Rahael: Commercial real estate changing

PROPERTY developer, Joseph Rahael, says there are categories of real estate development in T&T that have been overbuilt, but there are huge opportunities for different types of property development in T&T.

“There is a category of property called Class A warehousing that is in tremendous demand from companies that are shifting their type of business model from retail to distribution and we do not have many Class A warehousing buildings in this country; so there is definitely an opportunity there. And there are many opportunities elsewhere in the space,” Rahael said.

He made the comment in the question-and-answer session after delivering a virtual presentation at The UWI Actuarial Club’s Seminar in Excellence last Thursday.

Rahael knows the local real estate market, in particular the high end of it.

As managing director of Amera Caribbean Development, he was the driving force behind some of this country’s largest and most prestigious commercial real estate developments in the 21st century.

Amera Caribbean was the property development company that was responsible for one of T&T’s most upscale highrise apartments, The Renaissance at Shorelands, as well as South Park, Price Plaza and Briar Place in St Clair.

He left Amera, which is a business run by his family, in 2017, and set out on his own as an independent real estate developer and consultant.

Rahael was appointed as the managing director of real estate at ANSA McAL, reporting directly to the Group CEO, Anthony Sabga III, within the last few months.

He told the mixed group of about 100 university and secondary school students that he joined the ANSA McAL group because it decided to make real estate development a growth engine and “it was a great fit.”

Rahael said there is an oversupply of Class A commercial real estate in this country because in the early 2000s, T&T had a very low supply of Class A office space, and strong demand for such developments from foreign companies, especially in the energy sector.

He said local real estate developers responded to the demand for the Class A office buildings, “which you can see littered throughout San Fernando and Port of Spain, in particular.”

He said there came a point when the Class A office buildings “became over built and some of the demand from foreign companies dried up. So now there is a situation where I don’t think many people would consider building an office building.”

Asked if the commercial real estate category in T&T was done for a period of time, Rahael said he would not say so as no one has a crystal ball concerning the future of the domestic economy. “There will still be a need for certain kinds of commercial real estate. There is always going to be demand for hairdressers, spas and certain services that you must go to get the service,” said Rahael, adding, “Having said that, there may be some commercial developments that may have to change. That’s just how we are. As a society, as a human race, we evolve and we change. Our tastes change and our shopping patterns change. I don’t think commercial activity is over. It’s just going to have to change.”