Day 1 | How Canada’s Downtowns Compare With Cities in North America

What’s the data telling us from across North American cities? Which downtowns are recovering more quickly and why? Hear about the Avison Young Vitality Index, the Story It, and learn what other data sources are telling us.

Full Panel
Transcript

Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to events@canurb.org with “transcription” in the subject line.

Mary W Rowe [00:00:05] Hi, Marie France. Thank you for joining us. She’s going to talk about the data that she’s been crunching, which is fascinating. I’ve got to say I tried to wrap my head around it when we spoke last week, and she’s going to be able to give us some observations about her other data sets. It’s not just the ones that Avison Young uses, but a whole bunch of ones that she’s familiar with, so we’re really delighted to have you. And again, I encourage people to put into the chat any questions, and I’ll bring them back and ask you, Marie-France, or if you can see them in the chat. By all means. But don’t worry about that because I can feed them to you if I see them so over to you. Thanks for joining us. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:00:37] Thank you. Thank you, Mary. Thank you for having me. I’d like to just share my screen. I prepared some interesting stats on the vitality of the Canadian cities and the return to the downtown core. So just I think that Jamie has a backup because I don’t see where I can share the screen. 

 

Mary W Rowe [00:01:03] Hang on, we’ll just see what we’re going to do here. You and I can chat for a minute. While they do miracles back there. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:01:07] Well, maybe I can. I can talk about the…

 

Mary W Rowe [00:01:11] Well, there you go. There’s your screen. You’re all set.

 

