Montreal National Office Market Report
Montreal – Fall/Winter
Availability rate at 15.5% in Downtown Core
Tenant leverage increasing, especially in older Class “A” buildings
Many tenants exploiting the workplace as strategic tool
Overall Office Vacancy Rates
Across Canada Rise to 7.6%
Economic challenges in Europe and Asia, coupled with the
collapse of oil prices and the ongoing decline in the value of
the Canadian dollar versus its U.S. counterpart have continued
to exert a considerable impact on Canada’s economy. A federal
election campaign has added even more uncertainty to the mix.
The effects of these circumstances are being felt in a wide variety
of ways across the country. According to the Conference Board
of Canada, Alberta’s economy will see the greatest reversal of
fortunes in 2015. As the heartland of the oil and gas industry,
Alberta is expected to end the year with negative growth. Indeed,
growth in Calgary is predicted to drop by 0.5%, after positive
growth of 5.1% in the previous year.
Conversely, Vancouver's economy is forecast to expand by
3.4% in 2015 and increase by a further 3.5% in 2016. Toronto is
expected to benefit from growth in the manufacturing sector and
its GDP is expected to increase by 2.6%. Montreal’s economy is
also forecast to grow by 2.1%, well ahead of the 1.7% growth it
experienced in 2014.
In general, office vacancy rates in most of Canada’s largest cities
reflect these economic circumstances. In Calgary, for example,
the combined Class “A” and Class “B” vacancy rate in office
buildings has jumped from 4.4% to 10.0% over the past twelve
months. Most of the country’s other major cities have seen more
modest shifts in combined Class “A” and Class “B” vacancies.
Overall, the national vacancy rate currently stands at 7.6%,
up from 6.6% six months ago.
It should also be noted that the inventory of downtown office
space across the country has also expanded considerably.
Over 5.3 million square feet has been added over the past two
years, and there are major projects underway in most cities that
will further augment this expansion.
Most of the new office developments being delivered to the market
are premium-quality, LEED-certified buildings. Tenant demand
for these spaces remains high. As a result, sublet availability is
increasing as the new towers are occupied.
National Vacancy / Canada
Class “A” & “B” Office Area Q2 2012
Class “A” Vacancy Rates
Class “B” Vacancy Rates
Class “A” and “B” Combined Vacancy Rates
Office Space Distribution in Canada’s Major Cities
Class “A” & “B” Combined
Total Office Area
Total Office Area
Availability rates continue
to rise in Downtown Montreal
Despite the economic challenges being faced in many areas of
the country, there’s a buoyant mood in the Greater Montreal Area.
Major infrastructure work—including the new Champlain Bridge,
and a long overdue revamping of the Turcot Interchange—is now
underway, and there is a sense that the city is finally asserting its
economic advantages. U.S. firms are increasingly demonstrating
interest in the GMA, the government is extending its incentive
programs for the burgeoning multimedia sector, and the city’s
upcoming 375th anniversary is generating a number of initiatives.
Supply continues to outstrip demand in Montreal’s downtown
office market, which is good news for tenants. The combined
Class “A” and Class “B” vacancy rate is now up to 9.0%, and the
availability rate—which also takes into account the office space
that may currently be occupied but is nevertheless available for
lease or sublet—has risen much higher, and now stands at 15.5%.
The spike in the availability rate has been generated by a number
of factors. First, approximately 1.4 million square feet of new
office space has been recently added to the market, with more
to come. Second, the redevelopment of what were once industrial
properties to address the space demands of tenants seeking
brick and beam spaces has had an impact. Finally, many tenants
have developed occupancy strategies to reduce the amount of
space that they lease.
In Downtown Montreal, development in all real estate sectors—
corporate, retail and residential—continues to take place. Further,
areas on the periphery of the downtown core, from Griffintown
and the Atwater Market neighbourhood to the Jean Talon and Mile
End districts, are attracting a good deal of developer interest.
The optimism is supported by a Conference Board of Canada
report issued at the end of September. Economic growth in
Montreal is expected to exceed the national average in 2015, with
real GDP growth of 2.1%, up from 1.7% in the previous year. The
outlook for 2016 is even brighter, with real GDP growth expected
to come in at 2.3%. The greatest expansion will be seen in the
services and manufacturing sectors, including finance, insurance
and real estate.
While the corporate real estate market is always dynamic—
changes are driven by business expansions or downsizings,
lease renewals or terminations, acquisitions or closings—
high availability rates tend to give the market an added spark.
Landlords have greater motivation to secure transactions with
solid tenants, and those landlords who have the greatest amount
of vacant space have the greatest motivation.
