Morguard opens doors to Performance Court

A 10-year process came to an end Wednesday night when Morguard Corp. officially opens the doors to 21-story Performance Court at 150 Elgin St.

About 250 people were expected to attend the ceremonies, which were slated to begin with a welcome from an Algonquin chief. That pays tribute to the fact the building lies on unceded Algonquin territory. A birch bark canoe will also be unveiled.

Stephen Taylor, president and COO of Morguard Investments Ltd., and Ottawa mayor Jim Watson are also expected to be on hand.

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“It’s exciting,” said Morguard’s Senior Vice President of Development Margaret Knowles. “It’s been a long haul on this one, a lot longer than people think. The construction was about two years, but we bought that site from the city after a design competition gave us the right to buy the site.”

That was in 2004.

Fast forward to today. The lead tenant, the Canada Council for the Arts, is established on the first five floors.

The council’s director and CEO, Robert Sirman, says the council and Morguard worked together on the plans for the entire construction period and said council’s deal with Morguard works for both sides.

The council does not rent the first floor space. Instead, it gets it in exchange for programming all the art found throughout the public space, including the three-story digital wall, in a deal that runs for the next 20 years.

Morguard and other tenants such as KPMG also rent art from the council’s art bank.

The New Zealand High Commission and Scone Witch have already occupied their respective spaces.

Ottawa Tourism will move in this summer, Shopify this fall and CIBC will take over the top three floors later this year.

The 360,000-square-foot tower is now 90 per cent leased, with the 12th and 13th floors available as well as some smaller units in mixed-tenant floors, said Ms. Knowles.

The new tower sits in from Elgin Street, between two heritage buildings, the First Baptist Church and Grant House, former home of Friday’s Roast Beef House.

In the fall, Stephen Beckta will be moving his restaurant to Grant House. For Mr. Beckta, a lifer along Elgin Street, it has personal and professional significance.

“Beckta needs to be on a bigger stage, something more significant,” said Mr. Beckta, who was catering Wednesday night’s event. “When we first opened Beckta 11 years ago, we didn’t know if three people would walk through the door. Now that we have a track record and shown what we can do, we need to put it in its rightful place, and I really think this is the greatest stage we could ever have in Ottawa.”

The OBJ was given a tour of the complex ahead of today’s official opening. Walk in the front door and you are greeted by the Winter Garden, a nod to the fact that even though summer is three days away, winter is never too far away from the city.

The massive digital wall is interactive and Ms.Knowles said Morguard will use it as its LEED education kiosk.

“Folks can go up to it and pull our LEED story, measure our energy usage and that kind of thing,” she said.

Energy usage is of utmost importance to both landlord and tenant.

“We’ve gone after energy efficiency, we’ve gone after things that are meaningful to our tenants.  We’re going to deliver somewhere in the neighbourhood of about 60 per cent reduction in energy costs, so that translates to over a buck and a half (per square foot) in terms of reductions that we’re expecting,” said Ms. Knowles.

There is a massive cistern underground that allows Morguard to manage its stormwater, cleaning it and reusing it in washrooms up to the seventh floor.

Ms. Knowles said this is one way the building performs. The name Performance Court refers to performing up to LEED standards and performing to give tenants high-efficiency work spaces, not to mention the artistic performance possibilities the public spaces potentially provide.

“We’re really talking about performance in a much more holistic way than we ever have before,” she said.

Up on the 18th floor, KPMG is just settling in after their Monday move. Office managing partner Grant McDonald said the LEED standard is one of the attractions, adding his group is not going to stop at gold. It is targeting LEED platinum status and if successful, it would be the first KPMG office in the country to reach that status.

He said KPMG has a history, in his 30 years with the company, of choosing new buildings instead of retrofits whenever it is time for a move.

“It’s less disruptive,” he said. “We closed the office Friday at 3 we were up and running here Monday morning at 8 o’clock.”

The stunning view and bright, quiet workplace are also incentives for staff, as is the terrace, one of the biggest high-floor terraces in the city.

To get up to the 15th floor, you use the destination dispatch elevator service that project manager Peter Weiss of PCL Constructors called a coming trend. It uses algorithms to calculate where people go to minimize the time you actually spend on the elevator.

“Time is money,” Mr.Weiss said.

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