Marie France Benoit [00:01:12] Okay, perfect. Okay, very good. Thank you. So can everyone see, do I have to move this right here? Very good. So what I’m going to present is a bit of a national market update on the Vitality Index Avison Young’s new technology and platform to measure the recovery of cities. We can go to the next slide. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:01:36] Basically, what they didn’t expect. Yes, thank you. So basically, with what we have developed, it’s a platform called Avant, which met and uses technology and we have Avant spaces, we have Avant cities and we also have the Vitality Index, which is what I would focus on today. The Vitality Index uses anonymized mobile phone data just to measure the visitor volume in the different, in the selected location of the different cities. With 23 cities across North America, including Canada’s six major cities, we can go to the next slide, please. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:02:18] And what this Vitality Index allows us to do is to track the visitor volume. Now the visitor volume when we compare six major cities in Canada to the 17 American cities. We see that Vancouver tops first in terms of recovery. The recovery is calculated based on the volume pre-pandemic of visitor volume compared to now. So what’s interesting is that for market analysts, we often have a rearview mirror of what’s happening like last quarter in last year, and historical data is not as useful as it used to be in the sense that things have changed so much and the changes have accelerated so much. So what this allows us to track are real-time improvements. Or in a different cities location and improvement based on pre-pandemic levels of foot traffic. So Vancouver has recovered relatively well compared to other cities, and we have also Edmonton and Calgary. And if we look at the next slide. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:03:27] We’ll see that Toronto has recovered the least. Only 10 percent of recovery of this volume coming back to Toronto. Then you have Montreal and also Ottawa. So it’s interesting to maybe establish a correlation which we haven’t had the chance to dig deeper into between the sanitary measures and the foot traffic. But let’s also look at this in terms of a temporary situation because this foot traffic or this visitor volume, as we can see, it’s evolving weekly and we can track it weekly if you can go to the next slide, please. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:04:18] And we measure it for office, but we also measure it for different, significant locations: airports, malls, different cities, select city locations. When I saw these stats, I was a bit surprised to see that Edmonton had higher traffic in January 2022 compared to January 2020. And so when I asked the analysts to provide some answers, it’s one of the significant select sites is the West Edmonton Mall. So now it makes sense because people cannot travel. And then there were a lot of those sites that… I see someone saying that you’d love to see the data for London. We’re currently covering the six major markets, but we have the technology to do more if there is a need or request for it, we can explore that so we can go to the next slide, please. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:05:14] And so the Vitality Index is also measuring the volume across the cities, in terms of by sector. And I’m not saying anything that no one already knows is that office, you know, work from home measure is probably the most popular sanitary measure out there. There’s not a lot of incentive to lift it quickly compared to other sanitary measures. So the office sector is impacted more deeply than the other sectors. So we can go to the next one, please. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:05:56] I like this slide because it’s the Canada Retail Vitality Index, and at the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of analysts were predicting that retail, we were all going to be shopping online forever and never go back to the store. And actually, it hasn’t really happened. We’ve seen that as soon as it was possible and people felt safe to do so. We didn’t go back to the mall and we continue to buy online. It’s not like buying online or buying in-person is buying online and in-person. And we also see that people were thriving to go back to their favourite restaurants and to congregate and to use the space to connect because that has not changed. It’s just, you know, different waves creating different upheavals. But at the core of who we are, we do need space to bring us together. So this index also allows us to do it for a different specific time. So those three very important periods in retail Black Friday, Boxing Day and Cyber Monday were measured in the online traffic or visitor volume was measured based on the last mile distribution centers. So the number of people busy around the last mile distribution centers and we see and it confirms that the latest Stats Can data on online shopping that it has kind of plateaued. We have bought online a lot and it accelerated the adoption. But now it’s kind of plateauing and the retail sector is also looking at more experienced retail with more entertainment, in food and we see it in big malls. That’s why I think that the downtown core continues to provide that. It’s just a question of bringing the office workers back to the downtown core. You can go to the next slide, please. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:07:55] And so in terms of the office, bringing the office workers downtown again. If we look at the type of office tenants as well or occupiers, we see that in terms of engineering and consulting and other types of work like that, there were plans to bring people back to the office, were firming up for January if it wasn’t for that fifth wave. There were more companies who were confirming that you know, the policies one day, two days hybrid and so on. So that was really set in motion in terms of banking, insurance and finance. That was a bit more, well not difficult, but I would say that a lot of people in the insurance companies, for example, are still working from home but some office work that continues to be done from home. But we can see that there’s some kind of work from home fatigue as well from workers. We’re talking about burnout and things like that. So it’s not all, it is working, but they’re also some downsides to it. And we have yet to really fully comprehend, fully understand the impact it’s having on workers’ productivity. So we can go to the next slide. