Former District Realty employee launches new brokerage

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Ottawa’s newest independent commercial leasing broker knows he has his work cut out for him, but he says he’s up for the challenge.

After nearly a decade as head of District Realty’s leasing operations, John Zinati has left to start his own firm, Zinati Realty. The 36-year-old Ottawa native said he felt he’d advanced as far as he could at family-owned District and decided it was time to venture out on his own.

“They need somebody as more of an employee to serve their management portfolio more than they needed another broker,” said Mr. Zinati, who officially launched his own agency in mid-July.

“They have their network of clients that they’ve built over the years, and I’d like to build my own over the next 20 years.”

While at District Realty, Mr. Zinati was in charge of leasing more than three million square feet of commercial real estate, including office, retail and warehouse space.

His achievements included helping to engineer the turnaround of one of the company’s flagship properties at 250 City Centre Ave. The vacancy rate at the mixed-use complex just west of Preston Street dropped from nearly 50 per cent to less than four per cent, thanks to a renovation and the addition of trendy tenants such as Art Is In bakery.

The graduate of Algonquin College said he thoroughly enjoyed his time at District Realty, praising executives Sol and Jason Shinder and president Steve Ramphos for teaching him the importance of building strong business relationships.

“District definitely is a great company,” Mr. Zinati said. “I have a lot of respect for the Shinders and Steve. They’ve surrounded themselves with quite a nice client base that’s loyal and trusting. They wished me well and I wished them well. I needed to make this decision for myself.”

He said the new business will be focused on leasing Class B and C office space. For now, Mr. Zinati is working out of his home while he searches for an office.

Mr. Zinati said he will be bringing on another broker soon, likely by the end of the month.  

“It’s a well-known name in the industry,” he said, declining to name the new hire until his appointment is official. “His approach to business and our personalities and values align very well.”