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Colliers Talks: The Pursuit of Downtown Vibrancy in Calgary and Vancouver

The Pursuit of Downtown Vibrancy Hero
Downtown vibrancy and success partly stem from the amount of commercial and employment activity in the area, and especially the conditions of the office market.  

Office vacancy and return-to-office have been hot topics this year. In this episode of Colliers Talks, host Susan Thompson, Associate Director of Research at Colliers in Vancouver (and a former resident of Calgary), explores both Calgary’s and Vancouver’s unique, and similar, challenges and opportunities in the pursuit of vibrancy and long-term downtown success.  

Thompson is joined by Thom Mahler, director of downtown strategy at the City of Calgary and Eric Aderneck, regional planner with Metro Vancouver. 

Over the past two decades, Aderneck has worked in the public and private sectors focused on planning policy, real estate development and consulting. Aderneck also teaches urban planning courses for both planners and other city building professionals at various institutions. 

Mahler is the director leading the City of Calgary’s Downtown Strategy team, helping to steward the City’s $400 million investment to build a thriving, future-focused downtown. Throughout his career in Calgary, Mahler held various managerial roles in the City’s planning department where he was responsible for long-term planning, development review and land-use applications. 

Takeaways from Susan's conversation with Thom and Eric:

  • Calgary's office market is showing signs of stabilization as a $400 million investment program focuses on stretching and diversifying downtown Calgary to include a better mix of commerce, entertainment and homes.
  • Vancouver's current downtown office market remains relatively strong and should be kept in perspective compared to other cities. The urban core of the region likely won't see many office conversions to other uses like Calgary is now experiencing.
  • Vancouver has reached the tail-end of its office development cycle and we're now seeing opportunities for tenants to "fly to quality" as occupiers enjoy more leverage.
  • Office conversion projects in Calgary now include 17 properties for a total of 2.3 million square feet of space that will eventually be converted into much-needed homes.
  • Diversification in the Lower Mainland economy is helping reduce exposure to swings in the office market, while also maintaining a strong tax base for the various municipal governments in the region.
  • Calgary's Events Centre deal will replace the Saddledome with a world-class venue while hopefully sparking new commercial and infrastructure development on the edge of the downtown core.
Get more insights from key Colliers experts and major industry players. Tune in to more Colliers Talks episodes. 

For More Information, Please Contact:

Susan Thompson

Associate Director, Research

Vancouver - Rogers Tower

Susan is a long-standing analyst and commentator on the commercial real estate market.  Her continuing work with local, national, and international media as a commentator for the commercial real estate sector has given her recognition within the industry as one of the preeminent sources of information and knowledge for leasing and transaction analysis and market trends.

Susan was previously with Avison Young working as their Research and Insight Manager over the course of nine years  (a boomerang employee: with them for four years, away for five years, then back for five years). She was responsible for dozens of reports on the Calgary commercial real estate market, covering office, retail and industrial leasing as well as business condominium properties and commercial property sales. More recently she focused on data-driven storytelling through reports, media work, and client engagement utilizing techology and analytics to help make better-informed decisions. 

In between periods with Avison Young, she spent over five years with Calgary Economic Development; first as their Business Development Manager specializing in Real Estate, helping companies bringing their business to Calgary navigate the local commercial real estate market, then as their overall Research Manager providing economic analysis and commentary on the Calgary market.

In prior years, after starting her career in assessment, Susan spent over seven years with RealNet Canada, the leading provider of third-party commercial real estate sales information. Working her way up from Research Analyst to Manager for the Calgary office, Susan analyzed thousands of commercial real estate transactions and is extremely knowledgeable about the commercial real estate market in Calgary. 

Susan has a Bachelor of Commerce degree, with a major in Management Science from the University of Alberta. Well recognized in the industry, Susan’s name is often seen in the media as she provides commentary and insight on current commercial real estate topics. Susan's breadth of knowledge across the commercial real estate market and in data analytics is an asset across the industry.

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