FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Mike Kehoe
January 29, 2013
My conversation with Mike Kehoe, Broker/President of Farifield Commercial over breakfast one recent Saturday morning was part story-swapping between two middle-aged retail guys – our paths have crossed frequently over 30 years during our Edmonton days and in Calgary in the last 13. My background in retail real estate work connects to my background (seems several lifetimes ago) as a footwear retailer, while Mike’s history began on the retail landlord side.
Our discussion began with his history – where he grew up , how he got to here, and why. The company name, Fairfield, comes from FairfieldPublic School on Plains Road in Burlington, Ontario where Mike began his education before studying Business at SheridanCollege. His connection to retail real estate began in his early marketing days, when he organized and ran the touring Craven Antique Car Shows to virtually every market in Canada – meeting mall managers across the country - - connects the dots to long stints with Cadillac Fairview and Stewart Green Properties, lingering memories from Bonnie Doon and Centennial malls in Edmonton days, to ever increasing responsibilities for leasing retail properties in Calgary – where he has been since 1982. Widely regarded as THE go-to-guy on retail real estate in Calgary (and Banff), he has never been short on opinions or shied away from a question.
Woven in Mike’s history is his love of the Rockies, Banff in particular, where he still owns a home – his youthful recollections of driving buses for Brewster on switchbacks to Sunshine Village after his year in accounting at the Banff Springs . . .
And, discussing his role volunteering at Calgary’s drop in centre gets him as animated as does his passionate waxing on what is right with (and wrong with) the Calgary development scene, or his 30 year involvement in ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centres) whose annual January Whistler Conference event Mike is attending this week.
Highlights from that conversation . . .
I asked Mike how he sees the market over the next 90 days.
. . . retailers continuing to experience double-digit percentage sales increases – Calgary will continue to be the darling market of North America as retailers seek footholds and growth in this market
Over the next 5 years?
… retail developers are dinosaurs who haven’t had any genuinely new ideas in 30 years. Well, that’s changing. Sure, online retailing is affecting the retail landscape, but developers and retailers know that bricks and mortar still play an important role. More importantly – and maybe Rollin Stanley’s new approach at City Hall will be just the pointy stick developers need to be poked with – will lead to more walkable and sustainable innovative shopping center development. Some guys get it – Melcor gets it, First Capital gets it, Shape Properties get it, Arctos & Bird get it. There are others. It isn’t just about LEED, it’s about the future, old-school retail centres with a box at each end are not. There is an established fraternity of developers who are an old-boys club, that need to be shaken up, and they will be. Also, there is a need for more women in the industry – in more important roles. There are lots of bright hard-working talented and innovative women in the business who will rock the status quo
… the growth in development of retail real estate, not just in Calgary, but all over Alberta in the next few years (our projection is 13 million sq. ft. of new development) is unprecedented, justifiable and more dynamic than any other jurisdiction on the continent, so I am very bullish on our future
What qualities distinguish your preferred suppliers?
. . . I’m loyal to people who are kind, people I like and trust
Why do your clients hire you instead of your competitors?
. . . I’ll be frank with them, I watch out for them, being the sober voice of 2nd thought
Work/life balance – what is at the core of it for you?
. . . my three sons, pursuit of niche business where my competitors are not, Banff (and, ladies, Mike lists himself as ‘single and available’)
What keeps you up at night, what do you worry about?
. . . keeping my loyal clients happy, continued good health and prosperity, goofy politicians
Any significant sea-change moments that changed your life?
. . . February 15, 2012 – the day I was hit on the highway by a drunk driver – caused me to recalibrate my brain, my thinking, withdrawing from connections with people I don’t wish to deal with who aren’t professional and ethical, need for a succession plan in my business which has me focused more on mentoring young colleagues as I view a 5-10 year exit strategy
You write about real estate – what is your most satisfying?
. . . I write guest articles for The Last Word section of Developers & Chains newsletters, and I’m working on something that may become a book I want to call ’50 Shades of Ethical Behaviour’
What are you reading?
. . . three books on the go right now – biography of Ian and Sylvia, Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young and Creating True Prosperity by Shakti Gawain
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