Saint John grapples with empty corporate office space

Saint John's high rate of corporate office vacancy is raising concern.

City's office vacancy rate of more than 20% is highest in Atlantic provinces

Saint John's high rate of corporate office vacancy is raising concern.

The city has the highest office vacancy rate in the Atlantic Region, almost twice as high as Charlottetown, which has the second-highest vacancy rate.

Saint John has the highest office vacancy rate in Atlantic Canada. (CBC)
"It's actually quite worryingly high," said Alex Baird Allen, a consultant for Turner Drake & Partners in Halifax. "The overall office vacancy rate in Saint John right now is sitting at 20.45 per cent, which is … unsustainable.

The high figure in Saint John is driven by a 45 per cent vacancy rate in class C office space, which is generally found in properties more than 20 years old that are usually in less desirable locations.

"What's likely to happen is that you'll end up getting space removed from the office market," said Baird Allen.

Baird Allen predicts properties will be converted for use as something other than offices.

But Saint John developer Paul Daeres says that's not as easy as it sounds.

"Too many people, they're going elsewhere — other provinces," said Daeres.

Dares has empty building lots and commercial space on the market. He has had a building near Haymarket Square listed with 38,000 sq. ft. of space available, but hasn't received a single call about the property in six months.

"I have other commercial property — three-quarters vacant. And I hear the apartment buildings, [there's] a lot of vacancy."

Daeres says he has never seen the commercial market as bad as it is now.

The office vacancy rate in Fredericton is 10.9 per cent while Moncton's rate is 6.9 per cent.