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The Questionnaire: Four commercial real estate execs on getting employees back to the office

“The really good offices actually have low vacancy rates—it’s the less good ones that are empty”

Commercial real estate exec Gordon Wadley on getting employees back to the office
Gordon Wadley

COO, Dream Office REIT

Celebrity doppelgänger: “Jeff Bridges.” Dream job as a kid: “It was a tie between a cowboy and an astronaut. But there weren’t many horses in Ottawa, where I grew up, and I was no good at science.” Superpower of choice: “The ability to heal people. What a gift that would be.” Favourite downtown building: “357 Bay Street. It’s a turn-of-the-century building in which we invested $20 million. Plus it’s just so charming.” Work from home or go to the office: “Office. I love walking through our buildings and experiencing downtown. I moved here only eight years ago, so the city still feels new to me.” Ideal office-to-WFH ratio: “Three to four days in the office. But it depends on the role. Client-facing work should be done in an office, but back-of-house stuff like IT can be done from home.” Cause of Toronto’s high vacancy rate: “We’re seeing that the really good offices actually have low vacancy rates—and the less good ones are emptier.” Your offices are better because… “Ours are luxury offices. We’ve worked with designer Paolo Ferrari to give a bespoke feel to each, and we have an app that lets you report any issue.” The future of downtown is… “Vibrant. Toronto is a world-class city. We may never again hit a two per cent vacancy rate, but things will get better.”


Commercial real estate exec Brian Kingston on getting employees back to the office
Brian Kingston

CEO, Brookfield Property Partners

Dream job as a kid: “I wanted to work on Bay Street, so I got my dream job!” Superpower of choice: “The ability to stay awake 24 hours a day. There’s so much to do and never enough time.” Favourite downtown building: “Brookfield Place—one of the best on the planet.” Explain your job to a five-year-old: “I oversee 30,000 people looking after buildings across the world.” Work from home or go to the office: “Absolutely the office. All the creativity in my work comes from bumping into people. I learn so much from my co-workers—they’re like family.” Ideal office-to-WFH ratio: “My ideal would be seven days in the office! But, seriously, it’s up for debate.” Cause of Toronto’s high vacancy rate: “A lack of leadership. Many companies are not encouraging—or requiring—people to come back to the office, and they’re losing the benefits that come from that as a result.” Your offices are better because… “Our buildings are like entertainment precincts that happen to have offices above them. All of our work goes toward fostering that kind of environment.” Strategy for revitalizing the core: “We have great retail. We also run free art installations and exhibitions on our properties.”


Commercial real estate exec Brian Rosen on getting employees back to the office
Brian Rosen

CEO, Canada, Colliers International

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Celebrity doppelgänger: “People say Nicolas Cage. I don’t consider that a compliment!” Dream job as a kid: “Stand-up comedian. I was always doing impressions of celebrities, like Christopher Walken.” Superpower of choice: “The ability to fly, to easily tour real estate assets.” Favourite downtown building: “CIBC Square. The views, the amenities and the park over the rail corridor are so well thought-out.” Work from home or go to the office: “Office, all the time. Being with people is a critical part of my job.” Ideal office-to-WFH ratio: “It’s entirely job, company and location specific.” Cause of Toronto’s high vacancy rate: “To be clear, we have a higher vacancy rate, given the pre-pandemic historic low. But, overall, companies are realizing that they don’t need as much space.” How do you change the minds of workers who want to stay at home? “Mandates are one approach, and they do work. After that, you offer all the benefits. Three days in the office seems to be the zone of happiness right now.” The future of downtown is… “Strong. Immigration, a good education system and a growing economy all work in favour of Toronto’s offices. And since office development is slowing down, we’re set to grow into our existing spaces.”


The Questionnaire: Four commercial real estate execs on getting employees back to the office
Mark Fieder

President, Canada, Avison Young

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Celebrity doppelgänger: “Pierce Brosnan” Superpower of choice: “The ability to read people’s minds. In my work, empathizing with clients is key.” Favourite downtown office building: “Commerce Court. It’s a classic design that has stood the test of time.” Explain your job to a five-year-old: “We help people find and buy big office buildings.” Work from home or go to the office: “One hundred per cent the office. I like people, I get energy from them and collaboration is crucial to my work.” Describe your commute: “I either drive, which takes 25 minutes, or take the subway from York Mills to downtown, which takes about 40 minutes.” Ideal office to work-from-home ratio: “There’s no one ratio that’s ideal for everyone, but our own office is lighter on Mondays and Fridays, and it was like that even before the pandemic.” Best thing about working in an office: “All the fantastic amenities—restaurants, fitness, whatever you want—that Toronto’s downtown offers. Sitting in Zoom meetings at home isn’t that exciting.” Cause of Toronto’s high vacancy rate: “A lot of companies are realizing that they can work with a smaller footprint thanks to hybrid work. But workers are coming back. The office is not dead.” Your offices are better than the competition’s because… “We don’t own office buildings ourselves, but our clients are investing in high-quality spaces. They focus on sustainability, design, access to transit and fitness, along with things like foosball tables and healthy food options.” How do you change the minds of workers who want to stay at home? “We haven’t yet faced any resistance from people toward coming back, mainly because we’ve focused on providing an environment that people want to come back to.” The future of Toronto’s downtown is… “Revitalization. Mayor Olivia Chow is doing her part to fix our safety and transit issues, and the downtown core will continue to be central to both Toronto and Canada.”

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