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Adrian Rocca

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Latest 1 May 2021 | Updated Daily

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Adrian Rocca: Building a $2 Billion Empire in 4 Years or Less

Venture & Gains

Time Stamps01:18 – Adrian Rocca’s Development Journey05:22 – The Fitzrovia Five Year Plan 08:12 – Swing for the Fences - What Drives Adrian Rocca?11:17 – Unique Pride in Work20:20 – Fitzrovia Portfolio25:16 – The Culture at Fitzrovia30:30 – Advice for new Players in the Game35:55 – David Vs. Goliath – Winning Deals37:41 – Underwriting Post-Pandemic39:46 – Renting Vs. Buying Highlights D’Arcy 1:18 - Adrian, welcome to the Ventures & Gains podcast. Awesome to have you. I'm going to jump right into it, Toronto's been the much talked about market for real estate development, globally, really. You're one of the relatively new kids on the block and it seems like overnight you've created a huge real estate development firm. How did that even happen?Adrian 1:41 - I still ask myself that every now and then it happened very quickly. Maybe just taking it all the way back, I graduated from early 2000s - always super interested in real estate, especially on the development side. Really want to get into real estate, private equity, had a couple of friends in it. I thought a great steppingstone was to get into investment banking first and then make the jump, and so that was always kind of my plan. I was living in Europe for about seven years, came back about eight years ago to join Tricon Capital and there's an opportunity that came up where one of their large institutional clients said that they really wanted multifamily exposure here on the development side, no one's really doing it, no one really has a dedicated platform - Can you build it for us? And I was really tasked to build on it. I went out looking for the head of development. A 6-8-month period really struggled with finding that person. And then I was basically told by senior management that I'd become the head of development. And they had a lot of faith in my ability to execute. We ended up buying a deal off market, looking at Sherbourne and it's now a 50 storey rental tower called the Selby, which is an iconic red brick building… Rolled up my sleeves and for two, two and a half years, put together a really great construction team and got involved in every nuance, every aspect and every detail of that development and really fell in love with the asset class. Always had an entrepreneurial kind of vision or goal. Always want to start my own business really around setting a very specific views around creating culture and alignment and really putting your own personal stamp on how your business operated. It's always been a real passion of mine. So fast forward, after a couple of years of Tricon, I kind of got to the point where we really had to make the election, whether I was going to go up the risk curve and start my own business or continue on the corporate ladder and decided to elect to make that jump. I fell in love with the multi family business, so that was a really personal asset class. I think you really making an impact on people, improving the livability and living experience, I thought was highly engaging and highly cerebral as well. If you could provide or execute on a platform that directly delivers that product to the end consumer. I really loved how US operators and multifamily developers were operating. Like very few guys were operating the same way locally and thought I could borrow some of those key principles and bring it up here and execute. Then given my private equity background and my investment banking background, I thought a lot of institutions were really underserved in today's market and thought there’s a really interesting business model where you could marry the two. So you create some amazing, creative, highly designed, highly programmed product and then also cater to institutional needs, whether it's through monthly reporting how you break down a decision, transparency, speed of execution, our ability to drive returns and IRs, and I thought it was it was a really nice marriage. So that's how I really got into the business. So, we started Fitzrovia over three years ago and we just hit our three year anniversary and we're a team of thirty and fully vertically integrated.Adrian 5:44 - So right now, I’d say the next three to five year plan is just focusing on the greater Toronto area, one of the things I really wanted to focus on, if I was ever going to start my business is to be super focused and not be necessarily a generalist, and your angle is, you know, you have a mousetrap that works. I hate to call it that way, but I say it a lot, so bear with me. You know all the utility companies, you know everything around zoning or planning perspective, you know the engineering group. So your ability to have deep trade based relationships and you have access to a really good consulting team that know how you think and how you operate. So that gives us a big advantage in the market simply from a speed of execution standpoint... So that will be our core business and we have four kind of service groups that supply that that that product. Now, what we are looking to do as we continue to expand is still be in rental housing but expand across the spectrum. So, we're looking at assisted living play. We're looking at an active battle play, looking at more