Montreal’s Downtown District Vacancy Rates, Office Space
Total oﬃce area (sq.ft.) – 47,680,022
Class “A” and “B” combined
Availability rates continue
to rise in Downtown Montreal
As a result, the opportunities for tenants to secure advantageous
lease transactions are more plentiful than they have been in a
number of years, though it must be noted that the best deals will
be found on a building-by-building basis.
Class “A” and Class “B” Vacancy Rates
Continue to Increase
For this market study, we track an inventory of approximately
47.7 million square feet of Class “A” and Class “B” office space
in Downtown Montreal. Montreal’s corporate real estate market
is the second-largest in Canada, behind only Toronto.
Over the first half of 2015, combined Class “A” and Class “B”
vacancy rates continued to edge upwards, a trend that has been
in evidence since the global economic meltdown in 2009, prior to
which vacancy rates had fallen to a low of 4.9%.
Over the last twelve months, vacancy rates in Class “A” and
Class “B” office buildings in Downtown Montreal have risen from
8.0% to 9.0%. At the present time, just over 4.3 million square
feet of Class “A” and Class “B” space is vacant.
The rise in the overall vacancy rate is partly attributable to the
increase in the available inventory in Downtown Montreal.
Since the beginning of 2014, almost 1.5 million square feet has
been brought to the Class “A” office space market, which has
begun to alter its dynamic. Had this space not been delivered,
vacancy rates would be in the 6% range.
The inventory of Class “A” office space in Downtown Montreal
currently totals nearly 26.6 million square feet, which is
distributed among 57 buildings. Through the first six months
of 2015, the vacancy rate declined slightly, from 9.2% to 9.0%.
Currently approximately 2.2 million square feet is vacant.
As has been the case for the past couple of years, even though
vacancy and availability rates are high, a tenant’s best leasing
opportunities in the downtown area will be found on a buildingby-building basis. This is essentially because much of the office
space that is available—particularly larger blocks of space—is on
the sublease market.
As new developments continue to be built and come online, we
expect that more sublease space will become available, as many
major tenants are taking the opportunity to relocate in to the new
towers, leaving behind space in their older Class “A” offices.
In Downtown Montreal’s Class “B” sector, we track 161 office
buildings, which together offer a total of 23 million square feet
of space. Over the last half of 2014, vacancy rates rose from
7.2% to 8.1%, and since that time have risen further, to 9.0%.
Just over 2 million square feet is currently available for lease
or sublet. Some of the vacancy rate increase in the Class “B”
sector is also due to tenants seizing the opportunity to upgrade
their office spaces.
Downtown Corporate Corridors
Montreal’s downtown corporate corridors have seen a mixed bag
of leasing activity over the past twelve months, though vacancy
rates have generally risen.
The René-Lévesque Boulevard corridor has the greatest amount
of office space in the city, with nearly 11 million square feet.
Over the past six months, the Class “A” vacancy rate fell slightly
from 14.4% to 13.3%. The vacancy rate was at a decade-long low
of 3.7% at the end of 2007, but has climbed steadily since.
In the Quartier International, the Class “A” vacancy rate has also
risen steadily over the past few years. It reached a low of 2.4%
in mid-2008; over the past twelve months it has increased from
5.8% to 7.9%.
On De Maisonneuve Boulevard, the Class “A” vacancy rate in
mid‑2014 was 8.0%, and has since jumped to 12%. Vacancies in
this corridor were at their lowest level just prior to the
global recession, at 4.0% in Q2 2008.
Along the McGill College corridor, Class “A” vacancy rates have
fluctuated significantly over the past few years, and were at a low
of 8.1% two years ago. Since that time they have climbed to 17.8%,
largely due to a spike in vacancy at 1981 McGill College Avenue.
The Sherbrooke Street corridor Class “A” vacancy rate has been
fairly steady over the past twelve months, rising only from 12.0%
to 12.3%, and vacancy rate fluctuations have also been modest
in the Westmount area, where Class “A” vacancies have moved
from 13.2% to 14.9% over the past year.
Finally, in the Cité du Multimédia, the Class “A” vacancy rate fell
over the last twelve months from 15% to 10.4%. Old Montreal
vacancy rates have increased from 6.5% to 7.7% over the
Availability rates continue
to rise in Downtown Montreal
We expect a certain degree of flux in the months ahead as more
new developments are delivered to the market and some major
tenants relocate. Deloitte’s move into its new headquarters in
the Cadillac Fairview project, for example, will free up close to
200,000 square feet at 1 Place Ville Marie.
