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Downtown's office vacancy challenge

Downtown's office vacancy

Downtown Calgary office space: Larger and more occupied

Downtown and Beltline office vacancy currently sits at 32%. Calgary couldn’t keep up with the demand for space when the city’s economy was stronger, so large-scale office developments were approved to keep up. These large projects took years to complete, while the economy contracted in the interim and demand dropped significantly since 2014.

The result of this build-up is that Calgary has not only the highest levels of downtown office supply, but also the highest occupied downtown office space per capita when viewed against comparable North American cities. As of January 2020, Calgary has 42 square feet (sf) of office space, per capita, more than double the amount of Toronto (21 sf per capita), the next highest  of any comparable North American city.

Note: when we refer to downtown, we are including the downtown commercial core and the Beltline.

While Calgary has the largest amount of downtown office space, per capita, it also has more occupied downtown office space than any comparable city. Calgary currently has 31 sf per capita, more than one and half times the occupied downtown office space of Toronto (20) and more than double Denver (13), a city Calgary is often benchmarked against.

Downtown Calgary office space - competitive compared to other cities

Calgary is the best bargain for office space rentals compared with other Canadian cities. Average “class A” downtown lease rates are roughly three times higher in Vancouver than here in Calgary.

Calgary has an abundance of high quality, move-in ready, and economical office space downtown. The current rental rates should be attractive to businesses. The issue facing Calgary is not just how it sizes up against other cities. It’s how The City, and its partners, address the problems that our downtown is facing and develop strategies to tackle that problem.

The Downtown Strategy - reshaping downtown for Calgary in the New Econmony

We’re facing a long road to recovery, but there is no looking back. We must focus on the future. Calgary’s downtown will not go back to the way it was before the pandemic, let alone five to ten years ago because of changes to our energy industry and how and where people work. We must take bold steps now, implement necessary changes and make decisive moves quickly in order to transform and reinvent downtown for decades to come.

The Downtown Strategy team is leveraging the collective efforts of The City and its public and private sector partners to respond to prolonged economic challenges, and capitalize on opportunities that will create jobs, drive economic recovery, and revitalize and transform the downtown. We are working to address the challenges downtown is facing and set the downtown up for success down the road. Our priority is to be active and proactive to address problems, seek out solutions and embrace opportunities.

The Downtown Strategy team is focused on four areas important to a vibrant downtown and our city’s economic resilience. These working areas are support Calgary’s economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy.

Calgary’s Greater Downtown Plan is our way forward. We have a vision, roadmap and commitment to build a thriving, future-focused downtown. The Plan focuses on building a downtown that is Calgary’s bustling centre of commerce and a 24/7 destination. Calgary’s future success relies on downtown being a place where people want to live, visit and set up businesses. It needs to move beyond the traditional 9 to 5 business district towards a vibrant city centre people enjoy 24/7, with a balanced mix of residential, office, retail, entertainment, tourism and culture.

The Plan is supported by a $200 million initial investment focused on areas that start to lower office vacancy, improve downtown vibrancy, and support the development of thriving neighbourhoods that attract residents, visitors, and talent for downtown’s businesses.