Edmonton leads Canada in third quarter office recovery, real estate report finds

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Edmonton is the Canadian leader in back-to-office trends, according to a new report from real estate firm Avison Young.

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By the end of the third quarter, 35% of Edmonton’s workforce was returning to downtown offices from pre-pandemic levels, according to the report released last week.

“There is a willingness to go back to offices and not as many office space abandonments as people had assumed there would be,” said Puneeta McBryan, executive director of the Downtown Business Association.

One of the factors behind the return was the “community vibe” of the city center, where office workers like to meet employees from other companies. Edmonton has easier access to downtown with personal vehicles compared to other major Canadian cities where people rely more on public transit, she said.

However, the report notes that downtown office usage remains about 53% lower than pre-pandemic levels.

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The trend is driven by other positive currents, such as a 20% increase in the volume of real estate transactions in 2021 compared to 2020.

Avison Young cited activities like the Terra Center for Teen Parents, which sold its downtown location to purchase a larger office further west, the Edmonton Catholic Separate School Division which purchased a new building in the east of Edmonton and the Edmonton Police Association which sold its central location for a larger facility in the northwest.

McBryan pointed out that real estate services firm Savills announced in april she was opening a new office in Edmonton, near 124th Street.

While restrictions related to the pandemic are expected to ease as vaccination rates rise, Avison Young said he expects 2022 to be a “very active year” for transactions in the office market.

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McBryan is equally optimistic, noting that over the past six months, some long-term office leases in the city have been renegotiated and new leases signed.

“A leading company is moving to another downtown space and another is investing heavily in the renovation. Staying Downtown shows they have confidence. But I don’t want to name them before they make official announcements, ”she said.

As workers have adjusted to working from home, McBryan believes employers will increasingly introduce more flexible arrangements as employees return to the office.

Some might require employees to come to the office only on certain days, and cubicles might become less permanent, with workers only reserving cubicles for the days they enter.

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