Thompson Centres Inc.

For Thompson Centres Inc., the future is looking up – literally and figuratively. The Mississauga, Ontario-based retail and commercial developer is making plans to double its number of projects and take its developments vertical. “We see a lot of retailers looking at the inner city, and my project manager and myself have experience in high-rise condominium development as well as retail,” President Louis Meandro says. “We’re planning to focus on mixed-use developments in city environments.”

For Meandro, entering the high-rise market in urban areas is as much a practical decision for his company and its clients as it is a growth opportunity. “Property values are so expensive in city areas that you can’t just go single-story retail anymore; projects are only feasible if you go vertical in the inner city,” Meandro says.

The move toward mixed-use developments is one way the company seeks out innovative solutions for its clients. With many retailers in Canada facing a stagnant market brought upon by the economy and rising costs, cost-effective development is a high priority, he adds.

While mixed-use developments would take Thompson Centres into the residential sector, its historical focus on serving retail customers will remain strong. “The advantage we bring to these projects is that we understand residential development, but can focus on the needs of the retailer such as access to and from the site,” he adds.

Meandro founded the company in 2003 after working nearly 20 years with several of Canada’s largest retail and commercial developers. Thompson Centres works both with retailers looking to enter a particular market as well as purchases land it later seeks tenants to occupy.

“If a tenant has a need in a market we will find them space and keep their costs affordable,” he adds. “We also find what we think is good real estate, creating a vision for it, and speaking to tenants we think would be a good fit.”

Thompson Centres works with a variety of clients including service sector retailers such as gas bars, banks and pharmacies, as well as “junior box” destination retailers including PetSmart and Best Buy. The company works in several Canadian provinces including Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. 

The company recently completed its first project in St. John’s, Newfoundland, a 50,000-square-foot center featuring Best Buy and Pet­Smart locations and pads for a Montana’s Cook­house restaurant and Second Cup coffee shop.

Work recently started on a second project in St. John’s, a 75,000-square-foot development anchored by Gap and Golf Town locations. Meandro says the expansion into far-eastern Canada were motivated by tenant interest.

Recently completed projects include an 11,000-square-foot freestanding Rexall Pharma Plus location in Ottawa. A 35,000-square-foot restaurant, service and commercial location located in the Intercity retail node in Thunder Bay, Ontario, is now in development.

Meeting Tenants’ Needs

Finding a site is just one of the services Thompson Centres offers to clients. “Being a niche service provider, we are very focused on tenants’ needs and do everything we can to accommodate them,” Meandro says. “We are very honest with retailers about the issues we face in the communities,” 

The company works closely with municipalities on design, access and other issues related to its projects. The Rexall project in Ottawa involved petitioning a municipal board in order to build an access road, and the Best Buy and PetSmart development in St. John’s went through several design iterations before meeting with local approval, he adds.

Thompson Centres also helps clients in other ways. The company helped secure a land lease for the Ottawa project, which keeps the tenant’s rent affordable, Meandro says.

A Team Approach

In addition to Meandro, Thompson Centres’ full-time staff includes an accountant and office manager. With its flat structure, the firm relies on outside help from attorneys, suppliers, general contractors and subcontractors.

One frequent presence on all of the company’s projects is project manager David Fogolin, a 35-year construction industry veteran who has worked on a contract basis with Thompson Centres for several years. Fogolin tenders fixed-cost contracts to general contractors, who in turn hire subcontractors to finish projects.

“We try to take a team approach to our projects,” Meandro says. “We bring everyone in early in the process, and find that has really worked for us.

“Our contractors and suppliers have contributed to our success with their dedication and their honesty; with the fixed costs and tight budgets we work with, we couldn’t do this without them.” Thompson Centres’ key partners include Pinnacle Engineering Ltd.

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