Constitution Square landlord hitting refresh button on downtown Ottawa complex

constitution square
Constitution Square in downtown Ottawa.

One of Ottawa’s largest class-A office complexes is revamping its lobby and meeting spaces and redesigning some of its suites in an effort to respond to changing tenant tastes and modernize the buildings.

Constitution Square will start to launch the projects this summer, senior leasing manager Vicky Dinelle told OBJ recently. It’s part of co-owner and building manager Canderel’s efforts to give the complex a new look and feel after purchasing the one-million-square-foot trio of office towers along with partners Greystone Managed Investments and Canstone Realty Advisors in 2017.

That deal – which saw the consortium buy the three downtown highrises from Oxford Properties and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for $480 million – is the largest commercial real-estate transaction in Ottawa history. It also marked a return to the local market for Canderel, which helped build Constitution Square back in the late ’80s and early ’90s and is now looking to once again increase its footprint in the region.

“They want to expand their growth here in Ottawa,” Dinelle said.

Canderel’s plans to upgrade the building include installing new, brighter lighting and furniture in the buildings’ lobbies to make the spaces “something that’s more geared towards warmth and liveability,” she said. 

The complex’s 5,300 square feet of boardroom space will also be revamped as part of the project. Canderel is installing state-of-the-art audio-visual technology, new furniture and flooring and LED lighting in the four meeting rooms, along with amenities such as smartphone charging stations.

'Industrial look'

Dinelle said she’s also looking at rejigging a couple of the smaller vacant office spaces in the towers as “quick suites” that will feature “open, collaborative, bright space” with glass finishes, sliding doors and higher-than-normal ceilings that have a more “industrial” look.

“That’s really what the clients are looking for now,” she said, adding the first two spaces will be 2,500 and 3,000 square feet.

A marquee tenant of Constitution Square is also expanding its presence in the complex.

Toronto-Dominion Bank’s wealth management group, which already rents the 11th floor of Tower One, recently agreed to lease nearly 17,000 square feet of space on the 16th floor in the same building, Dinelle said, cutting Constitution Square’s total vacancy rate to about eight per cent. Full single floors in Tower I and Tower III are still empty along with a few smaller suites scattered throughout the complex, she added. 

The veteran leasing manager, who has worked at Constitution Square for nearly two decades, said Ottawa’s class-A landlords are riding a market resurgence after enduring several lean years. According to commercial real estate firm CBRE, the vacancy rate for class-A office space in downtown Ottawa dropped to 7.1 per cent at the end of 2018, its lowest level in eight years. 

Canderel is now posting leasing rates of about $26 a square foot for Constitution Square, up significantly from the same time in 2018, Dinelle added.

“There was a time that we were all competing because a lot of the landlords did have quite a bit of vacancy, but it’s definitely improved,” she said. “Everybody certainly has a lot less availability than they did 12 months ago.”

She said she expects the renovations to the building’s meeting rooms, which are expected to cost about $500,000, to get under way in early July and be completed by the end of August.