Office-to-Housing Conversions: What Are the Trends and Opportunities for Canada’s Downtowns?

Panellists discussed the possibilities for office-to-residential conversions to rebuild Canada’s downtowns into more complete neighbourhoods where we can live, work and play.

5 Key

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Office-to-housing conversions can be explored in a variety of urban and non-urban settings

Thom Mahler, Director of the City of Calgary’s Downtown Strategy, has actively pursued opportunities for office-to-housing conversions, as commercial real estate in Calgary’s downtown core previously generated almost 40% of the city’s budget until the COVID pandemic create a significant income gap.

Mahler noted that his city’s approach to recoup losses and create housing downtown could be applied in any region with large, valuable commercial land bases such as airports.

2. When embarking on a conversion, developers need to consider the experience they’re creating for visitors 

Sheila Botting, Principal & President Americas, Professional Services at Avison Young, has done extensive research on the market conditions that make conversions viable. Botting pointed to the success of developments that created “experiential” offerings, such as coffee shops, bars, and restaurants, as crucial to attracting people back downtown.

3. Conversions can be an effective mechanism towards reconciliation

As Chief Operating Officer at the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, Jennifer Moore Rattray has been a key figure in the transformation of the iconic Hudson’s Bay Company heritage building in downtown Winnipeg into Indigenous-led housing and community services. Rattray noted that such transfers can create significant social and economic opportunity for Indigenous people when their leadership is central to the conversion process.

4. Providing subsidies can be a low-risk investment for municipalities.

Mahler described a successful incentive program in Calgary which offered developers $75 for every square foot of office removed. The grant is applied at the end of the conversion project, making it a low-risk investment from the municipality. Calgary budgeted $100 million for the incentive, and as result, converted 1 million square feet of office into 1,000 units of housing.

5. Convening decision makers is crucial

Hilde Remøy, Associate Professor of Real Estate Management at Delft University of Technology, has researched office conversions since the early 2000’s dotcom crash. She noted that when municipalities have pursued on only legal and fiscal measures place, they are not often able to prompt property owners and asset managers to “get things moving.”

Remøy explained how in the Netherlands, special teams were installed at the municipal level to overcome this challenges. Team members would create collaboration between municipalities and and property owners, and working with specific buildings,  finding new users for them, and doing mediation between owners and possible new users.

Full Panel

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 with “transcription” in the subject line.

[Mary W Rowe] 12:01:37

Hi! Everybody! It’s Mary Rowe from the Canadian Urban Institute, coming to you from downtown Toronto, where, as you can see behind me, I’m in the midst I’m in our offices, and we are in a fabulous mixed-use neighborhood there’s residential

there institutional there more residential here and commercial, where I am, and we’re appreciative that people are coming together from a bunch of different places across the country to have this conversation about what is happening to our downtowns and what are the opportunities to introduce different kinds of uses and different kinds of how are we going to evolve?

[Mary W Rowe] 12:01:57

How are things morphing, and I think that it’s a moment in time for us to really do some exploration about that Toronto is the traditional territory of a number of first nations and it, and Metis peoples and last week I know a number of folks across the country Observe, truth, in our reconciliation day. This is an on, not just one day I, Steve Roy, and my board reminds me every day.

[Mary W Rowe] 12:02:17

It’s not just one day. It’s an act, a conscious act of reflection about how we actually come to terms with the ancestral entitlements of the peoples that have been here much longer than the rest of us settlers have and in the case of toronto Mississaugas of the credit. The Anishinabek, the Chippewa, the Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, and a number of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples, and all of you around if you could just plug into the chat as you often do to tell us where you’re dialling in from, as you know, we always record these sessions. They get posted for subsequent viewing. They’re on university class lists.

[Mary W Rowe] 12:02:57

The high school students are using them now. The chat that you participate in, and if you, if you’re a frequent city talker, and you’ve never actually signed into the chat, you don’t, know what you’re missing there’s an ongoing parallel universe over there in the chat of people offering comments, putting up new questions, often answering each other’s questions.

[Mary W Rowe] 12:03:15

So we encourage you to post in the chat, feel free to do so. But just remember what goes in. The chat stays in the chat because we posted online so you can see it for perpetuity so joining us today for this conversation is at our folks from very different perspectives different places in the country, and also different sectors, different experiences.

[Mary W Rowe] 12:03:34

And I just want to flag, and Tom Mahler, my colleague from Calgary, will attest to this.

[Mary W Rowe] 12:03:38

We started raising this at CUI in the spring of 20, when we realized that there was going to be a moment of reckoning about how we were going to re-purpose downtowns, and that was largely informed by calories experience which is several years ahead, of the rest of

[Mary W Rowe] 12:03:54

us where they had basically 5 or 6 years of intense reflection, because even going into Covid, they had 400 empty office floors and Tom’s going to talk to you about that but we started in the spring of that year saying well, how are we going to have that conversation and now and and at the time, and she’ll be interested to see if you would read.

[Mary W Rowe] 12:04:15

If you’d reinforce this at the time. There are lots of people in commercial real estate. That kind of dismissed us, and said, No, no, no, it’s gonna be fine, and I remember I had a conversation with someone in maybe May, of 20 and he said, Oh, you know we’ll be at the cottage We’ll come back it’ll all be fine.

[Mary W Rowe] 12:04:28

And believe it or not. In December We’re gonna be marketing Covid 1,000 December 7 is 1,000 days of living with Covid and part of what we’re doing at Cui is saying let’s take that moment to be really careful and reflective about What have we learned? What have we observed? Worked well. What were the things that we innovated that were really effective, that now need to become more general.

[Mary W Rowe] 12:04:50

They need to stick, and that will that ranges from everything in terms of urban and urban environments needing to be more inclusive, a more serious systemic approach to reconciliation.

[Mary W Rowe] 12:05:01

But also how are we using our buildings? How are we using our streets? How are we using our spaces and to help us do that?

[Mary W Rowe] 12:05:09

We were able to persuade Canada marketing, housing, and some other partners to underwrite a lab, that Jen Barrett, our senior director of Planning, is going to just describe briefly number.

[Mary W Rowe] 12:05:18

Of you are familiar with, because your own advisory tables about it. But as we know, and we don’t want to ever change this public policy in Canada always needs to be informed by best evidence, and so part of what we’ve been doing Working across the country is with the toms of the world, and municipal governments.

[Mary W Rowe] 12:05:34

And the Sheila’s and the Hilde in Canada, and the Jennifers, to make sure that we’re informing the best policy formulations we can, for having a kind of New rebirth of how we’re gonna see downtown’s evolve. So, Jen, can you just describe a bit for people the conversion project, what you’re looking at?

[Mary W Rowe] 12:05:53

What those challenges are, And then lots of people in the chat that want more information can post it, And if they got, input they can post it.

[Jennifer Barrett] 12:06:09

Great! Hello! Everyone. Good morning and good afternoon. As Marie mentioned on Jennifer Brown.

[Jennifer Barrett] 12:06:14

I’m a senior planner at CUI, and I’m the project lead for our office Convergence Project, which is being undertaken with funding from Cmhc’s housing solutions lab we’ve been at it since the spring of this year really doing a lot of

[Jennifer Barrett] 12:06:26

work around first understanding the context for office conversions, but also looking forward to what the opportunities and what the barriers are to to office conversions, I should start by saying I’m joining you today from the unseated territory of the Algonquin and the Anishinabek known today, of course, as the city of Ottawa

[Jennifer Barrett] 12:06:45

but which provides a unique expect perspective, on this project, Because, of course, I’m in the city capital or the country’s capital.

[Jennifer Barrett] 12:06:52

where we’re seeing a lot of Federal work is not returning to to our downtown, to the to the effect of about 100,000 workers, and really starting to look at at what that might mean for downtown ottawa so to provide a brief overview of the work that cuisine and the objectives of our work.

[Jennifer Barrett] 12:07:10

We’re working with stakeholders and cities across Canada. So we get a unique perspective cities in different geographic regions, but also cities of different sizes.

[Jennifer Barrett] 12:07:19

to really understand where the opportunities and the challenges are for the conversion of office space to residential uses.

[Jennifer Barrett] 12:07:24

So this includes evaluating current projects, convergence that are already underway, but also understanding the kind of building type that lend themselves to the conversion of office space into residential units, and to also understand how the policy and regulatory environment can support conversions we’ve heard in some

cases where the market is right, that the policy and regulatory environment can be as important as the market conditions or the economics of a conversion.

[Jennifer Barrett] 12:07:51

And so we’re looking at this, of course, in tandem with different market conditions throughout Canada and Canadian cities, as Mary’s mentioned, You know the difference between a place such as Calgary we just seen a high vacancy for a number of years and other cities that are just starting to, see a vacancy rate increase in the past few years, and what we can measure the vacancy rate in office space across Canada.

[Jennifer Barrett] 12:08:14

We have less information, of course, about what’s happening within those offices. So we don’t have a good read on the occupancy of those offices.

[Jennifer Barrett] 12:08:23

And we also don’t know what will happen when leases begin to expire, and what the future of work will look like.

