Edmonton is an exciting place for business owners these days. With the ongoing development of ICE District, and distinct neighbourhoods with identifiable personalities (Whyte Ave, 124 Street, Brewery District, the French Quarter) all evolving as the city expands, there is no shortage of leasing options. In fact, as David Kent, president and founder of Nearctic Property Group, explains, right now there is more supply than demand.
“The commercial market capacity (space) has increased on all fronts: industrial, retail, and office. In both industrial and office, the increased supply has outstripped the demand, resulting in higher vacancy,” says Kent. “There is still positive absorption, but it has not kept up with supply owing to the recession and over-building. Some of the absorption, especially in office, can be attributed to the refurbishing of old, functionally obsolete buildings.”
Nearctic has been busy with several high-profile projects over the past three years, including a 50-acre commercial subdivision in Nisku and the reimagining of Nexus Business Park’s warehouse, which is being converted to small commercial and distribution space.
“We are also building the second phase of Commerce West, which will be 63,000 square feet and was once an old trailer park on 111 Avenue. Additionally, we have built the Vantage Business Park, where we converted old obsolete cross dock space. Happily, it is 100 per cent occupied with small showroom industrial commercial tenants.
Nearctic’s revival of what would otherwise be old or unused space is part of an ongoing trend in the city. Rather than languishing as boarded up buildings and empty spaces as businesses converge on the trendy ICE District downtown, older neighbourhoods are being brought back to life in style.
One such revival is seen in Edmonton Brewery District. The iconic look of the district is built around the red brick building once owned by Molson. Molson owned the brewery from 1958 to 2007, when it shut operations down. Today, the site is being transformed into a bustling neighbourhood.
Peter Schwann, principal at Avison Young, and the leasing agent at the Edmonton Brewery District (office premises) says, “The Brewery District is the epitome of convenience and on-site amenities for both patrons of the District and staff of the businesses that are located here. This, combined with a high end architectural design that lends tribute to the history of the former Molson Edmonton landmark, places visitor and staff experience at the forefront.
“In terms of convenience, the Brewery District is located in the thriving Oliver Neighborhood, just minutes from Edmonton’s downtown district and on the primary arterial of 104th Avenue (Stony Plain Road), which enters and exits the downtown core. Despite being central, the Brewery District provides an abundance of parking (3.4 stalls per 1,000 square feet), the majority of which is located in a massive underground heated parkade. This quantity more than provides the parking required by staff and visitors of the site and, as a heated environment, it provides a welcome perk for everyone during Edmonton’s long winter months. In addition to ample heated parking, the future LRT will pass and stop directly in front of the site.”
The District has an ideal mix of amenities, including Loblaw’s City Market, Shoppers Drug Mart, GoodLife Fitness, Starbucks, finanical institutions, and medical services.
“These core on-site services also provide the staff of businesses located at the Brewery District with everything they would want; this has been a major factor in attracting office users that are focused on staff enjoyment, which assists with recruitment and retention of talent,” explains Schwann.
Some opportunities for leasing in the Brewery District are still open, including space in the iconic building that gave the neighbourhood it’s identity.
“There is a truly unique opportunity for users within the former Molson Building (Building 11), which is being redeveloped to high end, loft, exposed brick and beam office space,” says Schwann. “This building, which is nearing completion, will fill a satiable demand for this style of space, long under-supplied in Edmonton. We are anticipating high demand from professional services, IT companies, and a host of other office user categories for this rare opportunity.”
Sometimes what makes a commercial district special is not only it’s history, but the type of retailers that gather there. In a city where big box retail and branded services can be found in every quarter, one area is eschewing the norm and actively pursing a different direction.
“What makes 124 Street a unique place to do business is that the majority of our businesses (approximately 95 per cent) are independent and locally owned with very few franchises or chain stores,” says Jeff McLaren, executive director of the 124 Street Business Association. “Subsequently, our business owners bring a creativity and passion to their businesses that translates to not only unique and one-of-a-kind products and services, but also to the authentic and personal experience you have every time you visit 124 Street. There is a really strong community and connection, not only among the business members, but also between our business owners and patrons. Unfortunately, this sense of business community, like a traditional Main Street, is becoming increasingly unique in Edmonton, which is being inundated more and more by franchises, big-box stores, and shopping power centres.”
Businesses large and small abound on 124 Street, including the Canada-wide famous Duchess Bake Shop, several art galleries, and no shortage of boutique jewellery, clothing, and specialty stores. Yet, there is no lack of professional services; architects, insurance firms, lawyers, real estate agents, event planners, web designers, engineers, and more also hang out their shingle on 124 Street.
“We are trying to attract creative, independent, and locally owned businesses that add to the existing niches that 124 Street is now known for, such as finer food/restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, and premium services,” notes McLaren.
Edmonton has old districts that are being revitalized, trendy districts that are growing steadily – and one feature not common to many cities in Canada: an international airport.
Leasing opportunities around the airport come with a built-in clientele, making Edmonton International Airport (EIA) a hot spot for retailers that support the distribution and logistics industry. However, thanks to Edmonton’s newest mall, Premium Outlet Collection EIA, leasing opportunities abound for fashion and outlet brands as well.
“Premium Outlet Collection EIA is a fully enclosed shopping centre, offering a mix of fashion and outlet brands, and it is ideally situated in a highly visible location. About 89,000 vehicles access the Queen Elizabeth II Highway by the property daily, the EIA saw 7.8 million passengers in 2017, and our trade area includes 1.3 million people,” says Jason Bos, general manger, Ivanhoé Cambridge. “The architectural design aesthetic provides a warm and modern shopping atmosphere, within a manageable footprint. The centre opened on May 2 and so far, we are very pleased with the traffic and sales numbers.”
What makes Premium Outlet Collection EIA a unique leasing location? Bos explains, “It is positioned to be a destination for both tourists and locals, given its location adjacent to the Edmonton International Airport and proximity to south Edmonton, Leduc County, and surrounding areas. Tourist-focused services include DeliverEase, a parcel shipping and delivery service, a refresh room, Asian payment methods, flight status screens, luggage storage, and boarding pass printing. EIA’s complimentary on-airport shuttle service runs every 30 minutes between the two locations.
“The centre also offers a unique space called SHARE. SHARE is a welcoming place where you can enjoy a craft-brewed coffee, sample locally produced nourishing foods, and browse a maker’s market showcasing the work of Alberta’s considerable makers community. SHARE is all about sharing experiences.”
Thanks to the plethora of unique leasing opportunities across the city, companies in every sector – warehousing, fashion retail, hospitality, logistics, or those in need of office space – have a chance to put roots down in extraordinary places; it’s one more way Edmonton’s diverse business landscape benefits the entire city.