It’s every host’s worst nightmare: throwing a big party only to have nobody show up.
Shawn Hamilton, managing director of CBRE's Ottawa office, confessed as much as he welcomed a newly arriving guest to a reception his commercial real estate services firm organized Wednesday in celebration of their 20 years of doing business in Ottawa.
Clearly, Hamilton had nothing to worry about. The venue, Métropolitain Brasserie Restaurant, was as packed as a brand-new LRT train during peak rush hour. Some 330 guests came and went throughout the night, including Mayor Jim Watson, Invest Ottawa president and CEO Michael Tremblay and even an Olympian — retired ski racer Ryan Semple, who's now working in the real estate industry.
Guests were so busy chatting, networking and indulging in business banter that Hamilton decided against interrupting the room to deliver a few brief remarks. “Why take people away from what they’re doing?” Hamilton told OBJ.social.
It’s been two decades since well-known Ottawa real estate executives Jim Shotton and Ian Shackell left their jobs with Royal LePage Commercial to open the Ottawa office of CB Richard Ellis, now known as CBRE.
CBRE is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, with 2018 revenues of $21.3 billion and more than 90,000 employees.
Shotton and Shackell started as a shop of three, with Connie Marszowski as office operations manager.
The trio, along with Hamilton, piled into one of the restaurant booths on Wednesday to chat briefly with OBJ.social, just before their party started to roll. The cozy but cramped seating space reminded Marszowski of their very first office, or so she joked.
The founders remain as humble as when they first began, in The Carlisle building at 440 Laurier Ave. W. Their office has since moved, three times, and now occupies roughly 10,000 square feet on the 7th floor of Little Italy’s Preston Square.
“I think we’re all very proud of the accomplishments and of the growth of the company,” said Shackell. “Every year we seem to get better and grow in terms of our client base and our market reach.”
Also a source of pride for Shackell is having his son, Matt Shackell, join the team as a commercial real estate sales representative.
Today, Ottawa employs some 45 people in brokerage and project management but has a total of more than 100 staff with the company’s global workplace solutions folks, who are onsite at facilities across the city.
“We’ve really morphed in the last 20 years from a brokerage company to a full-services commercial real estate company,” said Hamilton. “We do help tenants, we do help landlords, we do help investors, but we also deal in project management, we deal in facilities management, we deal in property management and we deal in workplace solutions.
“There really isn’t an element of commercial real estate that we don’t touch. Still, the roots that we came from, being that entrepreneurial brokerage spirit, is still in our DNA and is still what grounds us."
Hamilton credits Shotton and Shackell for the expertise they were able to bring to CBRE when they first opened the Ottawa office.
“These two guys, when they started, were really established and really what I’d call the backbone of the commercial real estate community,” he said.
“Jim, for example, was one of the pioneers of brokering in Kanata before Kanata was cool. Ian was at the forefront of industrial real estate.
“They were ahead of the curve in terms of their business practice, in terms of client care. They spotted an opportunity with the company that would match their pedigree rather than the other way around, and I think that really created a synergy that allowed us all to grow as a result of that.”
The reception took place the eve of the 25th Annual Ottawa Real Estate Forum, held at the Ottawa Event & Conference Centre.
Archives bonus: Here's a trip down memory lane, featuring OBJ's original coverage of CBRE's first days in Ottawa.