[Jennifer Barrett] 12:08:29

And so that’s really just a caveat to say that our understanding of the trends in office are continuing to expand, and And you know, that’s that’s impacting our work and and the context in which we’re working we AIM to have the project culminate in early 2,023 with

[Jennifer Barrett] 12:08:45

a better understanding of the opportunities and the barriers to conversions, but to be able to also offer recommendations from best practices, and our learnings on how stakeholders, including all levels of government, might support the conversion of office space, to address both housing need But to also recognize this marriage, has

[Jennifer Barrett] 12:09:01

noted that our downtowns may be different places; that they that they will hopefully recover to be more diverse and more equitable, and to have a mix of uses that will help them, be more resilient to future shots so i’ll leave it there and turn it back to the

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:09:17

Thanks, Jen. I think the interesting thing about this conversation, and what we’ve been experiencing in the working tables across the country on it is how it needs to.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:09:29

It’s not just one sectors conversation, and I think that’s a a really salient piece for us in terms of urbanism.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:09:39

Going forward. You know what I mean, like. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking. Oh, the commercial real estate sector is responsible for the commercial, real estate, or you know, the retail business community is responsible for the retail sector.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:09:50

Or The culture Industry is responsible for culture, and if we’ve had an experience through Covid, sure to hell, it’s that we’re all collectively engaged in some kind of collaborative way.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:10:00

So I want it first. If I can go to Tom Mahler, and then I’m going to go to you, Sheila, Tom, As I said, Calgary’s in the trenches on this and You’ve had to put all hands, on Deck a few times in your little town and here you are again, and I’m wondering if you want to.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:10:16

Just You’ve been on a number of city talks. I know you’ve talked about this and now you live and breathe it.

[Thom Mahler] 12:10:31

Well, sure. Thanks, thanks so much, Mary, and thanks for inviting me to be on the panel, and just to let you know I’m coming from the lands of which includes a Blackfoot confederacy and urbanity, nation number 3 and urban indigenous

[Thom Mahler] 12:10:47

people that that live in Calgary and make Calgary home, and our downtown has, like you said, we’ve been dealing with this since really 2,000, and 15, and I your points a good one It started off as a commercial real estate discussion because the purpose of commercial real estate in Calgary is to pay for a lot of city services.

[Thom Mahler] 12:11:07

Commercial, real estate, in our downtown core, used to make up almost 40% of the tax tick of our budget. It’s now down to below 20%. So we’re we had a huge hole in our in our our budget, which we had to make up for by applying tax 2 properties.

[Thom Mahler] 12:11:27

Non-office properties in the downtown and across the city, and and to residential and so

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:11:32

And you did that shift at a time that it wasn’t very popular. I can remember I bet it’s news to the commercial real estate sector that you’re saying.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:11:38

Well, actually, the purpose of commercial real estate is to pay for city services, just saying, But when you did that shift, Tom, and that has not happened across the country to the same extent, you, had I’m sure levels.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:11:49

Of resistance. Right? Like you had to basically rebalance the how you got municipal services paid for based on the suite, The weird system we have in Canada that property tax has to find municipal services but what’s there, pushback

[Thom Mahler] 12:12:02

Well, there was we had. There was what what happened first was people’s taxes went up a lot.

[Thom Mahler] 12:12:09

I don’t have numbers with me at the top of my head, but there were the proverbial pitch for Exec Council, because even even even retail properties outside of the office core got nailed.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:12:22


[Thom Mahler] 12:12:22

And so the our council was forced to take money out of, out of our reserves to make it less than the pain, and so so the proposition became where you’re spending money, anyway, we’re spending a lot of money we’re not getting anything.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:12:30


[Thom Mahler] 12:12:37

Out of it So why don’t you take the money that you’re spending up to, you know?

[Thom Mahler] 12:12:41

Try and keep those taxes. That tax hit lower and turn it into something that has a return on investment, and that conversation was really led by our economic development agency through real estate, sector advisory committee who we entrusted basically at the city to say, you guys know what’s required to to convert these buildings, or to do something with these buildings, and they worked pro bono many hours to develop a program for office conversions, particularly on the residential piece, And I can talk about you.

[Thom Mahler] 12:13:13

Know we’ve gone beyond a little bit beyond that now, but they were the ones that came up with the economic case for it, and when we went to council it was, it was all hands on deck going going door to door talking to counselors and They were very I have to say our counselors were very receptive to the conversation, and to understanding how the importance of that, and it wasn’t. It’s not really a downtown issue per se.

[Thom Mahler] 12:13:37

It’s it’s a any, any jurisdiction that has a huge, valuable land base, You know.

[Thom Mahler] 12:13:44

Could be an airport if you don’t have a downtown, in your municipality, maybe you have some area that has a lot of office that’s driving it.

[Thom Mahler] 12:13:49

So it. It really was a question of municipal finance and fiscal stability, But you know to your point it just having a program to incent residential and office buildings, also mentally, people would have to want to live in those residential units and hey?

[Thom Mahler] 12:14:05

Your downtown’s not really that nice to live in.

[Thom Mahler] 12:14:07

Nice to work Then it’s easy to get to to work in, and there’s there’s parking, and there’s peak time transit.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:14:07


[Thom Mahler] 12:14:14

There’s all these services, but it’s it’s not a residential downtown.

[Thom Mahler] 12:14:17

So, now now, the conversation is okay. We and we can get into the numbers if you want.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:14:32

Yeah, let’s I’m gonna come back to you on that, because I think that’s a key point and we’re gonna hear it from other folks that it’s part of the challenge of being getting people to come back into their offices is that downtown doesn’t feel that good to a lot of

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:14:42

people right? So let’s talk about that. But I want to go to First of all, I see that Brian Pincott, former Council Member is there, and he’s saying that Pitchfarks Tom you were being generous he was on Council when the revolt happened, but what’s interesting to me

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:14:53

about this, and I want to come to you, Sheila, on This is that in Calgary.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:14:58

You could see it, and one of the challenges that I want to ask Sheila about. She’s sitting on the data and I don’t know with. We haven’t seen people breaking leases. I don’t think, Have we, Shayla.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:15:11

So maybe you don’t quite see it. But in the case of Calgary they saw it, so they had to act so.

[Sheila Botting] 12:15:23

so, Mary. Of course it’s happening. Of course it’s there. Those of us in the commercial real estate, sector see these trends every day.

[Sheila Botting] 12:15:29

So why don’t I start with kind of big picture of what’s happening before the pandemic, The workplace was changed before the pandemic We would work with the largest corporate occupiers in Canada and do the utilization studies otherwise known as the bums and seats

[Sheila Botting] 12:15:44

analysis. We would send people across workplaces whether they were in rural Newfoundland or downtown Toronto.

[Sheila Botting] 12:15:52

The average seat was empty. 50% of the time, some businesses with 7 others 30, but on average, the average seat was empty.

[Sheila Botting] 12:16:01

50% of the time pre Covid: Yeah, So I was.

[Sheila Botting] 12:16:04

I did all kinds of studies on that. And So those of us. When I worked at Delloitt.

[Sheila Botting] 12:16:09

We know, to an unassigned seating model, which then allowed us to reduce our footprint and look at the experience of the employees. That Was all?

[Sheila Botting] 12:16:20

Before the pandemic And so you saw the Government of Canada.

[Sheila Botting] 12:16:23

All of the banks. You know, City of trauma, promise entire.

[Sheila Botting] 12:16:26

Everybody was moving down that path prior to the pandemic Then the pandemic takes place long.

[Sheila Botting] 12:16:32

Behold, the whole world knows about it. I can work anywhere, anytime, any place, anyone in any way that I want.

[Sheila Botting] 12:16:37

Look at all of us. We’re working together right now, collaborating on a project. I could be on the moon. Jumping into this conversation. It doesn’t really matter.

[Sheila Botting] 12:16:46

I spend most of my days in the Us. But online. Of course. And so you have this whole different perception of how work gets done.

[Sheila Botting] 12:16:54

And so now you get into the data of today, You know, you saw it 1,000 days that were into this and and everybody every labor day talks about return to office.

[Sheila Botting] 12:17:03

Everybody’s ready to come back. It’s going to happen we’re going to be exciting downtown.

[Sheila Botting] 12:17:08

Well, the data we monitor 26 cities across North America on the Avison Young website called The Vitality Index and the Vitality index in measurements of downtown.

[Sheila Botting] 12:17:20

We’re actually returning at about 80.5 from before the Pandemic.

[Sheila Botting] 12:17:25

That’s amazing. Little In the past few months the uptick for downtown’s after labor day across North America has been amazing.

[Sheila Botting] 12:17:33

Now that’s all visitation downtown. Then you go into the office sector by itself, and you said, Okay, get it for downtown, but that includes tourism.

[Sheila Botting] 12:17:44

Not Please going to the theater at night. That includes retail.

[Sheila Botting] 12:17:46

The office sector itself is only 44 point, 3%.

[Sheila Botting] 12:17:50

So what’s happening is, people are not returning to the office.

[Sheila Botting] 12:17:54

They don’t want to go back to the warehouse workers, and now it’s coming about the war for talent.

[Sheila Botting] 12:18:00

Do I offer a hybrid program? The research that we’ve done shows 85% of employees want some kind of a hybrid work.

[Sheila Botting] 12:18:06

Experience. Well, what does hybrid mean? What does that look like?

[Sheila Botting] 12:18:09

How do you manage it? How does that play out Because of that?

[Sheila Botting] 12:18:14

Suddenly employers have rethink their entire value. Proposition to both recruit and retain top talent, you know, if I don’t have a flux work policy at my company today, chances are me as a worker would resign and go to another company because they allow me to work from home one or 2

[Sheila Botting] 12:18:32

or 3 days a week, and then that’s a very powerful conversation for employees and delivering work.

[Sheila Botting] 12:18:38

So that’s a whole other piece of that. So that’s on the employer. So I could talk for days.

[Sheila Botting] 12:18:44

We workshop that like crazy, it depends on Obviously, one size is not at all.

[Sheila Botting] 12:18:49

So what happens with our clients? They say, Okay, do. I need to have all the space.

[Sheila Botting] 12:18:54

Well, the answer is, probably No, so there’s different buckets of types of groups.

[Sheila Botting] 12:18:59

So the traditional sectors which I talked about, which would be the financial institutions.

[Sheila Botting] 12:19:05

Government, large occupiers of space. Large, you would say. I can reduce my footprint.

[Sheila Botting] 12:19:11

That was happening before the pandemic. I go into a company 1020, 30%, footprint production.

