Member Spotlight

Jayne Bradbury, Co-Owner of Fort Properties

For our June 2020 Newsletter, we asked Jayne about Fort Properties, placemaking, potential impacts of Covid-19, and a bit about her life outside of work.

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Can you briefly introduce yourself and Fort Properties?
We are a third generation, locally owned and operated family business that owns, manages and develops commercial and residential properties on Vancouver Island.  Our company mission is to create “Space That Contributes” – in other words, physical spaces that positively influence the economy, a city’s character, and individual lives for the better.

The Fort Common District has been a big contribution towards the rejuvenation Fort Street. How did your vision for the area help you recruit the right tenants for your spaces?Can you briefly introduce yourself and Fort Properties?
We are a third generation, locally owned and operated family business that owns, manages and develops commercial and residential properties on Vancouver Island.  Our company mission is to create “Space That Contributes” – in other words, physical spaces that positively influence the economy, a city’s character, and individual lives for the better.

Thank you!  We are very intentional in curating our tenant mix and are often patient in our leasing so that we can pursue the tenant that we feel will be the best fit for the property and the community over the long term.  Because we are usually trying to meet a need that we feel is not being met in the neighbourhood, we typically start with a few concepts in mind and a strong vision for the space, which helps us sell the concept to potential tenants.  Managing our own properties allows us to be very hands on with our leasing, and we work to establish a strong working relationship early on in the negotiations, which leads to better outcomes for that business and for us over the long term.

Covid-19 has been particularly difficult for retail and restaurant businesses. As a commercial landlord, how have you been working with your tenants?
We are fortunate to have great relationships with our tenants and have been in regular communication with them throughout the pandemic.  We realized early on that Covid-19 will be a marathon, not a sprint.  For the most part our approach has been measured and patient – we do not anticipate things returning to our previous normal quickly, and we recognize that the new normal could look quite different than the past.  However, our business community in Victoria is extremely talented, and we have tremendous faith in our tenants’ ability to adapt and pivot in their changing landscape.  We feel our role going forward is to support them and encourage their ingenuity and creativity.

How will your strategies for acquiring new properties change due to the pandemic, and what opportunities do you see?
I think that this pandemic has made us even more bullish on Greater Victoria and many other Island communities.  We think that the great remote work experiment of 2020 will place a greater emphasis on where you live and less emphasis on where your job is “located” as more companies are more open to remote work options following the pandemic.  We feel that this bodes well for communities on the Island that allow for a great lifestyle.  While we have found that our residential properties have been the most stable throughout the pandemic, we also believe that entrepreneurs often bring about the most creative, dynamic changes in society following an economic downturn.  We’re currently looking to not only invest in real estate, but also to invest in operating businesses that we feel lend themselves well to the new normal.

As a proponent for public space, what changes do you hope to see as an outcome of the pandemic?
I think there will be a tremendous amount of research done in the coming months and years on the impact that equitable, accessible, and safe public spaces had on the peoples’ experience of the pandemic.  That kind of research will, I hope, make a strong case for investing in and improving access to our public spaces over the coming years.  While the evidence that public spaces lead to important health and well-being outcomes is already strong, I think the immediacy of the pandemic will change the way in which governments prioritize it over other infrastructure investments.

What advice do you have for women starting out in what is still a male-dominated industry?
There is already so much advice out there about what women in business should or shouldn’t do, but I think that developing a strong conviction in your own voice and opinions and vision for your life is by far and away the most important thing a woman can do. It’s critical that you have faith in your ability to chart a new model of success that doesn’t necessarily look like the people who have gone before you because female mentors and role models are often not available.  One of the extremely positive things that has come out of this pandemic is that it has highlighted the strengths and effectiveness of female leaders, from Angela Merkel to Bonnie Henry to Jacinda Ardern.  I hope that the long-term result of this is that both men and women look to this type of leadership as something to model and emulate.

What do you love most about living in Victoria?
The access to the outdoors and the ability to both go for a beautiful hike and visit a great restaurant in the same day.  Many places don’t have that magic combination of a dynamic urban centre and phenomenal recreation amenities.  I feel so fortunate to live in a place that has both.

When you’re not working, what are your favourite activities? What has been bringing you joy during this strange time?
I have two young girls who have been home with my husband and I since mid-March, and I have been really enjoying the unstructured family time without scheduled sports and lessons.  I also love to cook and run and have enjoyed having more time to do both of those things since we the pandemic began.  We also have a one year old puppy who thinks COVID is the best thing ever since we are all home all of the time.  Her obvious joy at being around us brightens even the toughest of days!

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I actually have a masters degree in infectious disease epidemiology and worked as an infectious disease epidemiologist for a number of years before switching to real estate.  A big part of my education was focused on pandemic preparedness, so I find it fascinating to watch a pandemic play out in my lifetime.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for the public health professionals, including my past colleagues and friends, that are working to keep us safe both in Canada and the US. Historically, urban planning and city design has been driven in large part by infectious disease epidemiology, so I am so interested in seeing how COVID shapes our cities in both the short and long term.