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Shorter lease terms, bicycle parking and an occasional willingness to allow canine tenants are some of the ways downtown Ottawa landlords are marketing buildings to the growing number of tech firms looking to expand or relocate in the core, experts say.
The growth of urban tech tenants is reshaping the commercial real estate market in Ottawa’s central business district, which has traditionally been dominated by the public sector and professional services firms.
The federal government is still the largest player downtown. However, tech firms now lease more space downtown than the legal and accounting sectors combined, according to real estate services firm CBRE.
The largest is Shopify, which announced plans in 2017 to take some 325,000 square feet inside the former Export Development Canada tower at 234 Laurier Ave. on top of its space inside Performance Court on Elgin Street. Additionally, Klipfolio, SurveyMonkey and Telesat have collectively absorbed some 150,000 square feet of office space in downtown Ottawa in recent months.
The Ottawa Real Estate Show recently visited Klipfolio’s brand-new office space inside the former movie theatres at the World Exchange Plaza to speak with CEO Allan Wille about the market from a tech tenant’s perspective.
“The first thing that every tech entrepreneur wants to see is shorter leases,” Wille said. “A 10-year lease for a tech company is an enormous amount of time and commitment if you’re growing like crazy or the future is uncertain.”
After running out of space at its former Centretown offices, Klipfolio toured several buildings before settling on 17,000 square feet of class-A office space inside World Exchange. Wille said he met several landlords that were open to adding bike cages in parking garages and providing shower facilities for employees who run or do yoga at lunchtime.
“It shows the flexibility of more modern landlords,” Wille said. “We’ve got dogs in the office. That was something that they were happy to negotiate, and now we have back staircases to let the dogs in and out.”