[Sheila Botting] 12:19:16

Now some of them are 50, 60% footprint production, so they could wait for a lease event at the end of their lease, recalibrate, or they could sublease space those are their 2 options and and all of that is alive and well, at the same time what we’re seeing is technology companies, and i’ll

[Sheila Botting] 12:19:32

pick Downtown, Toronto technology companies are gobbling up space so they’re paying their rents.

[Sheila Botting] 12:19:41

They’re taking on new space, but the bodies aren’t necessarily in the building, so that, of course, affects whole experience downtown.

[Sheila Botting] 12:19:49

And so the last thing that I really would like to speak about would be the experience.

[Sheila Botting] 12:19:55

What we’ve noticed again from our research is that 85% of employees want some kind of a hybrid work.

[Sheila Botting] 12:20:02

The second that you offer a high performance workplace, or an exciting workplace, whether it’s the physical building, the trophy assets, downtown or whether it’s a dynamic workplace, design on interiors or it’s a great corporate culture, suddenly you can attract more people back

[Sheila Botting] 12:20:18

to the office, and I’m gonna pick up on what Tom just said, because it’s as important to the office as it is to residential that you have to have an experience for people to want to, be there the foot traffic at night times the theater and for the rest it’s proven it

[Sheila Botting] 12:20:34

out People want that experience. They’re just not getting it in the warehouse workers the way that they would like.

[Sheila Botting] 12:20:38

So the traditional environments need to change and and modify, and then I could talk for about conversions of these buildings, you know.

[Sheila Botting] 12:20:46

So you say next step. What happens if and I’ll pick the Bnc.

[Sheila Botting] 12:20:50

Type buildings are probably the targets for some kind of a conversion, and probably, Tom, that’s what you’re experiencing in in Calgary.

[Sheila Botting] 12:20:59

So those ones would all be about. The feasibility. Does that floor plan on how it does the elevator vertical system allow that can we get plumbing and electrical into the building? As a parking like all of those things play out here in toronto there’s a movement to knock

[Sheila Botting] 12:21:14

down some of these old buildings and pop up something new with 3, 4, 5 times density, and accomplish the same things.

[Sheila Botting] 12:21:22

The city of Toronto. Problems, military, of course, have their programs for surplus properties that they’re putting out into into housing, which is another mechanism to be up to make this happen.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:21:38

yeah, I mean, it’s gonna transform them right? I mean, I’ve told this anecdote before that, you know, after 9 11, the city of New York made a decision to introduce residential uses below in Lower Manhattan and lots.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:21:50

Of people said it would never work. No one will ever want to live there.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:21:53

And then they did it, and now they do so It’s a a transitional process.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:21:58

But, Sheila, one thing that’s interesting to me about this from your sector’s point of view, is it?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:22:03

Hmm! For what did you say? 41 44 point?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:22:08

3% is the office return. And we know that that is that varies like the city of Ottawa.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:22:13

It’s lower, because so many public service workers there are certain cities that vary in your sector is your focus.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:22:21

Have you basically just resigned yourself? That That’s it that that you have to that you’re gonna work with a workforce.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:22:27

That’s gonna be always at living at Zoom at that number. Or do you think you could get it higher or not?

[Sheila Botting] 12:22:35

okay, So there’s 2 parts of my sector. So there’s one that would be the asset owner, the asset manager and there’s a of course we want to get people back to the office so we have programs.

[Sheila Botting] 12:22:45

For that group to, you know, Reimagine, the office.

[Sheila Botting] 12:22:52

What does it look like? Suddenly, instead of sterile marble lobbies, They’ve got to activate it like a hotel type of experience.

[Sheila Botting] 12:22:57

So we’re seeing coffee, bars and restaurants, experiential.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:23:00

Right, but but but here’s a question. But here’s a question for you, even if you make it unbelievably fabulous.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:23:06

We saw the tech companies doing this before Covid, where you could get lunch right in the grounds and everything and a lot of us were critical of that, because all the small businesses then suffered.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:23:14

But even if how much of it is just that people don’t want to commute, they don’t want to have to make such a long transition.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:23:21

And so, if if all of a sudden, your office spaces, there’s residential options closer, so they don’t have to commute.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:23:27

Does that have to be part of your strategy to get that 44 point, 3% higher

[Sheila Botting] 12:23:32

So it goes back to one size, does not fit all. Some people like living in the suburbs.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:23:35


[Sheila Botting] 12:23:38

I live in the suburbs. I love it so. When I come downtown there’s a purpose for me to come downtown I’m happy to commute providing those are providing the experience of intellectual exchange the ecosystem that i’m part of

[Sheila Botting] 12:23:50

offers a lot. So all of those things are really important.

[Sheila Botting] 12:23:54

Versus say, My children are the young folks who work with.

[Sheila Botting] 12:23:58

We have to live downtown, because that’s the only place you would ever live.

[Sheila Botting] 12:24:00

You could never move to suburbs, and so I think, or or other groups, and they say I have to be downtown.

[Sheila Botting] 12:24:06

So it goes back to one size, does not fit all we can make.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:24:07

Yeah, it’s about choice, right? We want cities to always be about choice.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:24:13

But I’m interested. How you know part of the mandat of CUI is to build our sense of collective empathy and collective responsibility, and that would mean that It’s not just what I workers need or what our landlords need or what the real estate?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:24:25

Owners need. It’s also what is the community need?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:24:28

So I’m going to come to you next, Jennifer, and then I’m Hill that we’re looking forward to getting an international and academic perspective from you because you’re looking at all the data, across a whole bunch of jurisdictions, okay, let the the the forks tell us Jen what’s going

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:24:40

on in Winnipeg. What is your perspective? And I know you’ve had.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:24:43

You’ve been in a bunch of different sectors in different roles, So I’m appreciating You’re gonna give us a perspective based on all the different interactions that you’ve had in the roles.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:24:51

You’ve had in the city of Winnipeg.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:24:54

All in 3 min or less, No, absolutely. I’m happy.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:24:58

I’m happy to do that, Mary. I’ll first of all let go with the month.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:25:02

And now we can win the Jennifer Moore Ratre, really pleased to be here.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:25:07

So thank you so much for your kind information. I’m I’m based here in in Treaty one territory at the center of Turtle Island.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:25:17

So Winnipeg and also the homeland of the river from 18.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:25:21

So really pleased to be here, and to share a little bit about our exciting project.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:25:25

I have the good fortune of being chief operating officer with Southern chiefs organization which represents 34 initialabi and decoding nations in what is now Southern Manitoba.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:25:35

Oh, whoo! Yes, from Michael Redhead. Champagne. Absolutely.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:25:40

I’m so glad that you’re that you are with us, Michael.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:25:45

Michael has such an amazing perspective when it comes to to inner Winnipeg in particular, and his his Bell Tower initiatives, But anyway.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:25:56

I won’t go into that right now. I’m gonna talk about ours, but really glad that that Michael is here.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:26:03

what what SCO was was gifted is the Hudson’s Bay building in what is down town.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:26:10

Winnipeg, and it is the largest act of corporate reconciliation in Canada.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:26:16

if for for those of you across the country, many of you will have a base or an iconic bay building in your downtown, I know there’s a number of them, ours was the headquarters for a period of time It is almost 500,000 square feet.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:26:32

And this building large department stores, of course, are, you know the economics are changing, etc.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:26:38

In the downtown. So Hbc. Made a decision to close it.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:26:44

we began conversations right away, and we’re really fortunate enough to develop a really meaningful relationship with Hbc just a small example.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:26:54

I mean their leadership. The Governor of the Hbc. Company, Richard Baker sat in ceremony with us.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:27:00

To do this properly, so you know why I I really have to have to acknowledge that and respect that.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:27:08

So what are we doing with it? And how does this help to revitalize the downtown and and be a strong, you know, Help us be a strong part of the downtown it’s really an act of reconciliation it’s going to provide social and economic opportunity.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:27:21

We really hope it begins to change the trajectory, or is part of many other initiatives, to change the trajectory of our people in Winnipeg, and in particular in the downtown of Winnipeg.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:27:33

So we are looking at more than 300 units of deeply affordable housing, for you know, studios for students one beds, 2 beds, 3 beds for folks.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:27:42

With children. We have a floor. The top floor because we’re going to give the best to our elders, to our seniors of affordable assisted living. So, housing on the top 4 floors, and then the first and second floors we’re gonna have a museum we’re gonna have a

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:27:56

center for reconciliation. We’re going to have our SCO offices.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:28:00

We need office space. We our folks really love to work together like we like to be with each other.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:28:07

We’re deeply about community. So throughout Covid I has staff saying What do I get? When do we?

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:28:12

When can we come back to work? When can we get back to the office?

