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Andrew Thomson, Senior Partner

Partner Profile:

Andrew has over 35 years experience serving investors, developers and tenants.  Andrew founded True North Group Inc in 2001, and provided a full range of investment advisory services to clients coast-to-coast and internationally in real estate development, asset management and construction project management. Over his career, Andrew has worked with major clients that include Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, CT REIT, Sienna Senior Living, Barnhart Asset Management, Ronald McDonald House Toronto, Home Depot Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart, and Loblaw Properties.

What motivates you?

Development is about creating, which in itself is rewarding to experience one’s impact on a skyline or cityscape. Great development adds to community building; filling a need, providing socioeconomic benefits, and bringing character to the lived experience. Executing developments that reward investors, add to the social and economic fabric of the local community, and are aesthetically pleasing has always motivated me with each success. This, in turn challenges me to do better with the next project, since the world is ever evolving.


With decades of experience across many countries, what are the key factors affecting a positive outcome of a development project?

The development process over time and across geographies has not materially changed in decades, if not centuries. Development is all about managing risk, optimizing the risk-adjusted project return accordingly. The measure of success is the cash-on-cash yield; calculated as the stabilized project cashflow divided by the capital needed to achieve that cashflow. The biggest risk to diluting returns is the financial cost-of-carry, that multiplies quickly with poor execution. Make certain one has focused strategic sales/leasing efforts, supported by strong lease &/or sale contracts. On the balance sheet, the single largest exposure is the construction contract. Therefore, ensure one has complete drawings & specifications, rolled into the appropriate form of construction contract, as there are several. Early and comprehensive project planning, supported by the right design team will reduce downstream cost & schedule impacts, thereby mitigating risk exposure.


What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

My biggest professional accomplishment was starting a sustainable independent development advisory firm almost 25 years ago. This allowed me to provide relevant expertise, though independent, unfettered and candid advice to my clients. Providing this advice has taken me across Canada, to the USA, and to parts of South America. I am honoured to have contributed to so many developments, including development of 14 million square feet of industrial space across Brazil in an emerging market with a growing middle class; developing many purpose-built rentals across the USA to accommodate a continuing and growing supply need of apartments where high housing demand affects so many; opening a new Home Depot store every 3 weeks for several years; or building a new Ronald McDonald House Toronto where there was not a dry eye in the room at the ribbon cutting. Contributing to communities while maximizing development project returns is my biggest accomplishment.

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