Weekly Regional Business Intelligence

Written by Kieran Delamont, Associate Editor, London Inc.

Best of London voting opens

London Inc. today announced it has officially opened voting for the 2024 Best of London program, giving Londoners a chance to weigh in on the businesses, services and professionals that make the Forest City great. From golf courses to contractors to great places to eat, we want to know which companies you consider top of their game. “Best of London is 100 per cent reader voted, therefore winners are truly the best of the best in the city,” said London Inc. VP of media sales Linda Greenfield. “For all winners, it is an honour to display the Best of London logo for the entire year showing their customers, prospective clients and the entire city that they are the best at what they do.”

The upshot: Contest voting opens today and will continue through the end of April 15. Readers can vote on their favorites in many different industries, including Arts & Entertainment, Automotive, Business Services, Food & Beverage, Health & Wellness, Home & Garden, Parenting & Childcare, Pet & Pet Care, Real Estate, Retail, Sports & Leisure and Weddings, Formals & Proms. The winners and runners-up will be announced in a special feature in the June 2024 issue of London Inc. and online at londonincmagazine.ca.

Vote here: Best of London

Indoor beach volleyball facility coming to YXU grounds

Two local entrepreneurs have announced plans to open Canada’s only purpose-built indoor beach volleyball facility here in London. Kyla Woodcock and Dave Ward (pictured), who also operate the the Forest City Sport & Social Club and Summit Sports Leagues & Events, announced this week that the new facility― dubbed The Beach Hangar ― will feature over 23,000 square feet of play space, 30-foot ceilings and six full-sized beach volleyball courts. To be built at the northwest corner of Crumlin Sideroad and Robin’s Hill Road, It is being developed in partnership with the Greater London International Airport Authority, on whose property the space is being developed. “Our vision is to create a vibrant, inclusive environment where athletes of all skill levels can come together to play, socialize, compete and enjoy the spirit of the game, in a space that is best-in-class,” said Woodcock. Zanth Jarvis, the city’s director of sports tourism, added that “new recreational spaces of this calibre don’t come along very often,” and called the project “a significant addition to our city’s recreational and tourism infrastructure.” According to Woodcock and Ward, the facility will open next January.


The upshot: For some folks, the announcement of the new project will bring to mind the recent closure of Spikes, London’s long-time indoor beach volleyball venue, which closed in May 2023. “In London, the demand for sports facilities, particularly for volleyball, outstrips the available supply,” reads a press release from the organization, noting that Spikes’ closure meant the loss of the only year-round space in London. The owners also said they are hoping to use the facility to bid for provincial and national beach volleyball events, noting that the courts will be built to competitive specs. It’s also an interesting collaboration for YXU, though with a track record of adding recreational elements to the airport property (pickleball and an outdoor rink), it’s another step in making the facility more than just a travel hub. “Integrating The Beach Hangar within our property aligns with our vision to enhance the airport’s role as a signature destination,” said CEO Scott McFadzean. “It’s a unique venture that showcases innovative use of space and supports local land development.” Woodcock and Ward are also looking for a food partner to “helm its dining experience” and are hoping to land sponsorship projects to support the space. 

Read more: CBC London | The Beach Hangar

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No relief in sight for downtown office sector

Expect another rough year for downtown commercial real estate, with core office vacancy expected to rise to nearly 30 per cent, says commercial realty firm CBRE. In its 2024 Market Outlook, the firm predicts that London’s core vacancy rate could hit 29.6 percent, up from 28.5 per cent last year. As for contributing factors, there’s nothing new to share here ― the core office sector continues to grapple with slumping demand due to the rise of hybrid and remote work, as well as persistent issues of homelessness, addiction, mental health and urban safety. “It is the same story we have discussed. It is tough,” Brent Rudell, broker and vice-president at commercial real estate firm Cushman Wakefield, told the London Free Press. “A 30 per cent vacancy rate downtown is brutal.”


The upshot: With vacancy for the office sector at an all-time high and seemingly about to get worse, it’s understandable why stakeholders like CBRE and Cushman Wakefield are worried. In fact, even if we start to see some city-assisted office-to-residential conversions in the core, some experts predict the downtown will have a glut of unoccupied workspace until the 2040s. Demand for suburban office space in the city is healthier (with about one third the vacancy of the core market), but even it is expected to see a slight increase in vacancy this year, with CBRE predicting the suburban office vacancy will rise to 11.3 per cent from 10.6 per cent at the end of 2023.   

