Big draw for investors? Corel’s former Carling Avenue HQ up for sale

Former Corel building
Manulife Investment Management is selling the former Corel building on Carling Avenue. Photo courtesy CBRE

The former home of one of Ottawa’s most prominent tech companies in the 1990s and early 2000s is on the block.

The Churchill Office Park at 1600 Carling Ave. – best-known for being the headquarters of graphics software pioneer Corel during the company’s heyday more than two decades ago – has been put up for sale by owner Manulife Investment Management.

The eight-storey building just north of the Queensway has been instantly recognizable since it opened in 1984 thanks to its distinctive gold tint.

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Now managed by JLL, it is currently 81 per cent occupied with an average weighted lease term of 5.6 years. Its tenants include investment advisers BMO Nesbitt Burns and accounting firm MNP.

While Corel (now known as Alludo) no longer has a footprint in the 183,000-square-foot, class-A office complex, the building remains an attractive commodity due to its highly visible location on two of the city’s main traffic arteries, its proximity to public transit and its development potential, CBRE vice-president Nico Zentil said.

Zentil said the complex offers “really good value” to a buyer that wants to keep renting it to office tenants. At the same time, the 4.3-acre site is also zoned for residential use, meaning it has plenty of upside as a potential multi-residential development site, he added.

“It has some optionality instead of just being an office building in perpetuity,” explained Zentil, whose firm is marketing the property. 

“That theme is resonating out there with investors. It’s like, ‘If I buy this building, is there an opportunity to take it from its current form into something else if I had to and if I wanted to in the future?’”

Zentil said he expects the property to generate considerable interest even as office buildings continue to bleed tenants, investors grapple with rising interest rates and a volatile bond market drives up the cost of financing major acquisitions.

“We’ve seen some turbulence over the last quarter in that sector, which has made things just a little bit more challenging in certain asset classes to get deals done,” he conceded. “We have seen lenders pull back a bit in the office sector.”

But Zentil said he remains “bullish” on the sector’s long-term prospects. Tenants are gradually coming to terms with the shift to hybrid work and are adjusting their space requirements accordingly, he said, giving the industry a better sense of what the future of the office will look like.

“I think some of the uncertainty has been taken off the table, which bodes well for continued trading in the office sector,” Zentil said. “From an investor’s perspective, that’s what was causing the most pain, was the uncertainty of it.

“The pricing parameters have changed in the last 18 months, no doubt. But (the office sector) is still fundamentally solid. I just think that it’s looked at in a much more discerning way than it was before.”

Zentil said CBRE continues to have a “pretty active book” in the National Capital Region. 

Among the other properties the brokerage firm is currently marketing is a 15-storey, 202,000-square-foot office tower at 200 Sacre-Coeur Blvd. in Gatineau that is fully leased to the federal government until the end of 2026. 

Zentil said the building could be a potential candidate for conversion to residential use.

“We’re about as busy as we’ve ever been,” he said.

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