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Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP has a ‘strong national real estate practice, with depth in all areas of real estate’. The group is best known for its close links to institutional investors, especially pension funds, but is also routinely engaged by developers, banks, REITs, commercial property owners and occupiers, real estate advisers and government bodies, among others. Among the names to note, Toronto-based group co-lead Chris Huband ‘provides a reassuring presence on larger deals’; he recently led the department’s advice to the underwriters on Minto Apartment REIT’s C$230m IPO. Toronto-based Thomas Von Hahn jointly leads the practice and, together with Toronto’s Silvana D’Alimonte, advised US-based private equity fund JCF Capital on a C$300m mortgage loan on the Trump Hotel and Condominium Tower in Toronto and also on the onward sale of the hotel portion of the unsold condominium units to InnVest Hotels. In a cross-office finance highlight, D'Alimonte, Calgary-based Garth Anderson and Vancouver-based Greg Umbach teamed up to advise Aareal Bank on Leadon Investment’s C$716m financing of 22 hotel properties across Canada. On the leasing front, Toronto-based Joseph Grignano assisted CIBC with the high-profile lease of its new global headquarters, which covers 1.75 million sq ft of office and retail space. Jeffrey Merrick, who heads the Vancouver real estate group, and Montreal-based Pierre-Denis Leroux are also recommended. Other representative clients include Investors Real Property Fund, Morguard Investments and Ontario Pension Board.

‘Excellent in all respects’, Goodmans’ ‘first-rate group’ finds favour for providing ‘very practical, actionable advice supported by highly detailed analysis’ and for its commitment to ‘staffing files cost-effectively’. The practice, which has ‘long-term and deep expertise in the real estate sector’, spans the full scope of real estate matters, with strong skill sets in development, finance, capital markets, leasing, joint ventures and asset purchases and sales. Andrew Wiseman is a ‘top-tier lawyer’ and heads the Toronto-based team; he recently led the department’s advice to Invesque on its $425m acquisition of Care Investment Trust LLC from Tiptree. He also acted with finance specialist Fred Rubinoff to advise K&G Apartments on its purchase of a 35-storey condo project and associated construction financing. Juli Morrow, ‘probably one of the most intelligent specialists in town’, advised CPPIB on a portfolio exchange transaction under which it acquired a 33% interest in Cyrela Commercial Properties’ office portfolio in Brazil, while Cyrela Commercial Properties acquired CPPIB’s 50% equity stake in their existing logistics joint venture. Morrow also acted as real estate counsel to OneREIT on its C$1.1bn privatization. Ira Berg, who ‘simplifies and distils complex issues into practical advice’, acted hand-in-hand with the corporate team to advise Sienna Senior Living on its C$382m acquisition of ten retirement residences in Ontario. The group also includes ‘up-and-coming star’ Bram Green, who demonstrates ‘excellent legal and negotiation skills combined with good business knowledge’. Green advised a pension fund client of Bentall on the sale of Laurentian Hills Plaza to an institutional buyer.

McCarthy TĂ©trault’s real estate group, which ranks among the largest in the country, is well represented throughout Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec and is a popular choice for cross-province transactions. The sizeable department is well versed in acquisitions and dispositions, project development, leasing transactions and property finance for a wide range of clients, including public and private companies, pension funds, private equity players and banks. In Toronto, practice lead John Currie is widely regarded as a leading light and had a banner year, which included acting alongside Toronto-based sector specialist Abraham Costin — and the London office — to advise VPMA Bay Adelaide Property on its C$850m acquisition of a 50% stake in the Bay Adelaide Centre from Brookfield Property Partners. Currie also acted with Toronto’s Jonathan See to advise the Slate Canadian Real Estate Opportunity Fund I on its C$1.1bn acquisition of a portfolio of real estate assets from Cominar REIT. In Montreal, James Papadimitriou and Annie Gagnon Larocque acted for GWL Realty Advisors on a sale and leaseback transaction, under which SNC-Lavalin Group sold its Montreal head office building for C$170m to GWL Realty Advisors and leased it back for 20 years. Other senior names include Vancouver-based Keith Burrell QC, who acted with Costin on a significant joint venture transaction, and Toronto-based investment specialist Danny Grandilli. In addition, the group draws upon ‘very strong rising star’ Jamie Orzech in Toronto.

