Toronto-based firm to upgrade Carling Executive Park after $56.5M acquisition

A Toronto-based real estate investment firm has purchased a trio of prime Class-A office buildings in Westboro in a push to expand its footprint beyond the southern Ontario market.

Crown Realty Partners recently announced it has acquired properties at 1525, 1545 and 1565 Carling Ave. from Vancouver-based QuadReal Property Group for $56.5 million. 

Carling
1545 Carling Ave. in the Carling Executive Park

Known as the Carling Executive Park, the 4.16-acre site just north of Hwy. 417 contains 289,000 square feet of office space constructed in the mid-1980s. Its current tenants include Investors Group, Sun Life Assurance, the Canadian Automobile Association and Altus Group.

Founded in 2001, Crown Realty manages more than $3 billion worth of property in the Greater Toronto Area. The Carling Executive Park is its first acquisition in the National Capital Region. 

Crown Realty partner Emily Hanna said the firm believes there is a “strong, deep market” for office space in the region, noting demand for prime commercial real estate in Ottawa is higher than it’s been in years. 

According to real estate services firm Colliers International, the availability rate for downtown office space was 6.1 per cent in the second quarter of 2019 ​– down from eight per cent a year earlier ​– with the tech hotbed of Kanata right behind at 7.4 per cent.

“It’s a great time to come in,” Hanna said.

She said the Carling Executive Park’s proximity to major transportation routes and its diversified mix of tenants that include strong representation from the insurance and financial services sectors make it an attractive asset. Its location near trendy neighbourhoods such as Westboro and Hintonburg could also be a big draw for potential tenants looking to hire skilled young workers who live in those communities, she added. 

The Carling Avenue complex currently has a vacancy rate of more than 25 per cent, but Hanna told OBJ Crown Realty is planning to make significant upgrades to the buildings’ amenities in an effort to lure tenants from sectors such as tech that are finding it difficult to procure space downtown or in Kanata. 

“The bones are all there,” Hanna said. “It’s just a matter of revitalizing them in a way that works for today’s tenants.”

Glenview Management, which originally developed the site more than three decades ago, will act as the property manager. Crown said the two companies will kick off renovations this fall.

Hanna said the firms’ plans call for a fitness centre, additional meeting and conference space, upgraded common areas and parking facilities and expanded food services. 

They also want to turn some of the vacant offices into “model suites” ​– borrowing from the template popularized by co-working spaces by creating ready-made meeting rooms, kitchens and work areas aimed at smaller tenants who don’t have the resources to hire architects, designers and contractors.

“We just sort of thought we could mix things up a little bit,” she said.

Hanna said Crown Realty is always eyeing more deals to expand its portfolio, suggesting the firm’s first purchase in the capital won’t be its last.

“We are certainly looking and open to more acquisitions,” she said.