In a bid to make the market’s available space fully usable, Edmonton-based design company Makespace announced that it is planning to redevelop the ground floors of vacant office buildings into retail hubs and other mixed-use spaces.
This is especially because Edmonton’s downtown office vacancy rate was among the country’s highest at 18.2% as of end of 2018, according to data from Commercial Real Estate Services Canada. To compare, the national average was 10.3%.
Makespace stated that it will be converting around one million square feet (msf) of unused property in the downtown core.
“The idea is that we have all this office space needed to be filled by companies, but these companies are looking for amenities and things around them,” Makespace CEO Ken Bautista told Postmedia. “More and more people are choosing office spaces based on retail and things they get access to.”
Most notable among these are plans for the stretch on Jasper Avenue between 100 and 102 Street, which covers ATB Place and the Royal Bank Building.
“It’s really about enhancing what’s at ATB Place without disrupting the existing operations there,” Bautista explained. “It’ll be things like building a new conference centre, elevating the dining experience, a new wellness facility, a tech accelerator space and starting to weave that into the whole building.”
“I think if we don’t start doing something with these empty buildings on Jasper, we’re going to start seeing these towers degrade in value,” he added. “And the worst thing is, when you just have empty spaces, the street starts to die and you start losing energy on Jasper Avenue, which is our main flagship street.”
As of mid-year 2019, more than 21 msf of office space is being built across Canada, according to Avison Young. The office market has seen the positive absorption of 9 msf in the year ending June 30, 2019 – markedly larger than the nearly 6 msf absorption during the immediately preceding 12-month period.