In the 1960s, Calgary boomed as it established itself as an international oil and gas leader. The city’s potential was not lost on Joe Phillips, a successful oil and gas businessman from West Virginia who was looking for a new venture.
“The company was started by my father who had the vision of building upon the community of Calgary,” says Patricia Phillips, CEO of PBA Group of Companies. “He loved the whole pioneer spirit and saw tremendous opportunity here.”
He changed more than his address; as a result of his oil and gas success, Joe diversified and entered the burgeoning real estate market in Calgary with the creation of PBA Land & Development in 1965. He founded the company on the strength of a handshake, the desire to deliver, and the acknowledgement of how far respecting another’s ideas and passions could take you. Now, 55 years later, his daughters Patricia and Michelle are co-owners. Patricia, as Chief Executive Officer and Michelle, as Director, are carrying on Joe’s legacy as they continue to build upon this dynamic company.
Last year, PBA rebranded itself as PBA Group of Companies to better represent the company’s diverse services. PBA Land & Development remains the foundation on which the Group built PBA Hotels, PBA Investments and PBA Management.
PBA Land & Development consists of a wide range of tenants from small family-run businesses to large national and multi-national organizations. Much of the portfolio is light industrial, but the team expanded into office and retail spaces to further diversify the business. Large or small, PBA considers its tenants as partners and is invested in the success of each one.
PBA Hotels develops and acquires hotels while acting as an equity investor as well as the developer for its investor partners. PBA Investments looks to develop and acquire various asset classes with PBA being the lead for investor partners and an equity investor. Finally, PBA Management provides a full scope of management services such as land development planning, development management, leasing and asset management.
“The landscape of people we do business with is starting to change and grow, and we came to realize that we’re just part of a bigger community,” says James Scott, Vice President of Operations for PBA Group. “It’s a community of partners and we as PBA have a role in nurturing, fostering and developing that community.”
The concept of community runs deep at PBA, and one only has to examine their core values to locate the source. Joe Phillips founded the company on PBA’s first three values: respect, performance to exceed expectations and leadership. From the beginning, PBA has been a collaborative space where all parties are respected and all sides of a situation are considered. This ensures that the team acts with integrity and transparency while maintaining long-term relationships.
High-performance athletic training runs through several generations in the Phillips family along with the drive to do your best and use teamwork to overcome obstacles. The PBA team has always expected more from itself and continues to exceed expectations within the firm and with its strategic stakeholders.
PBA’s central core value is leadership to elevate community, which evolved from Joe’s quiet but significant community-building philanthropy. The organization looks to lead and reinvest in the community through supporting the arts, sports, community organizations and charities. Giving back is the way the company does business and it is a source of pride for the entire PBA team.
“We have continued with his community spirit. We do not want to succeed at the expense of our stakeholders. We want to achieve that collaborative process where we allow businesses to grow and collaboratively contribute back to the community,” Patricia Phillips says.
Collaborating and building relationships is key to PBA’s success and the success of their partners. This reflects their core value of building mutually beneficial relationships. The team is selective about who it does business with and if their values do not align, PBA passes on the partnership. Relationships with tenants, business partners and strategic partners need to be win-win to achieve success.
The final core value comes naturally for the management team: diversity. Both Patricia and Michelle attended the female Ivy League Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, which reinforced the value of diversity. PBA’s culture exemplifies this value in its team of diverse viewpoints, life stages and backgrounds. PBA is also one of the few real estate companies in Canada headed by a woman, which gives the company a unique perspective. The firm’s diversity carries through its portfolio, which contains a variety of asset classes.
PBA’s core values inform every decision the team makes, defines who they want to be and what they want to achieve. These values act as the foundation for every investment, project and partner interaction.
“Our core values were a way to articulate how we were doing business already,” says Andrew Boblin, Senior Vice President of Real Estate and Development for PBA Group. “Whenever we come upon a tough decision, it allows us to go back to these five core values and ask ourselves ‘Does this decision hit all of those?’ and if it doesn’t, we need to rethink it.”
This philosophy has served PBA Group well. The award-winning real estate company serves around 120 tenants and select investors using the experience gained from its decades in the business. With a lean, cohesive team of 15 people, PBA is agile and efficient allowing it to respond to issues and implementing solutions quickly.
Quick response was critical this spring when COVID-19 disrupted and changed our lives from what we knew. PBA supported its partners, striving to understand their tenants’ businesses as well as the perspectives of financial partners in order to arrive at win-win solutions to the issues COVID introduced. The company also collaborated on and rolled out the headversity mental health app to help build resiliency in organizations. This allowed them to connect with their tenants and strategic partners at a critical time when many felt isolated. Through this collaboration, PBA demonstrated their ability to be proactive, pivot and make decisions quickly.
“We see PBA as very resilient and adaptable. Because we are a private company, we have the ability to make quick decisions with a longer-term perspective in mind,” says Todd Schaan, Chief Financial Officer for PBA Group. “We have a private nimbleness and agility but we treat ourselves as a reporting issuer with strict corporate governance that guides our decisions and strategies going forward. It’s the best of both worlds.”
The best of both worlds has yielded amazing results. From its headquarters in the historic Joe Phillips building, PBA has spearheaded iconic projects that show the company’s unique approach to the business. Phillips Park is one of the organization’s largest properties and recently underwent a major asset refresh, both internally and externally, to bring the 1977 space into the present. While a similar renovation is planned for some other assets, many of the properties stand up over time thanks to unique design and quality development.
PBA has approved plans in place to develop 17 Select, a 235,000 square-foot mixed-use development in the Beltline that will shape the 17th Avenue/1st Street SW corridor. With street-oriented retail, large office spaces, and a 23-storey residential tower, this unique development will offer an amazing environment for tenants and residents, just three blocks away from the planned new entrance to Stampede Park on 17th Ave.
Southbow Landing is a 545-acre master planned community in Cochrane that will transform the south side of the town. PBA is the development manager for the project, using its expertise to move the project forward in the most efficient, cost-effective and highest yielding way possible. By obtaining this project, PBA and its team secured one of the largest comprehensive zoning approvals in Cochrane’s history.
One of the most exciting current projects involves PBA’s foray into hospitality with The Dorian Hotel. The $110-million, 27-storey dual-brand hotel will feature 308 luxury rooms including 133 Autograph Collection rooms and 175 Courtyard Marriott rooms. The Dorian, inspired by Oscar Wilde’s novel The Portrait of Dorian Gray, will create a sophisticated, design-forward, vibrant space for travellers and locals alike while making a significant impact on Calgary’s downtown skyline and economy.
PBA Group’s 55-year history is impressive; the team is excited about the next chapter and what opportunities it holds. It has an ambitious growth and diversification plan for the future while continuing to build on its existing assets and partnerships.
“We have positioned the company very well for the opportunities that we see moving forward in the next 10 years,” says Patricia Phillips. “We are proud to be based in the Calgary community.”
And Calgary is proud to have PBA Group to help shape the city with its diverse portfolio.