Edmonton

Edmonton retail, office, industrial developers launch tour to entice tenants back

Real estate developers in Edmonton are showcasing the city's office, retail and industrial spaces to bring back tenants in the lingering days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 20 per cent of office space in downtown Edmonton is vacant

Industry leaders launched a campaign Tuesday called Edmonton commercial real estate tour, to share ideas on attracting clients back during the COVID-19 pandemic. (David Bajer/CBC)

Real estate developers in Edmonton are showcasing the city's office, retail and industrial spaces in an effort to entice tenants back during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Industry leaders launched a campaign Tuesday called Edmonton Commercial Real Estate Tour to showcase three sectors: retail, office and industrial developments.

Edmonton's Commercial Real Estate Development Association, or NAIOP, spearheaded the campaign, which the public, industry professionals and companies can access by purchasing tickets.

The online tour includes video walk-throughs, interactive maps, interviews with developers, and panel discussions between Tuesday and Thursday to promote about 30 projects around the city. 

Anand Pye, executive director of NAIOP, is optimistic the industry is recovering, despite the lingering effects of the pandemic.

"We're seeing people come back to the office," Pye said in an interview Tuesday.

Office space

By next spring, he expects 85 per cent of companies will have employees back in person — up from about 50 per cent right now.

Cameron Martin, a senior leasing manager with Epic Investment Services, said it is difficult to predict how much vacancy rates will improve — currently, downtown offices are at 20 per cent vacancy.

Martin said many clients are looking for health, safety and wellness components in buildings like good air circulation and light penetration. 

Tenants are focused on amenities like fitness centres, meeting rooms and tenant lounges. 

"They add value for the tenants, for their clients, for their employees," Martin said. 

Companies will have their own requirements, he said, with many trying out different work from home hybrid models.  

"They're out looking at options and exploring to see what's available," Martin said. "There's some real opportunity out there."

Retail reality

John Shamey, an associate partner with Cushman-Wakefield, said malls are creating "experience-oriented retail" to increase traffic. 

"There's definitely people looking for more of an entertainment/retail experience," he said.

Shoppers want both bricks and mortar and online experience, he said.  

Kaylee Haynes, a development manager with TAG Developments, said with more retail moving online, developers need to diversify and get creative. 

TAG Developments, which owns retail, office and industrial properties, has been encouraging events like outdoor markets and Christmas markets, Haynes said. 

People still want the experiences of coming together, she said. 

"Just being a bit more creative of how you actually place-make and make it a community — a place where you can gather and it's not just consumer-based." 

There is a potential to open up the market to local businesses and "beautiful retail that we can all enjoy instead of these big box stores," she said. 

Puneeta McBryan, executive director of the Edmonton Downtown Business Association, said downtown areas across North America are facing challenges during the pandemic.

"The challenges we've had around retail vacancies, office vacancy — just people working from home for the last year and a half — every single downtown in North America is in the same boat," McBryan said.

Edmonton is leading the country in people returning to work in person, she said.

"Having office workers back downtown really will be the beginning of a lot of this sort of recovery that we're talking about," McBryan said. "Retail will come back when there are people here to be shopping downtown again." 

Industrial opportunity

Bronwyn Scrivens, an associate broker with Omada Commercial in Edmonton, said demand for industrial property went up in the past 18 months, with more people shopping online.

A shortage of industrial spaces in places like the B.C. Lower Mainland is making Edmonton look more attractive to businesses.

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