Calgary’s downtown core slowly returning to normal

Re-opening an office tower is a little more complicated than just turning the lights back on. Calgary’s downtown core is gradually returning to normal as tenants return to the buildings they vacated last Thursday in advance of the city’s massive flood.
In fact, if properly managed, most of the preparation work for re-opening a building should have been done before the tower was even vacated, according to Antoinette Tummillo, vice-president of real estate management services for Colliers International Canada.
For example, Tummillo said property managers should have ensured power to office towers was properly shut down to avoid overloading electrical panels on start-up. Otherwise, building owners risk seeing circuits “blow up because everything comes on at the same time.”
Similarly, she advised raising elevators before shutting them down to avoid further damage, and moving all vehicles out of parking garages.
“We had one building where we did get two of three feet of water in the parking garage.”
Savvy property managers will have already lined up restoration contractors in advance to help repair any flooding damage. Tummillo said contractors are already in short supply and people on standby from other cities such as Edmonton are heading to Cowtown to work on the clean-up.
Assessment job No. 1
Returning to a building involves assessing, perhaps with a consultant, what needs to be done to reoccupy the space safely. Tummillo said at one of Colliers’ buildings outside of the city core, the property manager and building operator are essentially digging out sludge from a flooded space.
The most critical thing to have in place is a business continuity plan, Tummillo said. She noted it’s imperative for building managers to know how they’re going to continue to operate once they’re no longer in their physical space of business.
This includes maintaining up-to-date contact lists, establishing “call trees” for contact with people, and advising tenants of information in a timely and systematic fashion. “If not, it’s mass panic and chaos,” Tummillo said.
As an example, Tummillo said they used to manage one building that had been sold, but the tenants of that building called Colliers’ property managers because they didn’t know who else to contact.
“It tells me they didn’t have their business continuity plan enacted,” Tummillo said.

The Calgary Skyline
Quickly contacted clients
Jim Green the chief financial officer for Winnipeg-based Artis REIT, said when they learned of the impending flood they contacted their tenants and assured them they were doing everything they could.
Artis kept building operators on-site as much as possible to monitor the structures and to make sure pumps and generators were running. While Green is pleased with the way their plan went, he said in future they’d “probably be a little more ready with pumps to move into areas that got hit.”
Green said flooding occurred in a couple of their building’s parkades, but wasn’t overly serious. Green noted that while they had concern over potential damage, “we’re headquartered in Manitoba, where we get floods all the time.”
He pointed out Winnipeg is probably better prepared against flooding than Calgary, with dikes along the rivers to ensure the banks are raised, and the Red River Floodway to divert excess water and spill it off around the city rather than through it.
“I think we got off relatively easy compared to how much water came into the city,” Green said.
Retail, residential hit hardest
While the flooding is expected to cost billions to the overall economy, generally it appears retail and residential – both single homes and condos – are the hardest-hit. Beyond flooded parking garages, the majority of Calgary’s office towers look to have escaped relatively unscathed.
The city contains more than 400 office towers in one of the highest concentrations of space in any central business district in North America, according to Calgary Building Owners and Manager’s (BOMA) website.
Attempts to reach Calgary BOMA executives for comment were immediately unsuccessful.
One unforeseen side effect of the floods is many real estate transactions ended up on hold or cancelled. Karen Barry, president of Calgary’s Barry Commercial Real Estate, said when it comes to real estate every business situation essentially involves a major lawyer.
However, many deals were pushed aside when law firms weren’t able to access files in their buildings. “Things are starting to lift somewhat,” Barry said.
A spokesperson for Cadillac Fairview reported that the flooding didn’t impact their office towers, including Encor Place. However, Janine OjahMaharaj acknowledged that their excavation site for Calgary City Centre – a 1.6-million-square-foot office tower and multi-use development – received “water accumulation.”
OjahMaharaj would not say if and for how long the site flooding might delay the developer’s project.
Dundee REIT reported flooding in two office tower parkades, but said the majority of its 31 properties remained undamaged.
Boardwalk REIT said Elbow Towers, a 158-unit high-rise on the banks of Calgary’s Elbow River, experienced extensive flooding.
Only 30 per cent of Calgary’s towers had had their power restored at deadline, according to CBC News.



Paul is a writer, editor and media trainer based in Toronto with over 25 years of experience as a business reporter. He has written for Canada’s major news services on…

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Paul is a writer, editor and media trainer based in Toronto with over 25 years of experience as a business reporter. He has written for Canada’s major news services on…

Read more




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