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:28:16

just a couple of other features in our building. We’ll have a child care center built on the language nest model.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:28:21

We’re going to have a health and healing center with traditional medicines as well as Western medicines available.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:28:27

So really a wonderful multi-use space, with the main floor being for everybody, public space, for indigenous and non-indigenous people to be able to come together, to to learn to grow, and to really help quite frankly repair and heal our city which has been called many of you will know, a

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:28:48

number of years ago by Mclean’s Magazine, the most racist city in Canada, so really wanting to be a force for good, a force for change.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:28:57

Through this incredible gift of a building. So I’ll leave it there I know there’s lots more to talk about, but really excited and enthusiastic and we’re really pleased to have the support of our treaty partners our our Federal treaty partner and also our provincial treaty partner and

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:29:14

also our municipal treaty partner. So. Egosani, Thank you.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:29:18

The Jennifer. It’s just too bad you’re not more enthusiastic about your project, really is shame, You know I I gave a testimony when they were debating with the the future use of the Bay.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:29:30

Building would be, and because it’s an iconic corner, and an iconic structure.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:29:34

And so this is just a wonderful wonderful example of where strategic investments, coming from different nations, different partners, different treaty partners, and, as Sheila suggested you know, how do we actually with one size?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:29:47

Doesn’t fit all but what you’ve got, and asset like that building that you’re going to be able to transform with such a rich history.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:29:53

And you’re using the people, the human capital ass that the people assets as well as the actual built environment assets.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:30:01

So I’m sure that that Hilda will have some views on this, because she’s studying adaptive reuse.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:30:06

And how this happens. I’ve got to say. When Sheila said that in Toronto there’s a move to knock buildings down. You know.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:30:12

The preservationist in me, the environmentalist in me is worried about all that embodied energy getting cast aside, as we build brand spank and new.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:30:19

But, Hilda, what do you think in terms of what your observing what are the trends in terms of the ways in which downtowns and commercial uses are being adapted?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:30:26

Buildings for being adaptive land use is changing. Really delighted.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:30:31

Have you on city talk, and your Canadian colleagues here are happy to hear what you have to say.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:30:33

Good, yeah, I’m not really happy to be invited to be here as well, because it’s interesting to hear what your views are from Canada as well.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:30:45

So yeah, I’m Hilda Moy, and I’m associate professor of real Estate Management Delft University of Technology, and the Netherlands.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:30:56

And so from the Netherlands I’ve been studying mainly That’s real estate market looking into some other comparisons with the and I think here we saw tendency of high office vacancies, informer crisis so as for the covid crisis, and what that will do I think we’re still struggling to find out

[Hilde Remøy] 12:31:25

what will actually, happen. Yeah, Exactly. So we did have a very high office vacancy here.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:31:27

Early days.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:31:37

starting out after the .com crisis and building up to the financial crisis in 2,008 and from 2,008 to 2,013.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:31:50

The vacancy percentages pricing on the national level, average. And then in the several office areas. Of course, this was much higher, and with the office areas also meaning downtowns like our main

[Hilde Remøy] 12:32:18

where we had really high vacancy levels, and it began to become become an issue.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:32:29

Really what to do with it, because societal issues.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:32:33

So I think, as long as so, we’re only empty buildings.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:32:38

It was also not really seen as such a problem right.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:32:46

but then in 2,000, 12,011, when real estate was refinanced.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:32:54

and really hard to refinance. Vacant properties.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:32:57

Hilda, I’m just gonna interrupt you because we’re having our audio is drifting across the Atlantic a little bit, So I I know it is fine.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:33:03

Oh, so it’s not going well. Should I plug in something

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:33:08

if you lean forward and pretend you’re a brash.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:33:12

American speaking, We’re gonna hear you just fine. It’s when you just drop your voice a little bit.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:33:14


[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:33:16

We miss it. So just channel your inner, cheerleading, transatlantic voice, And we’ll hear you people are keen to hear what Yeah, Yeah, that’s much better

[Hilde Remøy] 12:33:24

Is this better? Okay, great, lovely. I’ll keep leaning forward.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:33:31

Yeah, So yeah. So that was what what was taking place here up to 2,012.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:33:38

So so with a lack of refinancing, wakened properties, it turned out that we had quite some serious issues for the downtowns.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:33:50

especially as this led to well, some streets, being lacking, live liveliness even in office hours.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:34:06

And so the the Government started to think, What can we?

[Hilde Remøy] 12:34:08

How can we approach this? What can we do? And I think it became fear quite quickly here that there are things to be solved on a national level, and things to be solved at the local level?

[Hilde Remøy] 12:34:22

So nationally. Of course, the National Government was working on things like new legal, new legslate legislation, and also a new fiscal rules.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:34:39

So how to deal with waken properties; whereas on the on the local level for the local municipalities, you have the the issue of liveliness of the city, and who’s going to use these wakened properties, so there we saw that what was really a need for

[Hilde Remøy] 12:35:00

different types, of of measures. So, with only the legal and fiscal measures, you wouldn’t be able to reach out to the owners of the properties and to the asset managers in order to get things moving and for that to happen local municipalities took a

[Hilde Remøy] 12:35:20

more active role. Starting to think, How can we really facilitate these these transformations in in the process and in use I think it’s it’s not in the Dutch system not part of the Dutch system to use subsidies a lot.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:35:41

So using financial subsidies was not really on the table, so they were looking much more into what can we do to facilitate things?

[Hilde Remøy] 12:35:55

and this went all the way to how to get people to talk to each other.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:36:01

So being groups, being owners were normally used to communicate to to users, maybe through their asset manager, through their property managers, and how to get them to communicate with the groups of of users who might actually have a new initiative for a property.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:36:42

of regulations or policy beforehand that they could use.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:36:49

But you had to develop this. So they went into developing things like covenants for how to collaborate between municipalities and and property owners, installing the special teams at the municipality teams that were working specifically with empty buildings

[Hilde Remøy] 12:37:14

and and finding new users for them, and doing the mediation between owners and possible new users.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:37:25

and from there on, also looking at what’s needed.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:37:32

What What kind of help is needed from from a government side in order to get these to get these conversions sorted out, because we we already heard what technically and functionally it might be all feasible.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:37:51

but does it also work regulatory? With which local regulations and does it work according to the land?

[Hilde Remøy] 12:38:04

Use plans, for instance, and and things like this. So I think these were some of the main issues that were that were developed

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:38:14

Hilda, you’ve been added, for how long? How long have you been watching this happening in the Netherlands?

[Hilde Remøy] 12:38:18

So a big thing. Well, most of this happened between the 2,010 and 2,015

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:38:28

So you’re ahead of us. And, and this is pre covid.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:38:32

In in that sense. Yeah, So in 2,015, we saw that quite a lot of of these conversions actually started happening, and they seemed seem like the market was learning, and they called up so I think in 2,000. 20,000.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:38:33


[Hilde Remøy] 12:38:53

We were off to quite quite a big production of housing.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:39:00

Hmm, so I I’m gonna go to Tom next, because he’ll just give you a great lead there about all the tools that municipal governments needed to acquire.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:39:11

This notion of covenants and special teams, and I’m interested in terms of all of you.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:39:17

So you should all just open your mic so that you can feel free to interrupt each other, and just have a chat like we were around the kitchen.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:39:23

Table, Tom, the what are the real carrots and sticks that you’ve got available to you?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:39:29

Because my sense still is that people will put up roadblocks about.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:39:35

Why this can’t happen, or so You’re on the front lines.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:39:38

There. What are? What have you been doing at the city? And then what do you think the province and the Federal Government need to do to support you?

[Thom Mahler] 12:39:47

Well, certainly no sticks. We won’t use any stakes.

[Thom Mahler] 12:39:50

We’re all in the caret business. Well, yeah, I mean each.

[Thom Mahler] 12:39:54

It. It is interesting. Each building is kind of its own case, study, and what’s required to get a conversion cause it depends on who has owned it.

[Thom Mahler] 12:40:02

How long have they owned it? How much did they pay for when they bought it?

[Thom Mahler] 12:40:04

Where is it located? What’s appropriate for use?

[Thom Mahler] 12:40:07

so, and because of that, the the real trick is to have a very generalized incentive a cash incentive to take away any of the profit margin on a per building basis and to keep it.

[Thom Mahler] 12:40:20

Simple We used one number, which is $75 per square foot, is what our incentive program is for every square foot of office you remove, you get a $75 subsidy from the city of calgary and That’s a grant that’s applied at the end of your conversion

[Thom Mahler] 12:40:34

so it’s a low risk investment from the municipality and that we don’t give it until the building’s actually done.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:40:40

How’d you come up with that number? How did you come up with that number, Tom

[Thom Mahler] 12:40:4

But before we did that, So that was that was developed by our real estate sector.

[Thom Mahler] 12:40:48

I call them our volunteers, but it was based on Yeah, it’s we had a project underway which just opened last week, Actually, it’s an affordable housing project a conversion of an office building to residential and the team that worked on that included architects cause consultants engineers So we had a

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:40:48

And they said, and they said that would do it. Yeah.

[Thom Mahler] 12:41:05

really live example of costs. And so with the information from that project, and some of the others that we had been doing, I have been investigated.

[Thom Mahler] 12:41:14

That number came came in, and we weren’t sure it was right.

[Thom Mahler] 12:41:17

We thought. Was it too rich? I don’t know. Is it not enough?

[Thom Mahler] 12:41:21

but it’s definitely been the right number. We’ve Council has given us a 100 million dollars.

[Thom Mahler] 12:41:25

It is largely all spoken, for we have a second phase of the program that we had opened for the final 27 million, and that’s almost we haven’t evaluated all the projects yet.

[Thom Mahler] 12:41:36

But assuming we can conclude deals with some of those, we will have spent the the entire 100 million, which is over a 1 million square feet of office removed and over a 1,000 units of housing, created, and that housing is, I won’t call it there is some subsidized, housing as part of These

[Thom Mahler] 12:41:54

projects, but they’re also they’re at a price point.

[Thom Mahler] 12:41:58

So when we developed a number, I think this is one of the key points.

[Thom Mahler] 12:42:00

That number included an understanding of what you could market these units for what you could get for rents.

[Thom Mahler] 12:42:06

Because if you private, if you don’t have a big enough incentive, and you’re competing against new construction while you’re not going to, win So you have to have we had to create a performer, that would allow for these projects to find their niche to be marketed within the

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:42:11


[Thom Mahler] 12:42:19

Calvary marketplace. So I work’t say 75 bucks is the number, and other municipalities that have no idea.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:42:27

You can hear, Hilda, that subsidies continue to be part of the math here in Cat Jennifer. Go ahead.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:42:33

Yeah, I was gonna add to to what Tom has said a couple of tools that have been really useful for us.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:42:33

What were you gonna say

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:42:39

And I know for other projects in in Winnipeg downtown, and I do want to recognize that we have the amazing Kate ben Ski here with us today who is running the downtown, viz.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:42:46

Hi! I saw Kate there

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:42:50

And and just has been such a gift and so supportive throughout the whole project.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:42:54

But a couple of the tools are tiff tax increment financing.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:42:57

That’s really helpful to the tune of about 9 million dollars.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:43:02

That’s really to offset all of those taxes that otherwise we would have to pay during the development process of for a period of time.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:43:11

Of course, you know taxes are important. We all need to pay them.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:43:15

They pay for our social services. They pay for. You know all of those important things in our country, but relief from them for a period of time is a contribution that cities can make, because of course, cities in Canada do not have the revenue, bases that at least, certainly Winnipeg doesn’t have the

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:43:31

revenue basis. Other entities do. The other quick piece is support with permits. Right?