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:09:14] So this is just to compare. Of course, we have the vacancy in real estate that is the actual vacancy rates of space that is not leased. It’s vacant, it’s available for lease, it’s looking for a tenant. And we also have leased space that is currently unoccupied because people are working from home. And so what we’re looking at now is the vacant space like there’s no rent being paid for the office space that is vacant and it’s available for lease. So we see in Canada, we reached unprecedented levels. The pandemic has encouraged some tenants to put space back on the market to get rid of excess space faster maybe, a lot of decisions that were postponed. There was a wait-and-see attitude when the pandemic started, the first outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, so people were waiting. No one thought it would last two years. Or maybe some did, but they’re very, if they have, they’re very good at forecasting. So what we see is that quarter after quarter, the vacancy rate keeps increasing. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:10:34] But if we go to the next slide, you see that it’s not as steep as in the U.S., in the U.S. for these gateway cities that are in the index, it’s almost 16 percent. And we also see that they were impacted in 2008-09. So the availability rate compared to the vacancy of 11 percent in 2021 is twice what it was in 2019. So the market was doing well until 2019, early 2020. And then it started to have less demand and more available space. And we can go to the next slide. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:11:18] And the U.S. net absorption as a percentage of inventories was also negative in 2020 but slightly much less negative in 2021. And if we compare that to Canada on the next slide. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:11:32] In Canada, the perspective is more interesting. We see that now there is a first positive absorption that was recorded since the start of the pandemic. So it would be exaggerated to say that “office space no one needs office space anymore.” There is a lot of confidence from investors and office spaces, especially the best quality properties, the well-located properties, any property that is close to transit and everyone who’s had a taste. Maybe this fall or their return to the office, for being able to mingle, to have social interactions with colleagues they do enjoy the fact that they could go to the mothership, or it’s also the brand of the company. So it would be way too quick to conclude that all this excess space will never be taken up anyway. At this point, of course, there’s still increasing vacancy, but we’ll see. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:12:39] And later, before we go to the next slide, I just want to point out that of the six major markets, thirty-eight percent of all Canadian inventory is in the Greater Toronto Area. So when we look at national stats like we just did this, keep in mind that 60 percent of the space is 38 percent of the inventory is in the GTA. You add 20 percent Montreal. So that’s what’s driving the national stats, which is why I like to break it down by city because it gives us a better story. So Vancouver is a market that is recovering very well. Even the vacancies are dropping and Vancouver and Ottawa are stabilizing. Montreal is still up. Toronto is also stabilizing, so we see it’s harder out west, but it’s also stabilizing. And the high vacancy rates in Edmonton and Calgary were there before the pandemic. It’s just that companies with the new hybrid models, can accommodate their growth with the space that they have, so it takes longer before the space is absorbed and go to the next slide. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:13:53] And the other, the canary in the mine that signals the strength of the market is also this sublease space. So if we look at these, the six cities or the percentage of space that is for sublet as a percentage of the total available is quite was quite alarming to look at in certain markets through 2020. But we see that now. Yes, it has stabilized, which means that the tenants that were quick to put their excess space on the sublease market for lease, doesn’t mean that they stopped paying the rent just that they were trying to get someone to take that sublease. That wave is now more flat, and even in Toronto, it’s going down. In Vancouver, it’s going down as well. So there are different factors for that. I can’t go into too much detail here because of the time constraints, but it’s a good sign. The other thing is that you can put your space available for lease or sublease and what some and our professional tenant representation and brokers tell us is that sometimes when there is a taker for that sublease well, the main tenant might say, “Oh, well, I’m not sure if I want to let it go now”. For the last year and a half, there was a lot of wait and see. You could postpone your decision. You could list the space as available for lease. It didn’t mean that you wouldn’t take it back if it was still available later. So we’ll see. Things were getting clear at the end of 2020 because those plans were shaping up and January seemed like a return to the office a for sure scenario. And now that scenario is being postponed again. But there are these plans they are just being postponed, these plans to return to the office. It will be a different return, but there will be a return. If we go to the next slide. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:16:03] Also because we are talking about the downtown, one thing to keep in mind is that in Canada, a large portion of the office market is in the dump in the downtown area. So that creates the critical mass and the concentration to have a vibrant downtown once the office workers come back. It’s very high in Edmonton and Calgary, where you have all that beautiful high-rise buildings and the downtown, there’s also the skyline. The skyline of the city and its identity. So just wanted to put it in that different context and you can go to the next slide. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:16:47] And so when we’re looking at the available rates of the major downtown office markets, you know that we’re talking about between 40 and 60 percent of the office stock. So Vancouver again, the available rates at 10 percent is relatively low. Calgary continues to go up. Toronto and Ottawa are stabilizing. Montreal continues to go up. But we don’t want to do any forecast, but we see that the rise is slowing down. We can go to the next slide. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:17:23] In terms of sublease as a percentage of total available, then we have some markets where downtown markets where it’s gone down a lot, which means there is as I said, is the canary in the mine when you see the sublet rates decreasing. It’s usually a sign that leasing activity has resolved and there is more velocity on the leasing market. We can go to the next slide. 

