After months of speculation about the future of a prime piece of downtown real estate, an Ottawa-based co-working company says it is taking over much of Shopify’s former headquarters at 150 Elgin St. in a bid to capitalize on rising demand for flexible workspace in the wake of the pandemic.
TCC Canada has confirmed it is subleasing up to 100,000 square feet of space previously occupied by the e-commerce software giant in Performance Court, one of the city’s marquee office towers.
The co-working firm was officially handed the keys to several interconnected floors at Shopify's former office on Thursday morning and is now taking bookings. Six years remain on Shopify’s lease with Morguard, which co-owns and manages the 21-storey office tower.
“This is one of the best office spaces in our city,” TCC Canada president Sean Cochrane told OBJ. “Flexible space, that’s one thing, but this is iconic space. I just really want to create an environment for employers so that their staff want to be at work – not have to be.”
Cochrane said he also hopes the new location will give a boost to nearby businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic.
“I want to help breathe a bit of life back into (Elgin Street) by trying to get people coming back into the office when it’s safe,” he added.
Shopify made headlines late last summer after announcing it was giving up its 170,000-square-foot head office on Elgin Street as part of a plan to consolidate its operations at nearby 234 Laurier Ave. W.
'Digital by default'
The e-commerce powerhouse had been a tenant at Performance Court since October 2014. Part office and part rec room, the space soon became an indelible part of the growing Shopify legend, with features that include a go-kart track, a slide between two levels and floors with themes such as “cottage retreat.”
But Shopify’s enthusiasm for the chic space appeared to wane after the emergence of COVID-19. Last May, CEO Tobi Lütke declared the company was going “digital by default,” adding most of its employees would permanently shift to remote work.
“Office centricity is over,” Lütke said in a much-quoted tweet.
However, Cochrane, whose firm now operates seven locations in Ottawa and Vancouver, believes there will continue to be healthy demand for physical office space in a post-COVID world.
He says he’s heard from a growing number of potential clients, particularly in the tech sector, that are looking to “right-size their operations” as they move to a hybrid work model where employees split their time between home and the office.
Cochrane says co-working companies stand to benefit as more tenants eschew long-term leases in favour of arrangements that allow them to rent desks for shorter periods while they gauge how their office needs play out.
“There’s so many organizations that don’t know what to do,” he said. “That’s why I love our model, because it’s flexible. Whatever you need, we can accommodate that and give you that flexibility.”
The company is convinced its new downtown digs will be a sought-after location.
“Literally each floor is a different ecosystem. People can pick and choose what their environment is,” Cochrane said, noting the space’s many lounges and themed rooms, most of which can be reconfigured to meet clients’ needs.
“(Tenants) are going to get access to all of this as if they were a Shopify employee, which is incredible.”
'A choice of experience'
Veteran Ottawa real estate executive Shawn Hamilton said the move “makes an awful lot of sense” for a company that’s looking to provide an eclectic array of options to clients.
“For a (long-term) office user, I think the Shopify space was difficult because it was so different from anything else that we have,” said Hamilton, the president of BOMA Ottawa and a vice-president at Canderel Group.
“But if you look at it for somebody who’s offering flexible experiences to (tenants), the fact that they have different floors with different themes almost plays to their advantage in that they have a choice of experience to offer people. It’s almost like you can have ‘choose your theme of the week’ at the Shopify space. I think it’s very exciting.”
Cochrane said TCC will be targeting “any small business that’s looking for top-tier space” in its marketing efforts.
Alas, fans of go-karting will have to look elsewhere, however.
The racetrack on the 11th floor “isn’t going to stay,” Cochrane said with a chuckle. “That’ll be one of the few things that we look to remove just because I don’t think that’s practical.”