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City councillor looks to convert vacant, downtown offices into residential spaces

Last Updated Dec 15, 2020 at 11:35 am MDT

An empty office in the old Encana Building now Aspen Properties in Calgary on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. (PHOTO: Chelsey Harms, 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – The City of Calgary continues to have the highest downtown office vacancy rate of any city in Canada and one city councillor wants to see some of that space convert to residential.

Ward 6 Councillor Jeff Davison presented a Notice of Motion during Monday’s council meeting, aiming at implementing development incentives for downtown Calgary.

“Looking at the entire downtown core and recognizing one of the biggest issues we have and that is, not a lot of people live there. If we’re going to look at the revitalization of the economic strategy, bringing new companies into the downtown, one of the support mechanisms we actually need is to provide an opportunity for people to actually live there.”

Davison said one of his recommendations is waving development fees or legislating ways of freezing tax for a period of time when building new residential spaces.

He added the incentive will bring more and new people to downtown, thus stimulating the economy.

“Encouraging private industry to invest now in residential projects in the downtown preserves the overall health of our City. Calgary must remain diligent, our downtown situation will take years to fix, but we must act now if we are to achieve a successful recovery.”

Calgary’s downtown office vacancy rate currently sits at just over 28 per cent, compared to 4.7 per cent in Toronto and 4.6 in Vancouver as of Sept. 30.

RELATED: Downtown office vacancy rates rising in Canada as commercial subleases flood market

“We focus a lot on the tech sector coming to Calgary,” said Davison. “Folks like that want to know that they can live, work and play in a central district. This Notice of Motion would provide incentives to residential development so we can support our economic strategy.”

According to the CBRE, of the 371,612 square metres of newly vacant office space in the third quarter of 2020, sublease listings accounted for 40 per cent or 148,645 sq. m.

-with files from The Canadian Press