 

[00:17:55] I just have four minutes left and I wanted to show you some of the, well, good news. There is some good news for downtown. The most beautiful, bold, interesting projects, happen too often being downtown. If we just look at some of the few projects that were delivered in downtown Toronto during the pandemic, you see, that when workers come back they will be impressed with the beauty of these new additions to the downtown core. And if you look at also below each quarter in each project, the types of tenants that have leased in these buildings, you see that there was a commitment to office and a flight to quality as well. So it’s important, there will be some repositioning of assets. It has to be because every time newer and more performing, buildings are delivered, then that means some buildings have to be repositioned and maybe even converted. So we’re about to enter an era of a lot of building conversions, buildings that no longer should be used the way they’ve been used in the past. But I thought it was encouraging to see that the recent deliveries and also just to show investors confidence is another 8.5 million of space that will be delivered in the GTA by 2025. So we can go to the next slide. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:19:31] I didn’t have time to go through all the projects and all the CBDs, but also the ones that are about to be completed in the coming two years in Vancouver, I thought, were interesting for this conference. I selected the B6 project with the beautiful green roof, the post and the stack. Because there are these projects in terms of architecture are really creating a beautiful landscape in the city. And I also wanted to bring to your attention the names of the developers. It’s very small in the slide Oxford Properties, QuadReal and BentallGreenOak. These are institutional investors, pension funds. They are committed to investing in the long term. So these are long-term developers, long-term investors, and to see that they are committed to the downtown core is good news for CBDs. Montreal has one tower that will also create and add to the landscape. It’s the bank of National Bank office tower. So it’s very exciting to see these buildings. We see the drawings now, but when we go back to the offices downtown, we’ll be able to as soon experience this live. We can go to the next slide. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:20:59]  I have one minute left and I might take another three. What’s really key here is that working from home is not going away. It’s working and workers enjoy it. We did a survey and it’s showing that people feel that their environments enable them to work productively and so on. But on the other hand, we also have studies that say that workers are burnt out. They are and they crave mingling with their colleagues. The office can can really help bring productivity back. There is a loss of productivity as well and a lot of workers who feel overwhelmed. I have a few stats here which say that Microsoft team meetings more than doubled 2.5 globally and continue to climb. The average meeting is 10 minutes longer, the average Microsoft Teams users are sending forty-five percent more chats per week, and the volume of emails has increased. So if we go to the next slide. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:22:24] So what Avison Young is currently doing is the X-Factor project team is working with the occupants to see how to use the space, how to best use the space. There’s no point in going to the office to do what you can do from home. There are a lot of things that just don’t work from home. How to better use your space, your office space to improve productivity? Because that’s the raison d’etre of office spaces to provide productive environments for the human beings that are doing the work. Even if they don’t do all their work there. So if we go to the last slide. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:23:19] There’s a way to reposition assets, to use less but better space, to maximize the use of space. The use of space has a social and environmental impact. We all know that. So the decisions are being made now on how to best use this space, do have a social and environmental impact and this is what we are working with our clients to look at from all angles. So I think there’s maybe a bit of time for questions.

 

Mary W Rowe [00:23:54] Yeah, that’s great. Thanks, Mary France. That was fabulous. I mean, you got as is usual, the CUI chat audience has a whole life of its own and is over there solving world peace plus listening to you.

 

Marie France Benoit [00:24:08] I stopped reading it. It was too much.

 

Mary W Rowe [00:24:10] I know they’re fantastic, they’re fantastic this group, we really appreciate how much they do this. But also they’re all begging for more the Marie France. So I guess part of what we’re, in the session that follows you is Environics, who are going to go into a much more granular kind of detail on the street, so it’ll be a good complement to what you’ve just done. But they’re all saying, Hey, what about our city? What about this? What about that? So I’m interested when you talk about and I was appreciative that you said, Look, there are still some new projects going forward, but you also started to talk about do we need to imagine buildings being used differently? Could they in fact be adapting in different kinds of ways? So do you anticipate that? Do you think of work from home continues to be part of our routine that we might be able to repurpose some of this office space? 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:24:54] Yes, there will be some office spaces that are too old to be used as office space and that can be successfully repurposed and some, if we say office but let’s take, for example, older malls that with large parking lots that are now being used to develop mixed use projects. 

 

Mary W Rowe [00:25:14] Yeah. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:25:15] It’s repurposing it. It’s already happening. The buildings that are being built now by those leaders like Oxford, QuadReal and Bentall. They were way beyond the LEED buildings now. It’s really well and creating an espace de vie, you know. 

 

Mary W Rowe [00:25:37] I mean do you think, for instance, one of our hunches is that we need more residential space in downtowns. You know with the downtown, the central business district that was only office buildings were in fact more vulnerable. And if you had more residential space, so do you see that at all in your index? Do you think that that’s going to prompt some folks in the commercial real estate sector to say, okay, we’re going to look at converting some of our parts of our buildings or something like that?

