The pursuit of downtown vibrancy in Calgary and Vancouver • RENX

December 20, 2023
1 min read
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Office vacancy and return-to-office have been hot topics this year.

In this episode of CRE Talks, host Susan Thompson, associate director of research at Colliers in Vancouver (and a former resident of Calgary), explores both Calgary’s and Vancouver’s unique, and similar, challenges and opportunities in the pursuit of vibrancy and long-term downtown success.  

Thompson is joined by Thom Mahler, director of downtown strategy at the City of Calgary and Eric Aderneck, regional planner with Metro Vancouver

Over the past two decades, Aderneck has worked in the public and private sectors focused on planning policy, real estate development and consulting.

Aderneck also teaches urban planning courses for both planners and other city-building professionals at various institutions. 

Mahler is the director leading the City of Calgary’s downtown strategy team, helping to steward the city’s $400 million investment to build a thriving, future-focused downtown.

Throughout his career in Calgary, Mahler held various managerial roles in the city’s planning department where he was responsible for long-term planning, development review and land-use applications. 

Takeaways from Thompson’s conversation with Mahler and Aderneck:

  • Calgary’s office market is showing signs of stabilization as the $400 million investment program focuses on stretching and diversifying downtown Calgary to include a better mix of commerce, entertainment and homes.
  • Vancouver’s downtown office market remains relatively strong and should be kept in perspective compared to other cities. The urban core of the region likely won’t see many office conversions to other uses like Calgary is now experiencing.
  • Vancouver has reached the tail end of its office development cycle and is now seeing opportunities for tenants to “fly to quality” as occupiers enjoy more leverage.
  • Office conversion projects in Calgary include 17 properties for a total of 2.3 million square feet of space that will eventually be converted into much-needed homes.
  • Diversification in the Lower Mainland economy is helping reduce exposure to swings in the office market while also maintaining a strong tax base for the various municipal governments in the region.
  • Calgary’s Events Centre deal will replace the Saddledome with a world-class venue while hopefully sparking new commercial and infrastructure development on the edge of the downtown core.

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