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:43:37

So you know permits can cost is a lot of you will know, As I was shocked to discover hundreds of thousands of dollars so getting relief from those for again the duration of a project when you’re really trying to knit all of your various sources of funny together, is just so critical so I just wanted to

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:43:56

pipe in with that yeah, yeah.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:43:57

And I and I want to behind you on this, and just ask for a little more detail Just a little plug for the chat you could, if you’re not watching the chat, you should because there’s a whole bunch of things going into the chat including as we provide these tax breaks if

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:44:12

we provide these incentives, if we, if we take a development, charges away, if we take permits away, and as we convert spaces from a commercial use to a residential use, what is the impact on municipal finances, when you lose that property, tax revenue or it’s reduced Tom

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:44:12


[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:44:30

did you run those numbers, and what are you hearing? In Winnipeg Kate Fence will have an answer for me, I’m sure.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:44:36

Tom, what did you look at that? And then I want to hear from Sheila because I want to know whether or not she’s even thinking her sector is needs to continue to be enticed go ahead, Tom

[Thom Mahler] 12:44:47

I was typing in the chat, another tool, so I kind of missed your first question.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:44:50

You can good, just just what’s the impact on municipal finance, on coffers for coffers?

[Thom Mahler] 12:44:51

If you could rephrase that

[Thom Mahler] 12:44:55


[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:44:57

If the if this mix changes from from from commercial to residential

[Thom Mahler] 12:45:01

So that great question. So we were. We were very concerned about that, and Brian Pincott probably remember some of the conversations.

[Thom Mahler] 12:45:09

Nice to see you, Brian, but I the number that we’ve come with the the prices have dropped so much that vacant a vacant office, building a downtown Calgary is basically valued at land so if it’s converted to residential the assessment.

[Thom Mahler] 12:45:23

Goes up. It’s not going by the part of the part of the grieving process is convincing.

[Thom Mahler] 12:45:28

People that it’s not going back up to what it was.

[Thom Mahler] 12:45:30

It’s never going back up to what it was. They were. The valuations were so high in our downtown. You’re not gonna get back there

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:45:36

I want to know what I want to know whether Sheila is with you on that, whether or not it’s not gonna go back to what it was or I mean I know.

[Thom Mahler] 12:45:44

And this this is the Bnc. And to Sheila’s point with the this is this is our our B and C class, our our A Anda.

[Thom Mahler] 12:45:53

Buildings are they still have leases in their vacancy.

[Sheila Botting] 12:46:01

I completely agree with that right and you have to think about the ownership structure of the different buildings that are out there.

[Sheila Botting] 12:46:07

So all the trophy buildings in Canada for the most part, are owned by pension fund investors, so they’re not going to either knock it down or confirm it for the most part because they’re very they’re heavily invested in those buildings and they provide a

[Sheila Botting] 12:46:23

good income. Strain from again making very general statements in the major markets across Canada.

[Sheila Botting] 12:46:29

It’s when you get into the Bnc. Buildings that Tennessee, much more fragmented ownership group, And so when those buildings become vacant to Tom’s Point, it’s land value because it’s hard to fill them up again I don’t know that’s the issue in

[Sheila Botting] 12:46:43

Toronto. These buildings are still large. It it’s not like we have.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:46:46

Well, there, you know. No, they’re largely leased, not the same as Paul, right

[Sheila Botting] 12:46:50

Yes, so, if I’m an investor to that building, I’m coupon clipping the least in place in the revenue stream, and that’s all I care about to be to Be blunt about it.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:46:59

Yes, no. I know, and that’s and that’s what I keep asking about is what happens when that when we’re actually that isn’t the case.

[Sheila Botting] 12:47:01

And so

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:47:08

And then all of a sudden, your sector cares about something else.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:47:11

There’s a there’s a point in the chat that’s being raised, and I want to ask this to everyone, and I’m interested what Hilda would say as well intern of cities continuing with their planning efforts.

[Sheila Botting] 12:47:14


[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:47:21

Should we? The resource and planning departments to continue to look for new office space and develop mixed use projects with a certain minimum percentage has been asked in the chat, a certain minimum percentage to be allocated for office and commercial use or in fact, should we be seeing that ratio, change

[Sheila Botting] 12:47:38


[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:47:41

dramatically, so that we’re not approving those kinds of more creating whatever incentive you need.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:47:45

Here it goes. Who wants to jump in on that? Okay, He’ll go first.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:47:48

I can show

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:47:51

But let’s let’s Nalen’s. Come in first.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:47:53

Go ahead, Hilda

[Hilde Remøy] 12:47:54

Yeah, I could. I could say, why we know here from the Netherlands as well.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:47:58

So we we have, although there is a lot of conversions going on, I think there is still need for new offices.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:48:07

But they should be in a locations where it makes sense to to have them.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:48:15

So here the thing about transportation is a big is a big issue, so it should be near to public transport centers, and it should not be a very large developments that are standalone office, developments but indeed.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:48:34

looking into the mixed use developments, and I think there we have a different challenge as well, because And and I’m curious to hear how that would be in in the Us. And Canada.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:48:47

Because here there’s a small niche of investors who’s interested in investing in these mixed use developments.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:48:57


[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:49:03

I mean part of what I think we’re struggling with, and Sheila.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:49:06

Then I’ll come to you is how seismic a shift are we looking at in Canadian urban life?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:49:12

And is it really that we’re going to distribute commercial uses and residential uses in more of a poly centric way?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:49:21

Or are we doubling down on downtown, or are we gonna have several downtowns?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:49:26

I know it’s hard to be a futurist here, and I’m not suggesting we ever should be.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:49:30

But let’s think. Let’s can. We be open to some new possibilities as opposed to just reinforcing what we had before Sheila first, and then we’ll come back, and I’ll hear from Jennifer

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:49:38

bye, Yeah, I don’t wanna butt fight, so she let you go.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:49:44

Alright. We’re gonna go, Sheila. I like bund fights.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:49:46

Let’s go to Sheila. And then Jennifer

[Sheila Botting] 12:49:47

so I was gonna put on my real estate investor hat, just to give you some perspective of what the investors thinking of when they own their building.

[Sheila Botting] 12:49:56

So if I own a downtown class, a trophy building, I’m doing whatever I can to pertain the tenants the leases, and the experiences for those buildings so that is off the table.

[Sheila Botting] 12:50:07

So then you look at the Bnc. Buildings that could largely be in play.

[Sheila Botting] 12:50:12

Well. Many of those buildings have life to them, except for calendar, except for some other cities, but they still have life They’re still viable assets There’s going to be a segment of those buildings where the investor is going to say do I make more money converting that to something

[Sheila Botting] 12:50:27

else? What is the cost in? And oh, by the way, construction costs have gone up 30 to 40. Percent.

[Sheila Botting] 12:50:33

So that’s gonna affect my feasibility on this thing.

[Sheila Botting] 12:50:35

Is there some kind of a tax incentive? What is my benefit for doing that or is it we’ve worked for some investors to say, Knock it down because it’s fifty-sixties building it, has no architectural value?

[Sheila Botting] 12:50:46

You can get greater density, accommodate more people with rental housing, and then therefore more affordable.

[Sheila Botting] 12:50:51

So you have to weigh up all of those big decisions in play.

[Sheila Botting] 12:50:56

At the end of the day it goes down to the asset level, down to the street and one size does not fiddle back to the other point in mixed use, and so then the other part of this is very few investors will build a building that has the office on the bottom of condos or

[Sheila Botting] 12:51:11

rental above those buildings do not have the higher valuations attached to them because of the challenges of the mix of uses but you could very well have a complex where you’ve got one click to one rental one office one retail as part of a complex and that’s

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:51:27

You can. Yeah, Sheila. Just go on that. Why are you saying that the one building that’s got commercial? It’s got retail on the main floor.

[Sheila Botting] 12:51:27

very viable, so

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:51:36

Then commercial about, and maybe office, and then residential.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:51:39

Why is that less less valuable

[Sheila Botting] 12:51:42

Because our invest. And again, this is our investment. Community likes to be pure in their ownership of asset classes, so that they can manage it more productively.

[Sheila Botting] 12:51:53

The residential user group is very different from the office user group as one, CEO said to me, So you don’t want to be looking at your window and seeing a barbecue while you’re at the office right so there’s a month.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:52:03

But but I want to know why, but I but I wanna I hear it’s a mindset, but I I wanna know why, like.

[Sheila Botting] 12:52:04

It’s a it’s a mindset issue, is it?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:52:09

I’m wondering if that’s not necessarily a mindset for the future.

[Sheila Botting] 12:52:13

It’s because it’s an asset. Property management issue.

[Sheila Botting] 12:52:16

They don’t like having them both in the same buildings, because there’s challenge of the residential, very different group than the office group. Right?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:52:22

I know, but you know we used to know. Nope, you know, but we do not bring dogs to bed to offices.

[Sheila Botting] 12:52:23

That’s no, I’m just saying I’m just saying that’s yeah.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:52:28

And now we do like I just wonder are we able to make these places?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:52:31

Isn’t that part of the dilemma right

[Sheila Botting] 12:52:32

Yes, oh, it’s starting when you think about buildings like tiff.

[Sheila Botting] 12:52:35

I was involved in that right. So the ground, the bottom part of it is commercial.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:52:37

Right? That’s the Toronto National Film Festival Building

[Sheila Botting] 12:52:40

Yeah, and then above it’s all condos and the condos.