 

Marie France Benoit [00:26:02] For housing, it depends on the investor. I can’t speak for investors you know, because they all have their own strategy, but having people living downtown makes for a vibrant…

 

Mary W Rowe [00:26:13] Yeah. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:26:14] You know, like night and day. The work, live, play, learn. 

 

Mary W Rowe [00:26:17] Yeah.

 

Marie France Benoit [00:26:18] That I know Michael Emory speaks about it. It’s important to have this mix because the thing is with just the office only use, then at night it’s quiet and the restaurants can only open at lunch. And so, no, it’s good to have… 

 

Mary W Rowe [00:26:38] A mix. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:26:39] Yes, a mix and sometimes the mix are in satellite locations. You’ll have a mix project that is two subway stations away from from the airport. But it’s important that in one place you limit from having to go from one place to the other and you can walk. You know that then. 

 

Mary W Rowe [00:26:57] Yeah, walking is an important part of it. Yeah, or accessibility, even if you’re not able if you need assisted devices, but that you can get to another location and that you have a bunch of different ways to get there. Yeah. 

 

Marie France Benoit [00:27:08] And good public transit obviously. 

 

Mary W Rowe [00:27:11] Mm-Hmm. Well, you’re leading perfectly into the sessions that follow you. So, thank you Marie France for joining us. There’s going to be lots and lots of interest, I think, in ongoing how we can learn from the index and the kind of data that you’re pulling. So I appreciate that we’re going to continue to work with you and think about this and think about how the index could be shared with other cities and what are other tools are available. Environics Analytics is following now to talk to us about their particular approach. Thanks for joining us and just to reiterate, we put in the chat folks the link to this index. You can have a look and be in touch with us at CUI. If you want to continue to have a conversation because I know I have Marie France’s cell phone number, we’re going to be in contact. So thank you so much for joining us. 

 

Mary W Rowe [00:27:54] Thank you, Mary, for having me. 

 

Full Audience
Chatroom Transcript

Note to reader: Chat comments have been edited for ease of readability. The text has not been edited for spelling or grammar. For questions or concerns, please contact events@canurb.org with “Chat Comments” in the subject lin

From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://canurb.org/citytalk

Canadian Urban Institute: COMING UP: How Canada’s Downtowns Compare with Cities in North America (12:45pm – 1:15pm ET) with Marie-France Benoit, Director of National Insight, Avison Young

01:35:16 Graham Singh: Might Mayor Sohi say anything about his vision for the Federal Social Finance Fund, as it affects the future of downtowns?  He has been such a champion for this stream!  (and, full disclosure, our charity is a beneficiary of the same, in Edmonton)

01:35:40 paul mackinnon: Public servants returning to the office is a huge economic boost that governments could provide for free.

01:36:36 alison silgardo: Taking a citizenship approach for citizens and businesses and community based organizations at a city level

01:36:58 Mark van Elsberg: The proportion of publicly owned land ( up to 50% of our city centre footprint) is disproportionately favouring the automobile.  There needs to be a rebalancing of our ROWS to make our Cities resilient and liveable.  And this cannot be done by Municipalities on their own , and private redevelopment cannot invest on the entire corridor.  The benefit of investing in a major transformations will benefit all levels of government to create safe, healthy, sustainable, liveable, and resilient cities

01:37:06 fredrica walters: Mental Health, Indigenous . and homelessness and addiction in our downtowns should be the main issues.

01:37:49 Rino Bortolin: use the daycare agreements as a template for mental health and addictions treatment beds.  Just like creating X amount of daycare spaces in the province you can apply that same approach to addictions or mental health beds

01:38:02 Sandy Craik: Regarding the Feds, and COVID. One thing we saw during the pandemic- we saw coordination amongst all levels of government. transit interconnectedness, congestion challenges, healthcare provisioning – health and human services. this is proof that “inter- governmental ” can be done.

01:38:15 Kay Matthews: Agreed Paul.  However, I believe that Government is seeing letting go of properties as a financial savings, so getting staff back into the office may not happen.