Office Development Update
The complexion of Montreal’s downtown area continues to be
transformed by the new developments that have been delivered
to the market or are under construction. The office development
that is taking place is essentially the first the downtown area
has seen since the completion of the Caisse de Dépôt and
E-Commerce Place buildings in 2002-2003.
Ivanhoé Cambridge and Manulife’s joint venture for a new
office tower development at 900 De Maisonneuve West.
Maison Manuvie will be a 27-storey, 486,500-square-foot
tower. Approximately 478,000 square feet will be committed
to office space, and 8,500 square feet to retail space.
A planned building extension at 444 De Maisonneuve
Boulevard West for Desjardins that will address its needs
for back office space.
Two other major redevelopment projects are slated to take place
in the coming years. They include:
New Projects include:
Kevric’s Tour Aimia in the Quartier International. The mixed
office/condo tower is now complete; approximately
100,000 square feet of office space is available for leasing.
The redevelopment of the Standard Life building at
1245 Sherbrooke St. West, resulting from the acquisition of
Standard Life by Manulife.
The redevelopment of Maison Alcan at 1188 Sherbrooke St.
West, following Rio Tinto’s sale of the building and relocation
into the Deloitte Tower.
Other projects are also being discussed, including:
Cadillac Fairview Corporation’s 26-storey, 500,000-squarefoot Deloitte Tower, which is located between Windsor Station
and the Bell Centre. Aside from Deloitte, Rio Tinto will also
be relocating in the tower. This development is the first LEED
Platinum project in the city. Just over 150,000 square feet is
Broccolini’s L’Avenue at 1275 l’avenue des Canadiens,
a 50-storey, 590,000-square-foot mixed-use development,
should be completed by mid-2017. It has 140,000 square feet
of office space on its lower floors.
Development of I’Îlot Voyageur, where the Quebec
government is currently examining its options.
A two-phase office tower project at Westcliff’s Place de la Cité
internationale in Square Victoria.
An office and retail tower project of up to 1.2 million square
feet led by Canderel and the Fonds de solidarité FTQ in the
Quartier des Spectacles just east of the downtown core.
A mixed-use development led by Magil Laurentien on
University and St-Jacques.
Vacancy Rates in Downtown Montreal Corridors, Office Space
Class “A” and “B” Combined
McGill College Ave.
De Maisonneuve Blvd.
Availability rates continue
to rise in Downtown Montreal
Outside the downtown core, another significant redevelopment
is the 320,000-square-foot 7250 Mile End project. To date,
it has 85% leased.
In Griffintown, Devimco is undertaking a four-phase mega
project, which will bring substantial new commercial, retail and
condo space to the market.
Additionally, the city’s Pôle Maisonneuve initiative seeks to bring
new activity to the area around the Parc olympique. Helping this
initiative is the recent announcement that Olympic Stadium will
finally have a tenant—for the first time since its completion.
The Desjardins Group has signed an agreement with the Régie
des installations olympiques to move in its management centre
for bank-card operations. Between 1,000 and 1,800 employees
could potentially occupy the large space inside the tower.
Finally, the Gare-Hôtel-Viger project, a $250 million
redevelopment, intends to repurpose the historic Gare-HôtelViger in Old Montreal into commercial and office spaces.
Market Trends: Leveraging the Workplace
Increasingly, tenants making the decision to relocate their offices
are treating their real estate decisions as opportunities to drive
organizational change. What organizational change means for
any particular business can be multi-faceted and complex.
The decision to relocate is often tied initially to cost, and many
organizations use a relocation to reduce the amount of office
space they use. Whereas industry benchmarks may have
once considered 200-250 square feet per person as the rule,
100‑150 square feet per person is now not unusual.
Attracting and retaining a qualified workforce is an ongoing
challenge for many businesses, as the costs of recruiting and
training skilled people can be considerable. In response to
this need, we are seeing many tenants designing their workplaces
to make them more appealing to employees.
This may require locating their offices close to where the
workforce resides, or ensuring that access to public transport and
ample parking at reasonable cost are available. On-site amenities
that were largely unheard of a decade ago—from daycare and
exercise facilities to bicycle storage areas and outdoor terraces
—are also becoming increasingly sought after. And the workplace
environment itself must reflect the kind of culture the company is
trying to encourage. Does it promote collaboration, innovation,
and transparency? Is it, in short, a great place to work?
The challenge is to develop a work environment that is attractive
and efficient, that supports the organization’s business case,
and that ultimately makes it more competitive. A thoroughly
researched, articulated and executed real estate strategy can
help ensure that this challenge is met.
