The City’s Urban Planning Committee will be looking at the issue of office-to-residential conversions on Oct. 31. So far, there’s been no commitment from council on a program that’s similar to Calgary’s.
At an Urban Development Institute luncheon this week, Downtown Recovery Coalition Chair Alex Hryciw said it was vital for the City to have a strategy to convert offices that will never be offices again.
She said it’s hard for Edmonton to sell its residents on the idea of a 15-minute city, when that doesn’t even apply to the core. “We need more residents downtown,” she said.
Wosnack believes the repurposing of old office space to residential is a big part of how cities have to reimagine their downtowns. We have to change the perception of downtown as a place where people work from nine to five. It has to be seen as a place where people gather, play and learn.
And this all didn’t suddenly come about because of COVID. Wosnack said that Avison Young was already noting lower traffic in downtown buildings on Mondays and Fridays before the pandemic. We were already talking about working at home and shorter work weeks. COVID just accelerated the trend.
“If you’re still stuck on that outdated description, you’re focusing on the wrong goals,” said Wosnack. “It needs to be a central social district strategy.”
Yes, there are some significant wins — for example, the Rohit Group is taking over old office space on the west end of Jasper Avenue that was once home to Stantec. But, for the most part, the shortened work week is here to stay. Remote working won’t go away. And the City and the province are going to be cutting staff, not adding staff, in the years to come.