01:38:19 Judith Cox: The mayor is right that all the health issues need to be looked after and remembered once we begin our recovery. Sars recommendations were forgotten and thus we have hospital and health care problems

01:38:50 paul mackinnon: There is also a great need for city and downtown specific data to track the impacts of Covid, as well as recovery: office workers, sales data, pedestrian counts, assessments, etc. The Fed govt could quarterback this across the country.

Canadian Urban Institute: COMING UP: How Canada’s Downtowns Compare with Cities in North America (12:45pm – 1:15pm ET) with Marie-France Benoit, Director of National Insight, Avison Young

01:41:11 Terry Guiel: Thank you Mayor Sohi.  Appreciate your comments..

01:41:16 Mark van Elsberg: Walkable streets must support mixed use and flexible buildings .  Our streets are the best investment of all levels of govt to address Mental Health, public health and social equity.  The downtown streets are the living room, the rec room and the breathing space.  Covid highlighted we need our ROWs to live in , not drive through

01:41:35 Catherine Deegan: Thank you gentlemen !

01:41:37 alison silgardo: There is a focus on public, private and even front line workers.  A big challenge is community based social sector which were critical but do not have a collective voice yet

01:41:38 Kay Matthews: Thank you, good panel.  Lots of good points.

01:41:39 Cherie Klassen: Thank you!

01:42:38 Canadian Urban Institute: Marie-France Benoit joined Avison Young in 2022 as National Director of Insights. Responsible for spearheading and implementing the company’s market insights strategy across Canada, she is also actively involved in the rollout of leading-edge market analysis solutions powered by Avison Young’s state-of-the-art AVANT platform. Marie-France is building upon two decades in the commercial real estate industry, including 15 years with Altus Group, where she held a variety of roles including business development, advisory and product and data platform management – making her mark delivering insightful market analytics and strategic solutions to the commercial real estate sector. She is recognized in the industry as a specialist in the communication of information on the commercial real estate market in all its forms. Marie-France has a Bachelor of Commerce from Concordia University J-Molson School of Business and completed an Executive MBA in Real Estate Studies at Université du Québec à Montréal.

01:43:22 Canadian Urban Institute: She is involved in several industry committees and is an active board member of CREW Montréal.

01:43:40 Gwen Bang: are there any public policy and  or corporate policy that  can help with the vacancies of downtown offices? since most office workers are working from home and are comfortable doing that?

01:45:15 paul mackinnon: Is the Avison Young report available?

01:45:28 paul mackinnon: And can it be expanded to other Cdn cities?

01:46:40 Kathy McLaughlin: Great data! I’d love to see same data for London.

01:46:58 Richard Mahe: you should do Winnipeg too!

01:46:58 Charlene Boyce: It is very depressing to see Edmonton and Calgary on a list and not Halifax or any eastern city.

01:47:34 Hugh Kruzel: Feels there is a real west to east difference in downtown activity.  Is this true?

01:47:56 Ushnish Sengupta: Do the traffic trends correlate with provincial government Covid 19 lockdown/opening policies. e.g. Alberta has opened up been least restrictive

01:48:03 Shiv Ruparell: Any data for Halifax or Quebec City?

01:48:08 Catherine Deegan: Question: Is Toronto’s position on this list due to the measures in place in the largest city in the country

01:48:18 Gwen Bang: and if there isn’t any policy on getting people back to the office then why don’t the government convert some of these office towers to affordable housing

01:48:27 Canadian Urban Institute: https://www.avisonyoung.com/return-to-office-vitality-index

01:48:35 Canadian Urban Institute: https://www.avisonyoung.com/retail-vitality-index

01:48:36 paul mackinnon: This shows why we need retail sales by city/district. Currently, Feds provide it provincially only.

01:48:41 Tahereh GranpayehVaghei: This data gives an opportunity to look at different parts of these cities as well and compare and explore what makes certain places more resilient, in a way

01:49:47 Hugh Kruzel: Do we see shift in demographic of who is downtown? How do we attract those who are the missing cohort?