Stikeman Elliott LLP’s real estate group has close relationships with a wide range of developers, investors, lenders and property owners and occupiers, but is particularly well known for its work for institutional investors. In a recent example, Toronto-based group co-lead Mario Paura advised Strathallen Capital on its C$702.9m acquisition of a portfolio of 44 retail properties from OneREIT — subsequently, Toronto’s Vince Imerti (who ‘provides great service and clear strategy’) advised AIMCo on the acquisition of six of the properties. Toronto-based Eric Carmona is a leading figure in the team and advised 3 Angels Holdings on its sale of the iconic Grouse Mountain Resort. Also in Toronto, Douglas Klaassen advised Hudson’s Bay on an series of transactions, including agreements to lease retail space within certain of its department stores. In Montreal, department co-chair Stefan Fews assisted Canadian pharmacy chain the Jean Coutu Group with the real estate aspects of its acquisition by Metro, which involved nearly 200 buildings across Quebec. On the development front, Calgary’s Greg Plater continues to act as corporate and project counsel to the West Campus Development Trust on the C$4bn West Campus Project. The team is also strong in Vancouver, where Ross MacDonald QC is advising Concord Pacific Group on the high-profile demolition of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts. Toronto-based Melissa Schyven, who advised CT REIT LP on its C$200m acquisition of seven properties from RioCan REIT, and Vancouver’s Richard Jackson are also noted.

‘Responsive, highly commercial and knowledgeable’, Bennett Jones LLP scores highly for its ability to ‘help clients make good business decisions’. In Toronto, Paul Mantini is highlighted as ‘very intelligent, hardworking and creative’, and sources praise Simon Crawford as ‘the complete package’; they teamed up with the ‘outstanding’ John van Gent to advise KingSett Capital on the acquisition of a portfolio of commercial mortgage loans from Home Capital and a related loan from RBC, TD Bank and CIBC. On the development side, Toronto-based department co-lead Jane Helmstadter is advising Aoyuan Property Group on the redevelopment of Newtonbrook Plaza in North York Centre. Wayne Whitlock QC and practice co-lead Larry Sandrin are also recommended in Calgary and Vancouver respectively.

‘Consistently top tier in both service and expertise’, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP’s satisfied clients say, ‘with Davies on our side we always feel we have the best representation at the table’. A top choice for complex matters, the group is held up both as a ‘leader in Toronto’ and a ‘reference in the real estate industry in Montreal’. In Toronto, star name Robert Bauer is ‘peerless in his field’; he is advising the City of Toronto on the redevelopment of Union Station. Gregory Howard, also in Toronto, has ‘deep industry knowledge’ and acted for SmartREIT on its C$1.1bn acquisition, with Strathallen Acquisitions, of OneREIT. In Montreal, Hillel Rosen has ‘strong business understanding and sound judgement’ and is advising Cadillac Fairview on the C$2bn Quad Windsor mixed-use development.  ‘Hands-on, energetic and detail-oriented partner’ Anthony Arquin in Montreal and Toronto-based Gabriella Lombardi are also recommended.

Torys LLP’s real estate practice, which strikes a good balance between public and private sector work, is well versed in the full spread of property development, investment, finance and acquisition and sales. Group head David Dell, who is widely recognized as a market leader, recently acted on a significant redevelopment project. On the investor side Graham Rawlinson, together with REITs lead Simon Knowling, advised a private investor and a private REIT on the C$418m sale of a portfolio of five senior housing facilities in Alberta. Sabrina Gherbaz, who recently advised Village Farms on a joint venture for large-scale cannabis production, and Rose Bailey are also key figures in the team.

Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s practice, which is represented in key markets throughout Canada, handles a broad spectrum of transactional, finance and development matters. In Vancouver, David Longcroft maintains a broad commercial property practice and has recently advised on development projects, sale and leaseback transactions, and investment matters. The group also includes Calgary-based Kevin Keyes, Vancouver-based senior counsel David Mydske and Toronto’s Noella Milne.

‘Responsive and highly attentive’, Dentons’ group provides ‘great value for money’, according to sources. The practice takes in all the main pillars of real estate law, with particular emphasis on project development and finance, investment-related matters, retail transactions and leasing. Ottawa group head Philip Rimer is an ‘excellent specialist’ and, alongside Ottawa’s Kelly Elliott and Toronto’s Sonja Homenuck, advised Albert & Lyon Equities, Albert & Lyon Properties Limited Partnership and Canderel CSQ Ottawa Limited Partnership on the C$480.6m acquisition and financing of Constitution Square, which represented the largest real estate transaction in Ottawa’s history. Toronto partners Jillian Shortt and Jules Mikelberg are also recommended.

