Edmonton, Calgary offices converted to rental homes

Facing Canada’s highest office vacancy rates, owners gamble on residential switch

This older office tower in Edmonton is being converted into rental apartments | submitted

An aging 12-storey office building in Edmonton and a landmark office tower in Calgary are being converted to rental housing by Strategic Group.

The Calgary-based company has an extensive inventory in Alberta’s high-vacancy office sector and has decided that its 40-year-old, 150,000-square-foot Harley Court site would be the first in Edmonton selected for residential conversion.

It is being transformed into 177 apartments where monthly rents will be $1,300 for a studio, $1,400 to $1,500 for one-bedrooms and $1,600 to $1,800 for two-bedrooms.

These are aggressive rents for Edmonton, where the median rent is now $1,250, according to a second-quarter 2019 Rentals.ca survey.

Strategic is also converting Calgary’s first highrise office tower, the 11-storey Barron, which opened in 1951 on now-trendy Stephen Avenue, into rental apartments that are expected to open next year. The conversion will cost about $44 million.

These are not the first office-to-home conversions for Alberta and may not be the last. A Calgary office building recently completed a yearlong transformation into 65 units of rental housing.

It may make sense for other Class B or C office tower owners in either Calgary or Edmonton to consider a residential conversion, because the office vacancy rate in the two cities is 24% and 15%, respectively.

Both are among the highest in Canada, according to Altus Group. •