[Sheila Botting] 12:52:43

Actually the sale of condos paid for a lot of the structure with the office below right?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:52:47


[Sheila Botting] 12:52:48

So there’s different mix of uses, and you tumble the math. And you see how that math plays of any individual development or downtown or marketplace

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:52:56

At Jennifer, and then Hilda

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:52:58

Yes, I am going to jump in. Thank you. We have an affordable housing crisis in this country.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:53:05

We do not have an office crisis in this country, so you know, I look at this from a holistic perspective, and I think we we need to look at the greater societal value of affordable housing housing.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:53:22

Safe housing is the foundation for everything else that somebody’s going to achieve in their lives.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:53:27

To the point that Michael made in the chat a little bit earlier about protecting kids from coming into care Do you know thousands of kids come into care across Canada because their homes are deemed not acceptable to child welfare So we need to think about education?

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:53:44

And and safe, affordable housing being the key to somebody getting that education The thin is going to enable them to get that job that then is going to enable them to be a good parent and be able to raise their kids with a decent level of income.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:53:58

So I I just want to put that out there in terms of of you.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:54:01

Know why why I am. We are so much in support of affordable housing, mixed use housing, and converting all of those quite frankly empty, and underutilized buildings wherever possible.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:54:15

because I think all of us are going to benefit together as a society So those are my quick pieces.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:54:20

Yeah, thanks. Jennifer: Okay. Is she looking? Then we’re gonna hot pursuit from Sheila.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:54:24

Then Hilda and then Tom. Go ahead. Sheila

[Sheila Botting] 12:54:26

Jennifer. I couldn’t agree more like that.

[Sheila Botting] 12:54:29

We absolutely have to solve for that problem. So again, the commercial real estate industry would say, municipalities move out of the way with the entitlements, the approvals, process expedite that process.

[Sheila Botting] 12:54:40

Let us build the products so we can solve for that problem if we’re getting in the way of that entitlement approval development process No wonder we’re going to have a shortage of of housing in the country, so the flip side of that is let us just do our work and do it

[Sheila Botting] 12:54:55

properly. And we’ll create all the house in the country needs.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:55:03

Hilda, and then Tom.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:55:04

yeah, oh, I also really agree with this statement. So I think we see the same also in Europe.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:55:15

The very large need for affordable housing. We have also seen really good examples of conversions from offices into affordable housing especially for young start or some housing markets.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:55:32

single family, single parent families so, and I think the good thing about these office conversions is that they are very often in central locations, which makes it also feasible for people to to live there.

[Hilde Remøy] 12:55:51

Because when I say central urban location, it means that there is not only offices but also, sufficient services, efficient facilities for people to to use.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:56:00

Keep speaking up there, Hilda. Keep leaning

[Hilde Remøy] 12:56:03

Yeah, So meaning that there’s there are central locations where it’s also sufficient services and facilities in the area for these people to use.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:56:12


[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:56:20

Yeah, and Tom, I want you to speak to that, because I think this is the key thing is, how do you make downtowns more complete complete communities that have the services have the options have the range of choice of housing have all the different.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:56:33

Things that we know. You know we know monocultures don’t work in cities, but we found we found them happen in central business, districts.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:56:40

So now they’re transforming. So are there other specific things, Tom, that you want to respond to in terms of your colleagues here, got the steps to take

[Thom Mahler] 12:56:46

yeah, I did. I did want to pick up on you?

[Thom Mahler] 12:56:49

Would you had mentioned? What What other help does the municipality need?

[Thom Mahler] 12:56:52

And I I guess my point is the provinces in the Federal Government have not realized the opportunity that they have before them.

[Thom Mahler] 12:57:00

With this, there’s there’s millions of square feet of built infrastructure that they can repurpose to meet 2 of their biggest goals, affordable housing and climate goals, you know, allowing buildings to decay and crumble while they’re being heated, they’re still heating some of

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:57:10

And climate.

[Thom Mahler] 12:57:17

these vacant buildings. So they don’t decay.

[Thom Mahler] 12:57:20

But the province in the Feds still insist on that.

[Thom Mahler] 12:57:23

They would rather fund new construction. Our our provincial government doesn’t fund for instance, repurposing an office building to a postsecondary post-secondaries are willing to lease space in these in these vacant buildings but our provincial funding models are typically

[Thom Mahler] 12:57:38

for new construction. And so the municipality in Calgary and our real estate sector, saying, like we we can’t wait for the province and fence, because it seems they’re just incredibly slow at responding to this issue that we have to find it on our own So we’re

[Thom Mahler] 12:57:53

we’re collaborating as much as we can within our community to try and find the funding to do.

[Thom Mahler] 12:57:58

It. But But the money’s there in. Programs it’s not getting out the door. And so I know that’s partly the work, Mary, that you guys are are trying to do yeah

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:58:02

But so like, let’s let’s let’s push on that.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:58:06

Let’s push on that you know the I mean. You’re just reflecting the getter done Attitude And, Calgary, you’re not going to wait.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:58:13

Your sector is stepping in, but let’s think about.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:58:16

We have provincial and Federal colleagues, lurking listing to this city talk, if not live, but subsequently, how do they get themselves into this game?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:58:23

And as you suggest, fund, the infrastructure, make the resources available so that we can convert those assets.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:58:30

The Sheila spent a long time talking about asset classes.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:58:34

How do we get the government to use its assets more effectively, Tom? What would you say?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:58:37

What’s the one thing you’d tell the province of the Feds to do

[Thom Mahler] 12:58:40

Well, give it to the municipalities. Like. Don’t want to hang on.

[Thom Mahler] 12:58:44

Don’t hang on to the purse strings and the and the and the programs I think you we have programs that can work, and I think you know Jennifer’s project is a classic example that those are local solutions that are are developed.

[Thom Mahler] 12:58:57

And the other thing is, get over the hangup of giving money to a real estate developer or a pension founder or read, and somehow they’re an evil thing.

[Thom Mahler] 12:59:03

You know they that we have that is a perception that that is out there Dare you know that what Sheila said?

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:59:03


[Thom Mahler] 12:59:10

The solutions are there, the talent is there, the everything is there.

[Thom Mahler] 12:59:14

It’s just getting the risk out of the way and providing some financial incentive to allow this stuff to start to happen.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:59:19

So let’s we’re at the point where we probably have to stop, and I, you know I always find these conversations.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:59:24

You just want to hang on for a couple more hours. We always say that city talk is never the end.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:59:28

It’s always just the beginning of a conversation So I’m gonna go around quickly and ask you each for one sentence.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:59:33

But I, Tom, you just gave it. Let’s get the risk out of the way, and let’s be much more imaginative. And creative.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:59:39

About how we engage everybody in trying to be their own solution.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 12:59:42

One sentence from you, Jennifer. One sentence

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 12:59:45

this is going to, if we do it right, change the trajectory for our people in Canada and our our city and our province have some of the lowest income folks in Canada due to economic apartheid and all the Systemic barriers that we’re still aware of so we want this to be

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 13:00:06

the change, And if we do this right, we want to be able to support other indigenous first nation and indigenous organizations across Canada.

[Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO] 13:00:15

Thank you.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 13:00:15

And and support the urban neighborhoods in which they they co-ist and share.

[Mary W Rowe she/her, CUI/IUC] 13:00:20

It’s great, Sheila. One sentence from you

[Sheila Botting] 13:00:24

cities are amazing places. They’re going to be here forever.

[Sheila Botting] 13:00:27

They’re really important part of our ecosystem.

[Sheila Botting] 13:00:29

But how we reimagine that one size does not fit all.

[Sheila Botting] 13:00:34

And so, being very creative with many voices as part of that, we have the solutions we just need to get together to come up with the answers

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 13:00:40

And I’m and I’m hearing that call for that kind of intermediary convening.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 13:00:46

And as Tom said, calling, I mean his bodies to play the broken role as Calgary’s been.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 13:00:49

Hill. That One sentence from you

[Hilde Remøy] 13:00:54

Yeah, take away the regulations that now restrict a new users and new initiators to start up great new developments in the city centers.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 13:01:08

Yeah, clear Clear the decks and see what happens. Yeah, right, Tom.

[Thom Mahler] 13:01:14

I’ll give it to Greg Clark and the World City Conference that I was just at Greg Clark had a great line and said the best, the the best cities in the world are gonna have high community collaboration capacity and I I think that’s what you know needs to happen.

[Thom Mahler] 13:01:26

Is that the solutions are all there, and it requires collaboration.

[Thom Mahler] 13:01:31

And so you know, the more the more we can do on that front to support that, the the faster we’re going to be able to move

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 13:01:38

City talk is all about community collaboration capacity. So thank you, Sheila Jennifer, Hilda, and Tom for being with us and for Jen coming in the conversions work is going on, in terms, of what all those happening with the cities themselves the task force the downtown recovery piece that Tom is leading that kate fence can Winnipeg is doing that Paul Mccain is doing, and that I saw them all in the chat, and what we’re doing at Cuis.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 13:02:01

So, If you want to stay involved in this conversation, look for this.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 13:02:03

It’ll get posted in. The chat, will get posted, the transcript will get posted.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 13:02:07

The video will get posted, as we always say, the conversation doesn’t stop. This is just the beginning.

[Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC] 13:02:11

Thank you so much for joining us guys as we rethink and reimagine what’s happening in downtowns and in our commercial districts.

