Blackberry takeover could present new opportunities in the Waterloo Region commercial real estate market
On Tuesday, September 23, Blackberry officially announced that Fairfax Financial consortium signed a $4.7 billion deal to purchase the struggling tech company. Just days after announcing a loss of nearly $1 billion, the company also announced impending lay-offs of close to 40% of its workforce.
Locally, many are speculating as to just how deep the impact of Blackberry’s misfortunes will go. Since its inception in 1984, the Waterloo-based firm has become the largest occupier of office space in Waterloo Region. Currently holding a regional inventory of 1.6 million square feet of office space, Blackberry comprises nearly 15% of the total office market. At one time, the company was the single largest driver of office construction in the region, leading many to wonder how a potential influx of office space could affect market dynamics. Karl Innanen, Managing Director with Colliers International Waterloo Region, commented, “Blackberry has always been a very big fish in a relatively small pond; however, there are extremely successful companies in Waterloo Region that need more space and have been overshadowed in recent years. The real estate component could be an opportunity.” As Blackberry has steadily declined over the past two years, some of its real estate has already come to market and been quickly absorbed. Given current trends in the Waterloo Region market, the possibility also exists that any Blackberry space brought to market would be developed into higher and better uses - removing it from office inventory altogether.
Waterloo Region has benefited greatly from Blackberry’s success over the past three decades, and it is expected that the highly diversified industry in Waterloo Region, and in particular, the flourishing tech sector, will be able to bear the weight of Blackberry’s losses. After years of competing for the best and brightest minds, companies such as Desire2Learn and OpenText will now have access to an experienced pool of talented employees seeking new opportunities. Innanen went on to say, “The Region of Waterloo has always been a market of ‘enterprising adaptors’. We have gone through many evolutions, right from the wagon wheel to the Blackberry, so we will make the best of this and determine what the next great product or service is, and work on that.”