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Avison Young opens New Canaan office as SW Conn. competition heats up

Published 11:59 pm, Wednesday, June 18, 2014

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  • Jon Angel, president of commercial real estate company Angel Commercial, L.L.C., at his company offices in Fairfield, Conn. on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Photo: Brian A. Pounds / Connecticut Post
    Jon Angel, president of commercial real estate company Angel Commercial, L.L.C., at his company offices in Fairfield, Conn. on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Photo: Brian A. Pounds

 

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The commercial real estate brokerage scene has become a little more crowded with the arrival of a Canadian brokerage firm that believes the Fairfield/Westchester county market has room for some competition.

Toronto-based Avison Young, which has more than 1,500 real estate professionals across Canada, Europe and the United States, has opened an office in New Canaan headed by seasoned industry professional Sean Cahill.

The New Canaan office at 65 Locust Ave., is Avison Young's fourth in the tri-state region. The firm now has 58 offices in 47 markets.

"I'm very excited to utilize my more than 25 years of experience in the Fairfield and Westchester County real estate markets to take this next step in my career and play an integral role in building Avison Young's regional presence here," said Cahill, who was a senior vice president at CBRE in Stamford.

But commercial real estate firms in southwestern Connecticut have said they are well-staffed and have solid track records that should impress any corporate client as upstart Avison Young tries to grab a toe-hold in the region.

`Impact remains to be seen'

Among them is the office of Angel Commercial in the Southport section of Fairfield, which has been a part of the commercial real estate market in the area for more than four decades.

The Southport office has six brokers and three support staff, according to Jon Angel, president of Angel Commercial, who said he has had no desire to greatly expand the numbers of the firm's staff.

Angel expressed confidence that his staff has the skills and reputation to face challenges from any new arrivals in the market.

"It (the arrival of Avison Young) introduces a new player, but at the end of the day does it mean new people? It simply means that they've taken Sean and given him their brand. He's a veteran of the market. It remains to be seen what kind of an impact there will be," said Angel, who has spent 25 years in commercial real estate, including the past 15 years at Angel Commercial. "Sean is a friendly competitor for us."

Angel Commercial, which focuses on Fairfield and New Haven counties, provides tenant and landlord representation, and acquisition, disposition and consulting services. Despite its relatively small staff, through its relationships, it represents clients doing deals out of state, according to Angel.

Though Avison Young is entering a commercial real estate market that has stumbled out of the recession with the office vacancy rate at about 17 percent in Fairfield County, Angel said the move is not unexpected.

`Not flourishing'

"The market is not flourishing as you can see in the vacancy rate in certain segments, but there is business being done. I don't fault them for being here. This is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation," Angel said.

Cahill will have the task of assembling a staff of seasoned brokers, luring most of them from established brokerage firms, Angel said, commenting that it could be challenging.

"The single greatest motivator is money," he said.

The Avison Young office will have six to eight brokers, according to Cahill, as well as support staff including two project managers, a researcher and a marketing professional.

"We'll be making some announcements soon," said Cahill, who has completed 15 million square feet of transactions during his career. "We're hiring experienced brokers who are good at getting business."

But Cahill could initially face a challenge in filling out his staff, said Steve Blank, senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C., as some brokers considering a move wait to see if the fledgling brokerage firm can produce results.

`Making a splash'

"If they are talented and have the budget to withstand an initial slow period, all they need is their first big success. All of a sudden then they become credible. It's never easy to open a new (commercial real estate) branch in an existing market," Blank said.

He stressed the need to hire seasoned brokers with solid reputations because they can establish long-term trusted relationships with corporate clients.

The arrival of Avison Young in Fairfield County did not surprise Blank.

"It's making a real splash in trying to grow a platform in the United States. It sounds like a natural," he said, referring to Fairfield County's strong economy and business base. "Fairfield County is a big market, and there's a lot going on there."

Like Angel Commercial, Avison Young recognizes Fairfield County's potential and its growth as an international business center.

The timing was right for the opening of the office, according to Mark Rose, chairman and CEO of Avison Young.

"Improvements in the economy make the current climate an opportune time to expand into Fairfield and Westchester counties," he said in a statement.

Avison Young's decision to come to Fairfield County validates its economic vitality and potential, according to Lisa Mercurio, director of the Fairfield County Information Exchange, a division of The Business Council of Fairfield County.

"We already have many international players here," she said. "It's a place were the commercial real estate firms know they have to be represented."

rlee@scni.com