First National Financial LP

Borrower Perspectives: Kevin Green, Greenwin

  • First National Financial LP

Kevin Green is President of Greenwin, one of Canada’s largest privately owned, residential property development and management companies. Greenwin’s expertise ranges from multi-family high and low-rise buildings to commercial real estate. The company professionally owns and manages more than 1,000,000 square feet of commercial space and 15,000 residential units throughout central Canada.

Kevin shares his perspectives about the Toronto market, how to reposition properties strategically for value, the trend toward intensification and why First National is the perfect teammate for his business.

Q: What are your perspectives on portfolio growth versus market value in today’s climate, especially in a city like Toronto?
KG: It’s not really one versus the other. In Toronto specifically, buying is certainly more challenging these days. People are holding on tightly to what they have and the appetite for acquisition is ferocious. If you’re looking to grow, you need to look beyond the core to secondary markets.

Q: What is your vision around driving value?
KG: At Greenwin, we believe that every building, no matter where it is located, can have a “wow factor.” There are many opportunities to reposition properties strategically – changing the positive energy of a building, focusing on more attentive property management, increasing value through amenities including concierge or a retail store, exercise facility and improving security and lighting. In addition to the building itself, upon vacancy, you can reposition suites to get that “wow factor.” Most people think that it takes a lot of money and effort to get more value out of a property. But you don’t have to spend heavily to impress people.

Q: What is Greenwin’s approach to driving value?
KG: We are very focused on intensification now. If you have extra land, intensification is a real home run. It allows you to develop by using land as equity so you don’t have to reach into your pocket. Instead of being purely acquisition focused, hire a planner and see what rezoning opportunities you may already have.

At Greenwin, it is also important to us to add value with a larger purpose and vision. As an investor, of course we are trying to create value. But our definition of value goes beyond simply dollars. We want to impact the quality of life of our residents and empower them to drive change. Our Chalkfarm project in North York in Toronto is a great example of that vision in action. The people in the community have been a part of the transition and they are extremely proud of it. Collaboratively, we have worked to revitalize the neighbourhood, keep kids in school and empower them with options to stay on a healthy, productive path.

Q: How do you evaluate opportunities?
KG: We look at buildings that have been undermanaged because they have the most opportunity for value creation. We take a long-term view. Rain or shine, increasing or decreasing economy – this building is going to perform, and we’re going to stick with it and survive the ups and downs. We acquire based on the building itself, asking ourselves: Is this a place that people will gravitate towards no matter what, no matter where the economy is? Would it hold up in any marketplace?

Q: How does First National support, complement and challenge that approach?
KG: First National pretty much knows as much as we do, if not more. And apartment lending is all about CMHC. First National has an earned respect from CMHC. CMHC knows that First National understands the market as much as landlords do.

Beyond being able to establish the financing, First National offers a wealth of market knowledge. Our First National team would never let Greenwin Inc. enter into a bad deal, and the people who we are working with understand our business intimately. We know that we are going to get educated and unfiltered opinions about the assets that we are considering. 

Extremely helpful to us, especially now, is First National’s keen understanding of the physicality of a building. As we look to do more repositioning, having that insight is vital to us strategically.

Q: What stands out to you about First National’s process when you are in the thick of a deal?
KG: For us, having the financing is 90 per cent of any deal. While we are gathering our due diligence, dealing with leases and understanding a building’s suites, corridor and building systems, our First National team is working on the financing in parallel. The lending piece has to be seamless.

First National is a true teammate for us. When we decide we are going to pursue an opportunity, everyone gets to work right away. And we work together, as one team. Having a partner like First National – that we can look to for intel, opinions, and honesty is a vital part of the deal process and is invaluable.

Even for Greenwin, and we’ve been in the business a long time, First National removes the intimidation from lending. There are no barriers in the process. Our First National team helps us understand what it needs to get the job done, and then makes that process as easy and as seamless as possible.