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 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

11:50:48 From Nick Hanson : Welcome everyone! We invite you to say hello in the chat before we get started. Where are you watching from?
11:51:59 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Today’s CityTalk features the following panellists:

Sheila Botting — Principal & President Americas, Professional Services, Avison Young (Toronto)
Thom Mahler — Director, Downtown Strategy, City of Calgary (Calgary)
Jennifer Moore Rattray — Chief Operating Officer, Southern Chiefs’ Organization (Winnipeg)
Hilde Remøy — Associate Professor, Real Estate Management, Delft University of Technology (Delft, Netherlands)
12:01:23 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Welcome to CityTalk: Office-to-Housing Conversions:
What Are the Trends and Opportunities for Canada’s Downtowns?
12:02:52 From Daniel McLaren : Do others have audio? Not sure if it’s on my end or not.
12:02:53 From Mary Shaughnessy : North Vancouver BC
12:02:55 From Maisha Barnett To All Panelists : Seattle, WA
12:03:00 From Jamie McCallan : Hi… Montreal, QC
12:03:01 From marwa al waeal To All Panelists : I do have audio!
12:03:01 From Kelly Wojnarski : Hello from Ottawa, ON!
12:03:04 From Elizabeth Lawrence : St. John’s, NL
12:03:05 From Vanessa Baratta To All Panelists : Montreal Qc
12:03:05 From Mike Sacha : Edmonton (Treaty 6)
12:03:08 From Nick Hanson, CUI : We are recording today’s session and will share it online at
12:03:08 From Karol Murillo : Hamilton, ON
12:03:09 From Alexandra Miller : Hi from Ottawa
12:03:10 From Jay Deshmukh To All Panelists : Toronto, ON
12:03:11 From Iris Chu : @Daniel: there’s audio available for me
12:03:13 From Gerry Doering : Calgary, AB
12:03:14 From Sandra Miller : Hello from London, Ontario
12:03:15 From Nadia Stolfi To All Panelists : Guelph, ON 🙂
12:03:16 From William Neher : Regina, SK
12:03:19 From Iris Chu : Hello from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
12:03:20 From Brent McAdam : Saskatoon / Treaty 6
12:03:20 From Sue Hallatt : Dialing in from Lkwungen Territory!(Victoria BC)
12:03:20 From Myles Ramsey : Hello from Toronto, ON
12:03:20 From marwa al waeal To All Panelists : Hello from Toronto, ON
12:03:22 From Amy Harrell : Toronto, ON
12:03:22 From Kathleen Dale : Town of Lincoln Ontario
12:03:24 From Emma Cochrane : Hi from Ottawa
12:03:24 From Mikaela Coon To All Panelists : Ottawa, Ca
12:03:25 From paul mackinnon : Hi from Halifax. Frequent City-Talker
12:03:30 From Amarpreet Guliani : Hello from Regina, SK
12:03:32 From Jonathan Delli Colli : Hi from Thorold Ontario
12:03:33 From Reid Pedersen : Regina, Sk
12:03:34 From Alex Adams : Hello from Brampton!
12:03:34 From Brian Pincott To All Panelists : Coming from the Traditional Territy of the Treaty 1 Nations & the Homeland of the Metis Nation. (Winnipeg)
12:03:34 From Rita Melo Reuss To All Panelists : Edmonton, AB
12:03:35 From Michael Cotcher To All Panelists : Regina, SK (Treaty 4)
12:03:38 From Allison Chan To All Panelists : Calgary / Treaty 7
12:03:40 From Andrew Castaneda : London, Ontario
12:03:41 From tyler dixon : Hello from Edmonton
12:03:42 From Anil Yadav To All Panelists : Hello from Calgary Downtown!
12:03:43 From Gracen – CMHC To All Panelists : Hello from Ottawa!
12:03:49 From Cristina P : Hello from Vaughan, ON!
12:03:49 From Mark Hanlon : Hi, from north Greater Toronto Area here.
12:03:52 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Please change your chat settings to “everyone” so that everyone can read your comments.
12:03:54 From Sarah Woodgate : Hi Sarah Woodgate from Calgary Mokinstis!
12:03:58 From Duncan MACLENNAN To All Panelists : Hello from Halifax
12:04:02 From Rita Melo Reuss To All Panelists : Hello from Edmonton
12:04:02 From Andrea Betty : Hi from Penetanguishene, Ontario!
12:04:05 From Brian Pincott :
12:04:54 From Jennifer Chantler : Hello from Barrie, ON!
12:04:55 From Brian Pincott : Coming from the Traditional Territories of the Treaty 1 Nations & the Homeland of the Metis Nation (Winnipeg)
12:05:36 From Katherine Danks : Hello from Toronto
12:05:50 From paul mackinnon : There is a current US Bill called The Downtown Recovery Act (or something similar) that has to do with tax breaks for office to residential conversion. I wonder, is there a Fed Gov’t action to assist in moving this forward in ALL Canadian downtowns, rather than city-by-city?
12:05:52 From David Scrivener To All Panelists : Calling in from Toronto here
12:06:03 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Welcome to Jennifer Barrett
Applied Solutions Lead, Senior Planner
Canadian Urban Institute
12:06:09 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Jennifer’s diverse experience in the U.S. and Canada has focused on improving social, environmental and economic sustainability. Jennifer has worked in the public, private and non-profit sectors including affordable housing, land use planning and social development policy creation; land development analysis; community consultation; green industry and economic development initiatives. She strives to improve community engagement to ensure that planning decisions represent the diversity of each community.
Jennifer has received two awards for her planning work as the co-creator of the winning entry for the “Morph My City” Competition for neighbourhood design at the 2012 National Infrastructure Summit in Regina, SK and as a member of a design team whose work was published for the “Edge as Center” urban revitalization competition in Boston, MA. She holds a Master’s degree in Urban Planning from McGill University and is a Registered Professional Planner.
12:07:14 From Mary W Rowe To CUI(privately) : did you unmute me?
12:07:54 From CUI To Mary W Rowe(privately) : likely by accident, sorry
12:10:30 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Welcome to Thom Mahler
Director, Downtown Strategy, City of Calgary
12:10:40 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Thom Mahler is the Director leading The City of Calgary’s Downtown Strategy team – the stewards of The City’s $200+ million investment to build a thriving, future-focused downtown.
By advancing Calgary’s Greater Downtown Plan, the team will transform downtown from the traditional 9 to 5 business district to a vibrant city centre by: offering incentives for converting empty office space to residential units and other uses; programming and activating downtown public spaces to promote vibrancy; and kickstarting public space capital projects to support thriving downtown neighbourhoods.
12:12:36 From Brian Pincott : Oh My! I was on Calgary City Council until 2017… oh my!! Pitchforks!! Thom is being…. generous…
12:14:41 From Jennifer Grove : Can someone direct me to where I can find the recordings of the City Talks? I missed the last two that I was hoping to attend!
12:15:31 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Welcome to Sheila Botting
Principal & President Americas, Professional Services
Avison Young
12:15:38 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Sheila Botting is a member of Avison Young’s Global Real Estate Executive. Throughout her career, Sheila has led a number of multi-disciplinary real estate teams and assignments across the industry with owners, investors and corporate occupiers alike, earning the reputation as one of the “go-to” commercial real estate advisors across the Americas.
Sheila was previously the President of Deloitte Real Estate, where her vision and expertise helped Deloitte to transform its “Workplace of the Future.”
In 2016, Toronto Life named Deloitte Tower Toronto as the “best new office workplace”. As a result, many of the firm’s clients engaged Sheila to transform their own offices and investigate the corporate real estate operating models – including major Canadian financial institutions, government entities and private business.
12:16:51 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Jennifer Grove: you can watch previous videos (and read key takeaways) at
12:17:36 From Jennifer Grove : Great, thank you so much!
12:20:53 From Victoria Prentice-Funk : I wonder how much of a motivator, commuting is for these employees wanting to stay remote or hybrid… Is there any data on that? For example, if employees had access to reliable/safe/comfortable public transport would they be more inclined to go back to the office?
12:21:23 From paul mackinnon : Please post the Avison Young vitality index link, and is there a Canadian-only version?
12:22:54 From Jennifer Barrett : Here is the Avison Young Vitality Index:
12:23:39 From Aline Rahbany : Are there gender differences in this data?
12:24:52 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Welcome to Jennifer Moore Rattray
Chief Operating Officer
Southern Chiefs’ Organization
12:24:58 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Jennifer Moore Rattray is Chief Operating Officer at Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO), which represents 34 First Nations and over 81,000 citizens in what is now Manitoba. Jennifer is a proud citizen of Peepeekisis Cree Nation.

