske is also recommended in Vancouver. Real estate specialist Morton Gross QC recently retired.

Dentons sets itself apart through its ‘very knowledgeable staff’ and ‘favourable service and pricing’. Among its recent work, it advised a joint venture between Menkes Developments and Greystone Managed Investments on its C$260m acquisition of land from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario – Toronto-based national real estate chair Jillian Shortt advised Greystone and Toronto-based Jules Mikelberg advised Menkes. In Edmonton, Colin Lipsett advised Katz Group on the real estate aspects of the C$3bn sale of its Rexall Health chain to McKesson, which includes 470 retail pharmacies. Canadian National Railway, Hopewell Development and Qualico Developments are also representative clients.

Lawyers at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP provide ‘practical and well-thought-out advice at a reasonable cost’. In Toronto, Ontario real estate lead Andrea Centa earns praise for her ‘amazing response times’ and for going ‘above and beyond to iron out issues’; she advised Fengate Capital Management on a joint venture to develop a condominium in Toronto and on a joint venture to develop two condominium towers in Toronto, worth a combined C$300m. Also in Toronto, Martin Emmons advised Ivanhoé Cambridge on a joint venture transaction with Simon Property Group. Montreal-based national chair Richard Clare is also recommended.

Norton Rose Fulbright’s real estate group is staffed by ‘very practical and experienced’ lawyers. Among the names to note, Montreal-based national lead Mario Caron is advising CDPQ Infra on the real estate aspects of its C$5.6bn development of a light rail infrastructure project. In Vancouver, John Sampson had a strong year and advised Grosvenor Canada on several headline matters, including on the assembly, acquisition and rezoning of a full city block in the centre of West Vancouver. Vancouver’s Neil Davie is also recommended for his ‘can-do attitude’.

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP’s comprehensive real estate practice had particularly strong showings in the restructuring, REIT and retail spaces during 2016/17. Highlight mandates included Toronto’s Stella Di Cresce advising Dream Office REIT on its new co-ownership agreement for Scotia Plaza with KingSett Capital (KingSett) and Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo), following the sale by Dream Office REIT and H&R REIT of a 50% interest in Scotia Plaza to KingSett and AIMCo. In another REIT-related deal, Rod Davidge advised SmartREIT in three property acquisitions worth a combined C$107.8m. Toronto-based Heather McKean chairs the national group.

Toronto-based Aird & Berlis LLP is particularly strong in property development and planning issues, and is also routinely involved in property sales and acquisitions, corporate finance matters and contentious construction issues. Hayden Solomons advised First Capital Realty on its C$189m acquisition of the retail and commercial parking components of 1 Bloor Street East. Allied Properties REIT and Crestpoint Real Estate Investments are also key clients.

Gowling WLG’s national real estate practice is well known for its work on property sales and acquisitions, leasing transactions, property finance and fund formation. Among its highlights, Montreal real estate lead Julie Desrochers advised Sobeys on a C$418m sale-and-leaseback transaction with Crombie REIT involving 19 retail properties and a 50% interest in three automated distribution centres. Other key names in the department include Toronto-based Mark McHughan and Ottawa-based leasing specialist Laurie Sanderson.

Under the leadership of Toronto-based David Redmond, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP’s real estate group has a diverse focus, with property investment, leasing transactions and public sector-related matters all key areas of activity. Redmond recently advised Centurion Apartment REIT on several deals, including its C$16.7m acquisition of three multi-unit residential buildings in Toronto. Signe Leisk is recommended for municipal and planning matters and advised Infrastructure Ontario on the sale of development lands to Urban Capital-Redquartz.

The ‘very good group’ at DLA Piper (Canada) LLP is praised for its ‘extremely prompt response times’, and one client comments that ‘every area of service is exemplary’. Leasing matters are a particular specialism and Vancouver-based group chair Mark Schmidt advised Mountain Equipment Co-operative on the negotiation of a ground lease from Beedie Development Group and on the development of a three-storey mixed-used building, worth a combined C$30m. Also in Vancouver, Franco Trasolini is highlighted for his ‘excellent knowledge of the Real Estate Development Marketing Act’.

Lawson Lundell LLP acts for a diverse mix of pension funds, energy and natural resources companies, developers and government agencies on real estate matters. Vancouver-based Peter Tolensky is the key contact.

Ontario firm WeirFoulds LLP has robust expertise in planning, construction, leasing and land sales and acquisitions. Toronto-based commercial leasing expert Lisa Borsook is recommended.

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