A ‘go-to firm for real estate in Quebec’, FASKEN’s national practice also has a strong presence in Ontario and British Columbia. Among the key contacts in Montreal, ‘real estate guru’ Richard Clare is ‘very hard to match from a business and strategic advice perspective’; he recently advised Magil Laurentian Realty Investments on a complex purchase and sale agreement. Montreal’s Nicolas Leblanc is also singled out as a ‘great talent’. In Toronto, seasoned specialist Martin Emmons and national group co-lead Andrea Centa advised LaSalle Investment Management and its related investment fund on the acquisition and financing of the Place Vertu shopping centre.

Norton Rose Fulbright’s group, which shines in acquisitions and dispositions, property finance, construction and leasing matters, is ‘as good as it gets’, according to one client. Among its highlights, Montreal-based national practice chair Mario M. Caron acted alongside the projects department to advise an infrastructure client on a light train rail project. In Vancouver, John L Sampson advised a pension plan client on its co-ownership and redevelopment of a mall, which included assisting with construction financing. Other key names are Calgary-based Steve Raby QC and Toronto-based Michael H. Lieberman — highlighted together as ‘absolutely first-rate’ — and Vancouver-based ‘terrific younger partner’ Neil Davie.

The consensus is that Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP’s team is ‘on the up’ and its recent strong showings in the retail, REIT and property finance spaces support that view. Rod Davidge chairs the group and advised Chartwell Retirement Residences on the C$298m acquisition of five retirement communities. The ‘very impressive’ Stella Di Cresce is an increasingly prominent name and is key relationship partner to the Dream group of companies on real estate matters; recent work includes advising Dream Office REIT on the C$750m sale of its remaining interest in Scotia Plaza. Paul Morassutti, who advised Starbucks on the closure of all 53 of its Teavana stores across Canada, and Heather McKean are also recommended. All named lawyers are in Toronto.

Real estate is a sweet spot for Aird & Berlis LLP and the Toronto-based team excels in planning and development, with supplementary expertise in REITs, property finance, leasing and acquisitions and disposals. Highlights included advising key client Allied Properties REIT on a C$300m equity offering — Michael Smith led the real estate aspects of the deal. Hayden Solomons is also recommended for property transactions.

Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP’s real estate and development group, which is split between its Toronto and Vancouver offices, can also draw upon the firm’s specialist standalone REITs and municipal, planning and environment practices. Among its highlights, Toronto-based Jonathan Freeman, who is a ‘really excellent lawyer’, and Toronto’s David Redmond advised the lenders on Revera and Axium Infrastructure’s joint venture transaction to acquire and share ownership of 32 long-term care homes.

Gowling WLG’s ‘responsive and detail-oriented’ group, under the leadership of Vancouver-based Joel Camley, fields expertise in all core areas of real estate, including acquisitions and disposals, corporate finance matters, commercial leasing and municipal planning. Highlights included Ottawa-based Laurie Sanderson advising Amazon on leasing office space in downtown Vancouver. On the construction side, Vancouver’s Murray Braaten is acting for SHAPE Properties on the redevelopment of Brentwood Mall. Sylvia Adriano joined the Toronto office from WeirFoulds LLP.

DLA Piper (Canada) LLP distinguishes itself through its specialist industry expertise, which spans retail, infrastructure, forestry, municipal and health-related matters. Vancouver-based national group lead Mark Schmidt — ‘knowledgeable, practical and innovative’ — recently advised Mountain Equipment Co-operative on a ground lease and the development of a three-storey mixed-use building. Vancouver’s Franco Trasolini is also highlighted for his ‘high-level legal and business expertise’.

Lawson Lundell LLP’s real estate group is chaired by Vancouver-based transactional specialist Peter Tolensky and also includes Calgary-based Shaun Partridge QC and Vancouver-based development expert Edward Wilson. Highlights included advising Axium Infrastructure and Manulife on certain British Columbia property aspects of their acquisition of a minority interest in hydro facilities from AltaGas.

Toronto-based WeirFoulds LLP houses a diverse property department, which has solid experience in construction, planning, leasing and real estate transactions. Highlights included advising Clubhouse Developments, led by RGF Real Estate Fund LP, on its C$220m acquisition of The Country Club golf course in Woodbridge — Sylvia Adriano, who has since left for Gowling WLG, and David Thompson led that work.

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