affordable rental development play.Adrian 8:39 - What drives me, and I don't mean to be somber, but, you know, when you're in your teens and 20s, the years like, they go so slow and you feel invincible and the world is never coming to an end and you're going to live forever. And as I get older, especially turning thirty-nine next week, you think about mortality, the years are flying by. And I'm just very focused on not only creating a bit of a legacy, but also have a positive impact on society. That's really, really important. And I feel like these windows of opportunity to enact change or help make someone else life truly is what drives me. I feel very fortunate that I found my passion. I for some reason, even when I was in school, I always loved real estate, knew I was going to get into it and I just wake up every day and super excited to get to work and, you know, kind of build what we're building and do something special. And I tell anyone that joins our team don't do it for the compensation, don't do it for anything else. Do it because you want to make a change and you really want to impact not only what we're doing for our investors, but also changing people's lives as it relates to living in our buildings and making sure that we could bring joy to life and a sense of pride. You know, that's a really happy ending. It Drives me, I don't mean to kind of walk off on a tangent, but, it’s totally in my core… very few of us are splitting atoms. Very few of us are, you know, finding a cure for cancer, so if you're going to do something, do something that is going to get you out of bed every morning. You don’t necessarily have to be the smartest guy out there, but the guy that's super passionate is coming to work with a sense of purpose, is the guy that's going to do something really special in their lives. And I firmly believe that. And I kind of carry that every day. I come into the office and I feel very fortunate with the people on our team that have come on board. I feel like everyone very much buys into that. Everyone's kind of living and breathing the same way. And that has been an amazing thing in creating Fitzherbert. Forget about the deals, just been assembling the team and the quality of the team and the people.D’Arcy 11:17 - It's a great point. And I would say that you're a lucky person because, you know, I'm guessing the vast majority of people don't necessarily get to pursue their passion as a career, right. To find that, to find that mix, you can see why you're saying don't pursue the comp, don't pursue these other things, let the passion drive you, because no question that would drive you further than any of these sort of extrinsic drivers. And I think I think one of the interesting things that, you know, as we were chatting the other day that you said and you just hit on it lightly, there is this idea of just pride of ownership… One of the things that you want, people that are renting a place in one of your buildings to feel is this pride of ownership and to feel great about bringing people over, kind of pounding their chest and showing off their place. You know, that to me is quite a unique perspective in approach when it comes to development, because oftentimes, people are sometimes disappointed with the product that's delivered. You're taking the totally opposite approach so that that like maybe speak a little bit about that.Adrian 13:42 - You kind of take a step back and say there's a lot of people that are displaced with affordable housing market. They can’t afford to buy a house and I want to bring a huge sense of pride to every person that lives in our building when they're showcasing to their mom and dad or to their close friends that they could afford this amazing, thoughtfully curated building that comes with an amazing community that's highly programmed, that really gives them the best in terms of finishes, in terms of services that everyone can ask, has been thoughtfully designed and spatial planning. It's just bang on. It's got the right aesthetic. To me, bringing that sense of pride to someone is ultimately our goal. You say you're kind of in the business of multifamily rental. We are, but that's really on the surface, we're really trying to go beyond that and making sure that anything our tenant is touching and feeling is certainly of high quality. But I also want it in the back of their head that this developer really thought carefully about that final layer finish. And with that, I can't wait to showcase what I have or the place I live in to my friends and family. And that's ultimately what it cuts across. What we're trying to deliver is exactly that, that sense of pride...and making sure every aspect of that experience is of highest quality and they feel incredibly special is the core of our DNA and what we strive to deliver every day that we're interacting with the residents. D’Arcy 17:20 - What do you think is missing maybe in the markets you're in today, you talked about the amenities and just the experience, but where do you pull design precedents from, who's doing it well?Adrian 17:46 - We do a lot of R&D…Toronto, look, it's an amazing city. I love it. But it's also everyone's incredibly busy and it's easy to be insulated in terms of what's happening in other parts of the world that are highly creative and definitely pushing the edge on creativity. I think that the nature of not only we're busy and I think we have a generally conservative society here, although