|Former Soldier turned real estate developer thrives at restoring aging buildings.|
By Mary Baxter
So far, he' s spent $700,000 on improvements like fixing chimneys and repointing brick to bring the buildings up to standards. Yet to do a full restoration would mean even thousands more and "to spend $400,000 on a house just isn't feasible."
So what keeps him tackling these types of projects?
Both Farhi and Pundaky point to the sense of satisfaction achieved once the project is completed.
"We take pride in that ( it is ) not another cookie cutter (building)," Farhi says.
The restored buildings combined with a commitment to customer service can also attract tenants and keep occupancy rates high, he adds.
However, working with heritage buildings is only one aspect of Farhi's business. he has also developed properties in Kingston, hamilton, Stoney Creek, Kitchener and Windsor. Many of there have been for government clients.
In London, his holdings number around 50 and along with the Hyman Street block he counts among these the Royal Bank building on Richmond Street and the TD-Canada Trust building on Dundas Street.
He attributes his business edge to the ability to make split-second decisions and a commitment to integrity. His word is his bond, he says, "even thought it might cost me."
He also talks about the importance of customer service and describes his goal to deliver "the utmost and not the least to our tenant businesses."
Farhi was nominated for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce award by the St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce. He was one of 70 nominees sent to the provincial organization.
Wayne Munday, a member of the committee that selected Farhi for the nomination, said it was Farhi's work in enhancing the city's community and his long-standing membership in the Chamber that earned the nomination.
"He made a big investment in that core when nobody else was prepared to ." he said.
While Farhi's operations are located in London, "the local chamber still feels pretty close to him," Munday said, noting that Farhi still retains about six properties in the city.
When you fight in a war, chances are you're
going to learn a lot about survival - if you're one of the lucky ones to
Watching Farhi in action in the Richmond Street Office that houses his development business, Farhi Holdings Corporation, his military experience is clearly apparent. He speaks with the authority of a leader, expecting immediate response from the staff. Staff confirms that he's a tough taskmaster.
He is also a consummate organizer. He effortlessly takes control of the interview, collects articles for further reading, provides a whole raft of supplemental contacts for interviews and even goes so far as to call some of these right then and there.
Obviously, Farhi subscribes to the belief that when you've got a project at hand, there's no time like the present for tackling it. This need for activity, to be in action, results in swift actions in business dealings.
Take, for example, his acquisition of two buildings from Standard Life Realty earlier this year.
John Mah, an asset manager with Standard Life calls the speed with which Farhi organized the transaction "unbelievable."
"We're just not moving that fast."
These are the qualities that have helped the tenacious Farhi hammer together a business worth millions (how much exactly he won;t say but local media reports the buildings he owns province wide are valued at more than $800 million) and which, in physical terms amounts to more than two million square feet of assets.
But if Farhi were simply the sum of these qualities, it is doubtful he would have been climbing the stage at this year's Ontario Chamber of Commerce to accept one o fits two 2004 outstanding business achievement awards for small business.
( The other recipient is Orangeville based Woolwich Dairy)
Nor is it likely he would have received recognition from London's Main
Street program in 2003 for the work he has done in downtown London or
from the St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce a few years ago
for similar work.