Prior to joining SCO, Jennifer was Executive Director of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and the Assistant Deputy Minister with the Province of Manitoba. Jennifer also served as Associate Vice-President of Indigenous, Government and Community Affairs at the University of Winnipeg.
In 2012, she received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for contributions to education and the community. Prior to her career in public service, she was an award-winning journalist, working for CBC, CTV, and other networks in Canada and the US. She is one of the first Indigenous women to anchor the television news in Canada.
12:25:30 From Michael Redhead Champagne To All Panelists : woohoo Winnipeg represent!
12:26:04 From Kate Fenske : As a Winnipegger, I can say we are SO EXCITED about this project Jennifer and her team at SCO is leading!
12:26:18 From paul mackinnon : According to the Avison Young Vitality index, the return to office number for just Canada (urban) is 43.4% (so not much different than US I guess)
12:26:23 From Brian Pincott : Michael Redhead Champagne is an amazing community leader!!
12:26:53 From Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC To Michael Redhead Champagne and All Panelists : hey can you share your greeting with Everyone ?
12:27:20 From Brian Pincott : I live 2 blocks from the HBC building that SCO is converting. It is going to be an amazing addition to our community!
12:27:41 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Read more about transition of Hudson’s Bay building in Winnipeg:
12:27:56 From Michael Redhead Champagne To All Panelists : Its great to hear that there are plans for family units, so important if we are gonna reduce the number of indigenous kids in care
12:29:01 From Nick Hanson, CUI : When posting in the chat, make sure the blue button says “Everyone” (if it doesn’t, you can click the little triangle and change the setting)
12:29:14 From marwa al waeal : Love that!
12:29:16 From Michael Redhead Champagne :
12:29:48 From Sandra Miller : Incredible project on so many levels!
12:30:00 From Michael Redhead Champagne : its great to hear there are plans for amily units, so important if we are going to reduce the number of Indigenous kids in care
12:30:33 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Welcome to Hilde Remøy
Associate Professor
Delft University of Technology
Delft, Netherlands
12:30:36 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Hilde Remøy is associate professor of Real Estate Management at Delft University of Technology. Her research area is adaptive reuse of real estate, focusing on the triple bottom line: economic, societal and environmental issues related to vacant premises and adaptive reuse into housing.
Hilde studied architecture and graduated at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. She worked as an architect at different Dutch architecture offices from 2000 – 2005. In 2005, she joined the TU Delft and completed her PhD thesis “Out of Office”, on office vacancy and residential conversion at the TU Delft in 2010. Since 2009, she has coordinated and taught several different post graduate courses, focusing on adaptive re-use.
Hilde has published more than 70 articles and book chapters on the topics of office vacancy, adaptive re-use and land use policy.
12:31:11 From Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO : Here is more information on our SCO HBC project:
12:31:17 From Sarah Woodgate : Hudson Bay. Exciting project in an iconic building! Thanks for sharing. I am curious about the funding sources. Sarah Woodgate from Calgary.
12:32:48 From Sharon Irven : Sound keeps fading in and out..
12:34:16 From Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO : Sarah, federal treaty partner (CMHC) and provincial and municipal treaty partners as well as other donors. We are a non-profit and have just incorporated as a charity so we can work with additional funders.
12:37:17 From ben larson To All Panelists : For Sheila and the panel, given the reduced demand for office space and adaptive rethink of space, why are some cities like Toronto, still pursuing planning policies with a no-net loss of office space when converting or redeveloping mixed use properties. You could achieve more residents and still keep needed (reduced in size) office space and keep people living and working in the same building or place. Thoughts?
12:42:24 From Jay Deshmukh : Good to hear affordable housing enter the discussion. Are any of you seeing conversion projects aimed at student housing?
12:42:57 From paul mackinnon : Kate is Great!
12:42:58 From Briar de Lange-Riddell To All Panelists : Conversions from office to residential will impact property taxes. In Toronto, the ratio is about 5 to 2. As much as more housing is required, how will cities balance out the short fall in property tax collection by converting office space to residential?
12:43:06 From Greg Spencer :
12:43:10 From Brian Pincott : Yes, she is great!
12:43:44 From paul mackinnon : Is CentreVenture involved? What about CDLC in Calgary? How important is a land development corp of some sort to getting things done?
12:44:29 From Victoria Prentice-Funk : How does TIF impact schools in the area of development?
12:44:44 From Mary Huang : would the chat be shared? some great info there
12:44:49 From Kate Fenske : Why thank you folks! Through our Downtown Recovery efforts, we were able to secure a new TIF program with the City of Winnipeg for affordable housing projects downtown and city-wide ($20M for downtown) as well as another $10M in TIF for ec dev projects including surface parking lots and heritage buildings.
12:44:52 From Kate Fenske :,for%20developments%20outside%20the%20Downtown.
12:45:44 From Kate Fenske :
12:46:17 From Mary W Rowe, she/her, CUI/IUC : chat gets posted 🙂
12:46:21 From Thom Mahler : WE have also streamlined approval process – generally no development permits required for conversion projects. And if a permit required – we do it fast – first project that needed a development permit was processed in 20 days.
12:46:47 From Brent McAdam : What’s the timeframe for completion of CUI’s office conversions project and reporting of findings?
12:46:49 From Kate Fenske : Thom you’re making us jealous in Winnipeg! 😉
12:47:16 From Karol Murillo : Thom – impressive figures. How many conversion projects to date?
12:47:33 From Thom Mahler : You will get there Kate!!
12:49:10 From Thom Mahler : We have 5 agreements in place and 3 more very close for a total of 8 – then there are 2 more that were approved outside of our program, but similar grant levels. Most are just about to start construction.
12:49:35 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Mary Huang: the chat will be available review when the CityTalk video is posted
12:49:44 From Jennifer Barrett : CUI’s project completion aiming for early 2023.
12:49:56 From Lorne Cutler : In Ottawa a B-class building has recently been converted to apartments, The Slatr. Prices for apartments are $2000 -$3000 range. If Federal government decides to give up some of its owned (rather than leased) downtown offices. if they want to see any measure of affordable housing, they will have to transfer the buildings at almost no cost. Other than a government, who is going to give up an unused building for free?
12:50:16 From eddie romero : Thom, I heard you say that there are 1k new residences being added, but how many square feet of office were removed? I missed that figure. Thanks!
12:50:49 From Thom Mahler : It is about 1million square feet of office removed so far.
12:51:38 From Karol Murillo : Thank you. Great job! Maybe a tour in the future to see these projects once completed?
12:51:47 From Brian Pincott : Calgary had more vacant office space than the total of office space in Vancouver.. is that number coming down, Thom?
12:52:35 From Mark Hanlon : As “planners” do we not need to look at sustainable mix-use mix of development. If there is a significant / uncontrolled shift of redevelopment of downtown office space to residential could result in a reverse commute situation for the 40-50% of employees still remain in the office one or more days? I am not saying, there is not opportunity, however, what is the long term sustainable mix of building types.
12:52:40 From Sandra Miller : Why not mixed use areas? Time to move forward and re-think cities!
12:52:47 From paul mackinnon : Are we seeing more residential developments with larger common work space?
12:53:06 From Thom Mahler : Barely Brian – absorptions are picking up, but some space still coming back to the market – Vacancy rates went down 0.8 percent last quarter – best number in years.
12:54:14 From Brian Pincott : Wow! Close to 10 years since the Calgary crunch started!
12:54:16 From Michael Redhead Champagne : can SCO buy Portage place too?
12:54:29 From Sarah Woodgate : Calgary also had an over suppy of commercial before covid. There is so much opportunity for attracting young Canadians to these areas. Hotel conversion too there was one affordable housing hotel to residential acquisition. What an opportunity to reinvent our Downtowns. Mixed use mixed income is key. Thom and his team are doing amazing innovative work! Thanks for this discussion today.
12:54:53 From Brian Pincott : Ohhh.. Michael.. Yes, SCO taking Portage Place would be awesome!
12:55:18 From Michael Redhead Champagne : I trust Indigenous leadership to renew downtowns in Canada <3
12:56:14 From Michael Gordon : Please define ‘affordable housing.’ Research shows only 3% of housing being built now in major cities is affordable for households living in core need.
12:56:50 From Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO : Deep thanks to our amazing Grand Chief and Chiefs for leading our redevelopment work – all credit to them and their leadership 🙂 !
12:57:27 From Ezra Wasser : Not enough time for this, but should we be thinking about reusing commercial buildings for the institutional sector (schools, universities, college, places of worship, etc) and social third places?
12:58:12 From Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO : Our housing will be deeply affordable … and sustainable. We know due to economic apartheid that many of our families and citizens cannot afford traditionally “affordable” rents.
12:58:31 From David Scrivener To All Panelists : If monocultures make bad neighbourhoods, but the investment climate encourages it — how can we get an investment climate that encourages a positive outcome of mixed-use development?
12:58:34 From Jay Deshmukh : This has been our proposal, Ezra, and we’re working on some conversions from office to institutional (research space).
12:58:55 From Susie Kim-McMullen : Will a transcript of this webinar be available?
12:59:08 From paul mackinnon : Great point. In NS, the provincial govt task force on housing is focusing only on expediting sprawl style development. No interest in urban residential really.
12:59:14 From Jennifer Moore Rattray, SCO : And an amazing First Nation architect, Reanna Merasty, is leading our design!
12:59:30 From Sandra Miller : Cities have to be the leaders because provincial and federal seem to be too slow and stuck. Everything should be on the table for adaptive re-use options.
12:59:36 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Susie Kim-McMullen: yes, the transcript will be shared
12:59:39 From Duncan MACLENNAN To All Panelists : Thank you all so much, great discussion. Similar issues in Australia and UK right now, governments really slow to see. Duncan Maclennnan
12:59:47 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Please join us in thanking all of our guest panellists today:
• Sheila Botting — Principal & President Americas, Professional Services, Avison Young (Toronto)
• Thom Mahler — Director, Downtown Strategy, City of Calgary (Calgary)
• Jennifer Moore Rattray — Chief Operating Officer, Southern Chiefs’ Organization (Winnipeg)
• Hilde Remøy — Associate Professor, Real Estate Management, Delft University of Technology (Delft, Netherlands)
13:00:02 From marwa al waeal : Thank you guys!!
13:00:18 From Sarah Woodgate : thank-you!
13:00:19 From Irena Kohn : Thank you – super helpful!
13:00:46 From Karol Murillo : Great discussion. Thank you!
13:01:37 From Nick Hanson, CUI : Join us for our next CityTalk: “Why Would Anyone Run for Municipal Office?” on Thursday, October 13. RSVP at
13:01:44 From Iris Chu : Thank you all!
13:01:48 From David Scrivener : Thanks all!
13:01:49 From eddie romero : Thank you all!
13:01:54 From Susie Kim-McMullen : Thanks very much
13:01:59 From Sandra Miller : Thank you to everyone – so inspiring! Let’s do this!!
13:02:01 From Mikaila Montgomery : Thank you for the discussion!
13:02:02 From Muna Huq : Such an interesting conversation, thanks a lot!
13:02:04 From Kate Fenske : Thanks all!
13:02:09 From Alex Smiciklas : Excellent chat – thanks everyone!
13:02:18 From Holden Blue : Thanks again everyone for the great chat!
13:02:22 From Alexandra Miller : thank you!
13:02:27 From Sarah Woodgate : happy thanksgiving!
13:02:27 From Mohamad Berry : Thank you!