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This article was first published on www.montrealgazette.com
In Montreal’s softening downtown commercial real estate market, it’s rare when a firm asks for just one extra floor of office space — let alone four.
Yet since 2011, professional services firm MNP LLP has tripled the space of its Quebec regional branch in downtown Montreal, and plans are underway to add two more floors by 2015.
"It’s controlled (growth) in that we’re offering a lot more services, a lot more specialties," said Louis Grossbaum, managing partner of the Calgary-based MNP’s Quebec region.
Grossbaum said the national firm, which offers insolvency, market research and forensic accounting, among other services, is growing "cautiously" in Montreal, where economic development continues to lag behind that of other Canadian cities.
MNP’s Montreal office opened following a merger with Grossbaum and his partner Nathan Bratt’s firm WSBG LLP in 2010. At the time, they had an office on one floor of the CIBC building at Peel St. and René Lévesque Blvd. W. with nine partners and 60 people in a 13,500-square-foot space.
It has grown to three floors, 34 partners and a total of 200 professionals, Grossbaum said.
By 2015, the firm plans to add two floors and grow to 67,500 square feet.
MNP was listed seventh out of Canada’s top 30 accounting firms by revenues in 2012, according to a ranking last year by the trade publication the Bottom Line. The firm reported $430 million in revenues in 2012, up 15 per cent from 2011, ranking data show.
The firm is bucking the trend in a downtown market where the amount of premium office space for sublet doubled over two years to 550,000 square feet — just under a quarter of the total 2.1 million square feet available for lease, CBRE Ltd. said in a February report.
Demand for office space weakened across Canada last year at a time when 22.7 million square feet of office space is under construction across the country, CBRE said. Tenants are reducing their office footprint through new workplace strategies including telecommuting and open-concept spaces.
Older buildings are also facing competition from new construction.
Montreal's iconic Place Ville Marie office complex has a 12-per-cent vacancy rate, with a major tenant - Deloitte LLP — leaving when its lease ends in 2015.
PVM owner Ivanhoe Cambridge has managed to keep other tenants, announcing this week that law firm Gowlings would renew its lease for 55,916 square feet. Ivanhoe has invested in modernizing the complex and intends to achieve a LEED silver certification for PVM.
CBRE expects real estate transactions to grow by $400 million in Greater Montreal this year to $3.9 billion. Nationally, investment is to hit $25 billion in 2014, down from $26.9 billion in 2013.
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