that is changing a little bit. You know, everyone's kind of doing the same type of thing, working with the same consultants. And so we try to do is really push ourselves from an R&D standpoint. So we'll do two trips a year as a team, we'll pick up whether it's a gamely market in the US, we'll go over to Europe. I’ve drawn a lot of experiences from my time over in Europe as well, working with other developers across the continent and try to borrow those principles up and bring them back here. And so there's a couple of really unique concepts that the market's going to see at Spadina  or Waverly Hotel of the hotel redevelopment, which I think are really unique to the Toronto marketplace…anyone, if they're really passionate especially, can put themselves in the shoes of prospective renter and think about what's going to make their lives more enjoyable if they are living in that building. And if you could kind of marry those three things, I think you could really create some finishing details that are really unique to the market. We're always thinking about what's around the corner with changing trends in the industryAdrian 23:21 - We spent a lot of time up front making the right decisions and doing all the analytical work around it and then making sure it's created into a playbook or a blueprint that we could amortize across, you know, 10, 15, 20, 30 buildings… We call them playbooks because we all know we are going to update the playbooks as we have new ideas or as new concepts are brought up. But the core 60, 70, 80 percent of your decision making should be standardized, and that allows us to give clear, concise feedback to consultants, to trades. It eliminates change orders extras, it allows us to execute and increase our throughput and bandwidth and not only from a team, but definitely from my perspective. So that allows us to allocate time to that final layer finish, whether it's your interior design, your finishing package materiality, your partnership deals that we work really hard on. And that's really how we allocate time and also allocate a lot of time to putting great people into place to run our various verticals, build a great team around them, give them the support network they need to succeed and create owner driven economics for them to have alignment shoulder to shoulder with you.Adrian 30:30 -I definitely had this romantic vision of starting a business and just it's not the advice I think a lot of people would expect, but it can be a very lonely, especially up front and highly emotional thing to go through. And I would just be mindful of that, it's going to be lonely, it’s going to be a ton of hard work. It's going to feel you're going to feel like you’re vulnerable in certain spots and you're going to feel like you're on a bit of an island without much support. But, you know, back to the passion, back to just working hard and just putting your head down. I think just having good karma and trying to help other people out as you're growing and make sure those people have a vested interest in your success goes a long way and not being necessarily short term greedy… I have a tremendous amount of respect for other entrepreneurs now that have made a success out of building a business and have someone firmly has that itch that they need to scratch. I think it's really, really important to do that. And I would be firmly a supporter in any one kind of making that leap and making that step Takeaways:Adrian’s early passion for real estate and development.How he identified an underserved market and addressed that with Fitzrovia.The importance of making positive impacts on people’s lives and how that is a driving factor for Adrian.Pride of ownership, how Adrian and Fitzrovia are looking to deliver that.Adrian’s approach of gaining influences and ideas from outside the Toronto market to drive innovation at Fitzrovia.The need to standardize decision making.The highly collaborative, open environment at Fitzrovia that allows them to work seamlessly together.Adrian’s advice for anyone starting a business.How to build your brand and separate from the competition.Learn More:https://triconresidential.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI3NOF3cj_6wIVaR-tBh0oHA55EAAYASAAEgKuuPD_BwEhttps://www.centrecourt.com/


8 Oct 2020

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COVID-19 and Development with Adrian Rocca of Fitzrovia Real Estate

Commercial Real Estate Podcast

Adrian Rocca is the CEO of Fitzrovia Real Estate and joins us today for his second CRE Podcast appearance. The world has changed since Adrian was on the show in December, so he tells us how the pandemic has affected his business and projects. Though Adrian believes it will take years for the Canadian economy... The post COVID-19 and Development with Adrian Rocca of Fitzrovia Real Estate appeared first on Commercial Real Estate Podcast.


20 Aug 2020

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Launching an Empire with Adrian Rocca of Fitzrovia Real Estate

Commercial Real Estate Podcast

Our guest today is Adrian Rocca, CEO of Fitzrovia Real Estate. He has “lived the dream” by working for an institution and then deciding to strike out on his own two years ago. Adrian has found an incredible of success in a short amount of time, with a large pipeline of apartments in the GTA.... The post Launching an Empire with Adrian Rocca of Fitzrovia Real Estate appeared first on Commercial Real Estate Podcast.


30 Jan 2020