Read more: CBRE | London Free Press

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Ivey launches new digital hub

Ivey Business School announced the launch of its new digital hub, Impact, last week, a home for “cutting-edge knowledge, groundbreaking research and pioneering insights from Ivey.” The hub looks like it will be serving as a main platform for hosting content and media from Ivey faculty and events, and to give them a place to present the work done at the school in a more public-facing way. “Impact is more than a website; it exemplifies Ivey's commitment to confronting critical issues, challenging perspectives and contributing to a sustainable and prosperous future,” said Ivey dean Sharon Hodsgon. She also said that the platform will focus on three broad areas ― sustainability, Canada's place in the world and the evolution of work ― identified as critical issues facing organizations in the school’s recent strategic plan.


The upshot: Probably the best way to wrap your head around the platform is to think of it as Ivey trying to break some of the work they do out of the proverbial ivory tower of academia ― and make its expertise and research more accessible and approachable. “Our world is rapidly transforming, and firms face complex challenges that demand practical solutions and future-oriented insights,” said associate dean Robert Klassen. “With Impact, leaders everywhere can tap into targeted, top-tier research from Ivey’s faculty, empowering their ability to make informed decisions today, while laying a foundation for the uncertainties of tomorrow.”

Read more: Ivey Business School

London sees increased demand for intergenerational housing options as buyers look to alternative ownership models

A new report out from Re/Max Canada is shining some light on the way Canadians are using non-traditional approaches to get into the housing market. A full one-third of all Canadians, the report estimates, are actively exploring alternative ways to enter the housing market. The top three are accessing rent-to-own programs, co-owning with family and renting out a part of the home to subsidize the mortgage. In London, the report notes, intergenerational homes are becoming more common. “Parents commonly purchase homes with their children to operate as an intergenerational family unit and assist with childcare and household expenses,” said Re/Max. In London and similar Ontario markets, estimates suggest that the number of Canadians exploring these alternatives could see increases of 8 to 10 per cent annually, as would-be homebuyers get more creative (or desperate) in finding ways into the housing market.


The upshot: It’s a bit of a glass half full or glass half empty sort of study. You might optimistically see this sort of thing (as Re/Max does) as creative and innovative approaches to achieving homeownership, and a reaffirmation of Canadians’ belief in homeownership as an asset class. You might also see it more pessimistically as evidence that the future of homeownership now demands more than the traditional two-income nuclear family, and increasingly requires outside investment or tenancy relationships. The London market, like markets across the country, will ultimately have to grapple with this reality. Re/Max does point out that this is more of a band-aid solution, and that ultimately it falls to governments and the homebuilding market to start to close the gap between supply and demand. “Creativity in the homebuying process is a workaround, not a solution to Canada’s affordability crisis,” said Christopher Alexander, Re/Max Canada’s president. “Our governments must be more strategic and visionary in how we can use existing lands and real estate to drive our housing supply to allow for a greater diversity of housing for all Canadians.”  

Read more: Yahoo Finance

LSTAR doles out the 2023 Don Smith Commercial Building Awards

The London and St. Thomas Association of Realtors (LSTAR) handed out its 2023 Don Smith Commercial Building Awards last week, recognizing the top commercial, industrial, multi-family and community buildings across the LSTAR region. Taking home the top award for commercial buildings was the historic renovation of the old EMCO building on Dundas Street, now home to a handful of companies, including project designer matter architectural studio. The top Industrial building was the new Aspire Food Group cricket production facility on Innovation Drive (pictured). The top award for high-rises went to the Sofia Yorkville development at Wonderland and Southdale roads, while the low-rise award went to Zerin Place on Clarke Road.


The upshot: Named after the late Don Smith, co-founder of EllisDon, the biannual awards shine the spotlight on the city’s outstanding commercial building designs. “These awards illustrate the incredible innovation and design by the talented developer, construction and architecture community right here in our region,” said Kathy Amess, 2024 LSTAR board hair. “These leaders play an integral role to the business, economic and social development of our cities and neighbouring communities.” Click below to see the full list of winners. 

Read more: LSTAR

Dispatch: March 1, 2024

A summary of recent business appointments and announcements, plus event listings for the upcoming week.

View listings here


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