Business Profiles

The real deal

ICI Properties does commercial real estate right

John and Brennan Pearson knew if there was any province in Canada where they could run a successful family business, it was Manitoba.

The father and son at the helm of ICI Properties, a Winnipeg-based real estate brokerage and development company, have branched out on their own after a 28-year affiliation with Shindico Realty.

“With our loyal clients whom we’ve serviced for more than 20 years, we are very confident about our transition and our future,” says John Pearson, president/broker at ICI.

(According to the Conference Board of Canada, more than 40 per cent of companies in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are run by families, the highest in Canada. The Canadian average is in the mid-20s.)

Even if you don’t follow the real estate scene, you’ve absolutely shopped in developments coordinated by ICI. The Pearsons have overseen millions of square feet of development throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan and northwestern Ontario. Some of the major anchors include Real Canadian Superstore, Home Depot, Canadian Tire, Best Buy, Staples, Ashley HomeStore and a couple of mom-and-pop shops from the U.S. — Costco and Walmart.   

One of the largest developments coordinated by John Pearson in Manitoba is the Brandon Corral Centre, which features approximately 500,000 square feet of retail space anchored by Home Depot, Safeway and Walmart.

ICI is different than most real estate players in Winnipeg that focus on one or two categories, such as office and retail, or just on the development side. ICI offers a one-stop shop, effectively acting as the in-house real estate developer for its clients assisting with their retail, office and industrial requirements.

They have worked on behalf of many Manitoba-based companies, including The Dufresne Group, coordinating its roll out of Dufresne Furniture and Appliance stores and 29 associated Ashley HomeStores in Canada. To support this extensive retail network, ICI also has coordinated its distribution centres across Canada and its head office in Winnipeg. 

ICI has also represented The Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company in the lease or purchase of 284,722 square feet of office space.

“The industry has changed a lot in the last number of years in that a lot of new developments are mixed use. Our diversity of skills is all pulled together into one, the combination of retail, restaurants, office, industrial, multi-family and hotels, all blended together into a mixed-use development,” John Pearson says.

ICI’s business plan calls for continuing to service all of its existing clients and grow with strategic partners, including some that are already in Manitoba and others that will be new to the market.

The last couple of years have presented numerous unforeseen challenges in many business sectors. Brennan Pearson, vice-president at ICI, says serious questions were raised about the future viability and profitability of commercial real estate in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The market froze initially, particularly in retail, followed by three to six months of rent abatements and deferral negotiations and then  resumed business cautiously according to new government restrictions,” he says.

Dine-In restaurants, hotels,  entertainment and fashion were hit especially hard during the lockdowns, but grocery, general merchandise retailers and home improvement stores were considered essential services and did well, he says.

John Pearson even hinted that the upcoming opening of 300 Main Street—the new tallest building in Winnipeg which will have nearly 400 apartments—and the proliferation of other apartment and condo buildings downtown could result in filling the biggest need in the central business district.

“The more people that live downtown, the bigger the demand for a downtown grocery store,” he says. “As people become more comfortable downtown and working downtown, they’ll want to walk back to their condo. It creates a downtown community lifestyle.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced ICI to adapt on the fly but both Pearsons are adamant that working from home over the past two years will not be the death knell to the office market that some had predicted.

Sure, many  employers will offer flexible work schedules to their people but the overall demand for office space will remain strong.

“With flexible working arrangements, the number of employees at the office at any given time may be less than pre COVID but that doesn’t mean their total office footprint will shrink. The layout, however, will change. Employers will adapt by having larger meeting rooms, workstations  and larger gathering spaces with amenities,” Brennan Pearson says.

The need for a healthy corporate culture is part of the change for the future, he says.

Learn more about ICI Properties at with the website launching this month.

ICI Properties
John Pearson 204.981.7220
Brennan Pearson 204.291.5003


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