With space availability remaining high, tenants currently have a
great deal of negotiating leverage. Some of the best opportunities
can be found on a building-by-building basis, as the sublet market
has been expanding and will likely continue to grow as the new
developments under construction are delivered and the larger
tenants moving into these towers vacate their old premises.
While less space generally translates into lower costs, it is also
true that the compression can only be taken so far. Other factors
supporting an occupancy strategy also come into play.
Many landlords are increasingly motivated to secure solid,
long‑term tenants, and are hence open to negotiating competitive
leasing transactions. Larger tenants should undertake a needs
analysis three to five years before lease expiry, while tenants
requiring smaller blocks of space will be best served by reviewing
their occupancy strategies at least three years in advance.
Branding is chief among these. Broadly understood, branding
can be seen as defining and promoting the company’s essential
identity and values. And moving into new premises is the perfect
opportunity to renew or support a brand.
Montreal’s downtown office market is in a state of flux, and more
changes will occur as new developments are delivered and as
certain major tenants in the city who are currently looking at
market opportunities make their tenancy decisions.
To do so, a number of issues need to be weighed. Does the office
space reflect the company’s identity? Is an older brick-and-beam
building more suitable than a state-of-the-art tower? Are the
premises close to the company’s primary customer base?
Over the next few years we anticipate that availability rates
should drop as the office space being built or redeveloped is
absorbed and the local economy gains further momentum.
The National Market
at a Glance
the-art tower space remains strong. Redeveloped space in older,
brick-and-beam buildings, designed for the creative class, is in
great demand as well, though the supply is more limited.
Over the past six months, office vacancy rates in most of Canada’s
major cities have increased, though in some cases the rise was
marginal. Concurrently, the total built inventory of Class “A” and
Class “B” space has increased by approximately 1 million square
feet and there are a number of large-scale development projects
underway across most of the country.
Winnipeg’s combined Class “A” and Class “B” vacancy rates
also increased in the first half of 2015, from 8.8% to 9.5% have
steadied at 8.8%. The combined Class “A” and Class “B” inventory
of office space has increased by approximately 460,000 square
feet over the past 18 months, and approximately 735,000 square
feet is available for lease or sublet.
In Halifax, the combined Class “A” and Class “B” vacancy rate
reached 10.6% at mid-year, up from 10.3% at the end of 2014.
Just over 525,000 square feet of office space is available for
lease or sublet. Over the past 18 months, the downtown office
inventory has increased by over 250,000 square feet.
Calgary’s office space real estate market has been hardest hit by
the global collapse in oil prices. Only a few years ago occupancy
rates in the city’s downtown area were approaching 100% and a
number of new developments were launched. Since that time,
however, the combined Class “A” and Class “B” vacancy rate has
risen to 10%, one of the highest in the country. Nearly 4 million
square feet is vacant at the present time, which includes
2.5 million square feet in the Class “A” category.
Quebec City’s combined vacancy rate in the downtown area
stands at 6.3%. In the Class “A” submarket, the vacancy rate is
9.4% and approximately 220,500 square feet of office space is
available for lease or sublet. The Class “B” vacancy rate currently
stands at 4.8%.
In Ottawa, downtown Class “A” and Class “B” vacancy rates rose
from 6.6% to 7.4% over the past six months. There has been an
uptick in activity in Kanata over the past year as the high-tech
industry regains a measure of strength. Tenant negotiating
leverage should be strong through the rest of the year as new
office developments are delivered.
Edmonton’s combined vacancy rates held relatively
steady over the first half of 2015, and are currently at 7.5%.
Approximately 1.3 million square feet of office space
is available in the downtown district, the majority of which is
Class “A” space. Over 1 million square feet of office space
is currently under construction.
Toronto continues to be one of the most active office markets in
the country, and vacancy rates in the downtown area are lower
than in any other major city in the country. Both Class “A” and
Class “B” vacancy rates are currently in the 4.7% range, despite
the abundance of new space that has been delivered to the
market over the past few years. Tenant demand for this state-of-
In Vancouver, just under 500,000 square feet of Class “A” office
space has recently come onto the downtown market, and another
1 million square feet is slated for development. As a result,
vacancy rates are beginning to creep higher, with the combined
Class “A” and Class “B” rate moving from 5.9% to 6.1% through
the first two quarters of 2015. Vacancy rates will likely continue
to climb as more new space is delivered, though tenant demand
for the new space seems strong.
Downtown District Vacancy Rates Comparison, Office Space
Class “A” and “B” Combined
Total Office Area (sq. ft.) Q2 15
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