01:50:03 Mark van Elsberg: the stats do not factor in levels of govt control to shut down certain sectors

01:50:10 paul mackinnon: Does the definition of “retail” in this study also include restaurants?

01:50:31 Shiv Ruparell: I wonder if Vancouver has recovered best because it has the most diversified downtown? (i.e. lower ratio of pure office to residential or commercial than other downtowns – downtown Vancouver is more of a neighbourhood than a 9-5 office park)

01:52:39 Gelare Danaie: I agreed and I think Toronto is not recovering because the financial district is not diverse. We need staggered cores for a larger city like Toronto so that people like to go to their downtown centres

01:53:10 paul mackinnon: Anecdotally, the feedback BIDs get from members is that the drop in business has been apocalyptic. This data contradicts that somewhat. Are we hearing only from those most impacted? This is why we need composite industry stats.

01:53:16 alison silgardo: Following on Shiv in the earlier comment, I believe this was intentional as I remember Vancouver in the 80’s and 90s having a very quite feel, the intentional residential community with building that have retial, office and residential has had impact.  Also the policy decisions on shut down as it is potentially less dense.

01:53:57 Mark van Elsberg: We have to consider Toronto’s Downtown as more than the financial district.  Thousands of residents can walk to the core, the waterfront and the theatre

01:56:21 Neil Betteridge: Agreed with Mark van E. Toronto east downtown around Distillery District was struggling to adapt to returning traffic jams and crowds of visitors in December, not lack of activity.

01:56:57 Kent Roberts: appreciate the largest markets but excluding Halifax excludes any representation of Atlantic Canada in the analysis.

01:58:07 alison silgardo: So critical to see these data points with the context that potentially created / was responsible for it.  It could create a false sense of a higher need in one area while it was a managed situation.

01:58:21 paul mackinnon: If we were to expand this research to other cities, who would commission such a report and who should we speak to?

01:59:40 paul mackinnon: This sort of data would also be very useful to our governments, as they design more targeted support programs.

02:01:13 Mark van Elsberg: Smaller Cities like Halifax, Hamilton, London and many more would be hard to compare because they have benefitted from being inherently mixed use.  And probably would show they have fared better in comparison.  These Cities are growing as a result, in a time when planning has been  enlightened.

02:01:30 alison silgardo: Is there a comparison with rural and urban?

02:02:41 Shiv Ruparell: I don’t think Halifax should be grouped with Hamilton and London. It’s larger, and the biggest city in atlantic Canada. it’s also acted like ‘Canada’s Austin TX” during covid in terms of the massive outflow of young talent from Ontario and Quebec into the city during the pandemic

02:03:43 Harrison Sheremeta: Halifax isn’t larger than Hamilton, it’s closer to London in size. 

02:04:05 Janet Rodriguez: Persons with disabilities have been asking for the work-at-home option and only when able-bodied persons were impacted, it became the mainstream.

02:04:35 Jeff Palmer: Take all the time you need – this is very interesting.

02:04:49 Mary W Rowe, she/her, Canada’s Urban Institute/IUC: good point Janet!

02:04:59 Mark van Elsberg: My comment was more about land use and density.  These smaller Cities have more flexibility

02:05:50 Canadian Urban Institute: Thank you Marie-France! The Vitality Index can be found here: https://www.avisonyoung.com/return-to-office-vitality-index

02:05:50 Tzu Chen Wang: Since most people prefer to work from home, I think offices will transform more into a community space where workers can use it as a place to socialize with their colleagues

02:06:01 paul mackinnon: I think the point is that every city/downtown needs this data to understand both the impact in their own city, as well as compare to norms elsewhere. Currently, most mid-sized cities have next to no data.

02:06:03 Jacoba Knaapen: Will we able to access this data?

02:06:54 Marty Williams: Good point Paul M. I agree.

02:07:07 Jamie (she/her), Canadian Urban Institute: Hi everyone! We will share decks and chat transcripts on our website next week

02:07:09 Jeff Palmer: We accessed this data for Thunder Bay a few years back (cell phone data) so at least that is available.

02:07:25 Duncan Maclennan: Great, useful Presentation, thanks.