Commercial real estate in Ottawa adopts concierge approach

Landlords using pop-up farmers markets, holiday gift-wrapping and car-detailing services to help attract tenants
The car wash station at Constitution Square.

This article originally appeared in the 2019-20 BOMA Commercial Space Directory.

New tenant services such as pet grooming, vehicle maintenance and parcel storage are popping up in Ottawa office buildings, giving landlords a new tool to market their properties.

So-called “concierge” offerings go beyond traditional amenities such as coffee shops and offer personalized services that make the workplace an even more desirable environment – especially for busy tenants looking to find efficiencies during their workdays.

It’s a trend that’s maturing in many major commercial real estate markets in North America and is gaining a foothold in Canada’s capital, says Shawn Hamilton, a senior vice-president at CBRE and managing director of its Ottawa office. 

“If you went back to the 1970s or ’80s in Ottawa, concierge service in its most basic form was someone pushing around a sandwich cart in a law office,” he says. “But we’re now starting to see corporations and employees demand the full concierge experience.”


Amenities at the forefront

Property manager Canderel, which purchased Ottawa’s Constitution Square office complex with partners Greystone Managed Investments and Canstone Realty Advisors in 2017, is one of the landlords experimenting with a wide range of concierge services.

Constitution Square tenants have access to onsite childcare and a full-service fitness studio. The building also offers some weekly tenant activities such as an onsite farmers market or group wellness walks as well as seasonal amenities such as a holiday gift-wrapping service and opportunities for tenants’ children to meet Santa Claus just before Christmas. 

“As tenants move over the course of their business, they realize what can be offered as part of their tenancy, hence, why the demand for more amenities is always in the forefront of any negotiation,” says Nancy Savard, tenant services co-ordinator for the building. 

Canderel built up its concierge services at Constitution Square gradually. The management team incrementally built up a roster of services by speaking with tenants about what they felt was missing. Occupants brought forward requests for indoor bike cages and specialty cleaning services, which were eventually expanded into the full program currently offered.

“What one building has to offer over another building in the same area, will always be what determines the final destination,” says Savard.

The line between work and personal time is blurring as fewer and fewer employees log traditional 9-to-5 workdays. Landlords have an opportunity to cater to this shift by helping their tenants check off items on their to-do lists while they’re in their office.

It’s also forcing landlords to re-evaluate how they market their space, Hamilton says, as tenants look for amenities beyond natural light and a building’s traditional curb appeal.

Offering non-traditional services to tenants, such as the full car detailing and washing service in the garage at Constitution Square, is a way to connect with tenants and ensure their needs are being met both inside and outside of the office. These types of services can be what separates a building from neighbouring competition.