Saqib Qureshi has found his niche in real estate with Building Capital.

As Managing Partner at the boutique developer based in Markham, Ontario, he draws on his educational background as a London School of Economics PhD grad to provide housing solutions for the next generation of students and investment opportunities for homebuyers.

Among the projects Qureshi is currently involved with, Building Capital is working alongside Podium Developments on University Studios, a forthcoming student-focused condo community opposite the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa.

Recently, Qureshi found the time to chat with us about University Studios, the GTA condo market and more.

BuzzBuzzHome: Who is Building Capital?

Saqib Qureshi: We are a Markham, Ontario-based boutique real estate development firm specializing in primary research on potential projects, and we become seriously involved in financing those select projects that we believe are truly outstanding.

What is your company’s pedigree?

SQ: With our partners, we have completed two student-housing projects in Oshawa to date, with a combined 371 beds. We are now driving through with several more projects across the GTA and have also financed a Marriott Hotel project in the US.

BBH: Tell our readers briefly about your book, Reconstructing Strategy.

SQ: The book explores how our self-identity, whether as individuals or as organizations, impacts how we see the world, the goals which we set for ourselves, and the strategies we deploy to get us from today to our future promised land. The book borrows heavily from postmodern epistemology (the study of the theory of knowledge), but comes to life through nine case studies. This book is certainly not dry, nor boring!

BBH: You’ve worked in Europe, Asia, and North America in a variety of different roles, from positions at government agencies to working in investment banking. How did you get into real estate?

SQ: I moved to Canada in 2011 without a clue about what work I might do. That summer and over the course of hundreds of coffees and ice creams — especially with fellow alumni from McKinsey & Co. and the London School of Economics — I developed a clearer focus on the sort of assets that investment capital wanted, but was struggling to find. Student housing was one such asset class, and back then it was incredibly fragmented with very small players. That was my cue to start digging deeper.

BBH: What do you like best about the industry?

SQ: The opportunity to fundamentally improve the student experience during a student’s formative university years. We make a big difference to young people at a time when they are beginning to come into their own.

BBH: You received your PhD from the London School of Economics. How has this background helped you in your current role with Building Capital?

SQ: I completed my PhD. in an area where I didn’t really excel. I could barely get my head around the discipline’s most basic texts. But I studied the interface of epistemology and international relations so that I could learn and grow. The result was that the process developed my self-belief that if I really wanted to do something, I could, and that same ethos underlies our company, Building Capital.

BBH: Can you tell us a little about what makes University Studios special?

SQ: The units will be among the best student-housing residences in the world.


BBH: What drew Building Capital to pursue a project in Oshawa?

SQ: In the winter of 2011, I trudged around several towns near the GTA, wearing summer shoes and lightweight clothing — given I had no experience of living in snow — and was struck by the shortage of sensible student housing near UOIT and several potential student housing sites near the main campus. In fact, for weeks, my main focus was trying to understand why somebody else hadn’t already developed a workable student housing project.

BBH: What are some of the benefits of this project for investors?

SQ: It’s near where most buyers live, in a terrific location and will benefit from the Highway 407’s extension into Oshawa.

BBH: How about for the students who will be living there once it’s complete?

SQ: Proximity to the campus, with superb unit design and amenities and a first-class property management company to ensure that the student experience is really good. It’s a far cry from the student housing experience I had in London.

BBH: Where did the idea for a student-focused condo project come from?

SQ: Managing our development at 2 Taylorwood Road in Oshawa, we became increasingly aware of the appetite among students to live in their own non-shared accommodation near campus. There was also the brokerage community telling us that they knew people who wanted to own student-focused condos, to rent out. We basically married two dynamics.

BBH: What has the response to University Studios been like so far?

SQ: Brilliant — the project’s sales have far exceeded our expectations.

BBH: As the name suggests, University Studios is located in an educational hub, but what else does the surrounding area offer?

SQ: There’s the link with the 407 which is very near, as is the local airport and a busy retail corridor. From a student perspective, it’s terrific.

BBH: Much has been written about Toronto condos of late, but what is the Oshawa condo market like right now? Where do you see it headed?

SQ: Oshawa’s valuations are far lower to those of the GTA. Given the 407 link, and the train and coach connections, it’s not surprise that people who can’t afford to live in Toronto and actively moving to Oshawa. That’s a strong driver for price inflation. More to the point, Oshawa has very few condo options. There’s hardly anything that has been built in this sector in recent years.

BBH: Speaking broadly, do you have any predictions for the GTA real estate market this year?

SQ: My sense is that as long as interest rates remain low, which I think that for broader national economic reasons they will need to, and immigrant numbers remain where they have been for the last decade, the real estate market in the GTA will remain robust.

BBH: What’s next? Are you continuing to develop with the Podium Developments Team?

SQ: We are looking at development opportunities all the time. The partnership with Podium has worked well, as it has with Varsity Properties, in no short measure because we understand and trust each other, and we are each good at what we do.

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