CIRA first to move into Lansdowne office space

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When walking through the office space at Lansdowne Park, the first thought that comes to mind is the need for a hard hat and possibly steel-toed boots.

That all changes when the elevator doors open to the fourth floor, where the Canadian Internet Registration Authority is all moved in and has been fully operational since Monday.

“As the first tenant, definitely we’re in a space that is still to some degree in the fine-tuning stages of construction,” CIRA president and CEO Byron Holland said Friday. “Like a lot of things we do in the Internet, we’re kind of a pioneer in this space.”

CIRA had been thinking of moving from its Sparks Street location for about a year, Mr. Holland said. The agency had outgrown the 14,000 square foot office space it occupied and the building had no more space to offer.

“We did a review of the Ottawa real estate market, looked at different buildings, new ones, existing ones, seeing what was coming online, did an assessment for our needs,” said Mr. Holland.

He said most of the space CIRA considered was north of the Queensway, but he was a little surprised to find Lansdowne offered it the best value for its needs, not to mention almost 20,000 square feet of real estate.

“It’s a great building, a LEED gold building, so when you think about a building like that and you’re looking at it in terms of lease rates and comparing it to the market, we just actually found this building very competitively priced, in fact the best-priced overall when you take into account all the elements that comprise the financial component of a lease,” said Mr. Holland, adding Minto gave CIRA some “extra considerations” since it was the first tenant to commit to moving in.

Being first, CIRA signed on at a time when Minto thought the building would be completely up and running by now, Mr. Holland said.

“Like everybody knows who has ever done a bathroom renovation…,” he said with a laugh.

Still, he said, the building is basically finished.

“It’s a question of internal fit-ups for tenants as we move forward,” he said.

Mr. Holland said he had a vision for CIRA’s “internal fit-ups” and turned to design firm B+H and builders inter/ex to get the work done, calling inter/ex’s Lorne Camm a “miracle worker” for turning “a slab of concrete on a slab of concrete” into what he called “the most progressive technology-enabled office in Ottawa” in just four months.

There isn’t a cubicle to be found in the new space, with low dividers between desks and plenty of open space to enable collaboration. There is also plenty of glass, be it surrounding Mr. Holland’s office or along the wall looking over TD Place.

Along with the glass, there are white boards set up everywhere.

“Do I have an idea? I can write it down right here,” Mr. Holland said.

One bright, window-lined room has been dubbed the Legoland room, with a big jar of the building blocks in the corner.

“We have a bunch of ‘isms’ around our organization,” Mr. Holland said. “Never outgrow Lego – you never know what you’re going to build.”

There’s a walking desk, standing desks and showers for joggers or cyclists. CIRA offers its staff a bootcamp to allow them to sweat it out over their lunch hours if they so desire, promoting a healthy lifestyle at the same time.

Mr. Holland said CIRA has created “the kind of culture we’re looking for that most high-end tech workers want to be part of.”

And at the end of the day, that is what it is all about: the battle to attract and retain talent in the highly competitive Ottawa market. With the new space, the battle is heating up, especially since CIRA is currently looking to expand its development and IT, and sales and marketing teams.

While CIRA is known for running the .ca registry, the private not-for-profit corporation also runs the domain name system infrastructure that supports .ca and is active in Internet governance. It also supports many other initiatives that benefit the Canadian Internet landscape.

“Fundamentally, we are a high-end tech shop,” Mr. Holland said, adding the office is operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“The deep plumbers of technology that we need to run that kind of service – the war for talent is really significant for us,” he said. “(The new office) is a strategic decision for us to a very great degree, around talent acquisition, talent retention and then empowerment and enablement of what they are doing.”

So far, Mr. Holland says, the reviews from the 85 staff have been positive, which he said is the best possible way to attract talent.

“When our staff go to their cocktail parties or neighbourhood dinners, they are jacked about where they work,” he said. “There’s no better way to attract talent than good talent that you have saying, ‘You should see where I work.’”