Edmonton-based design company Makespace has proposed the redevelopment of the ground floors of vacant office buildings into retail hubs and other mixed-use spaces.
“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.”
Data from Commercial Real Estate Services Canada indicated that Edmonton’s downtown office vacancy rate was among the country’s highest, at 18.2% as of end of 2018 (versus the 10.3% national average).
The firm said that it is aiming to convert around one million square feet (msf) of unused property in the downtown core. 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.”
This will help the city maximize its available real estate, Bautista added.
“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 argued. “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.