Manulife developing a gem of an office tower in Calgary

Manulife Real Estate is making a striking new addition to its Calgary portfolio with construction of a 27-storey, 564,000 square-foot office building in the heart of downtown.

Manulife Building“We’ve looked at a number of assets on the Calgary market and we feel it’s more prudent to be developing than it is to be buying existing stock given the amount of infill in Calgary,” says Ted Willcocks, global head of asset management at Manulife Financial’s real estate arm.

Existing building to be demolished

Manulife will demolish an aging 88,000- square-foot office building to make way for 707 Fifth (image below), located appropriately enough at 707 5 St. S.W. It will target LEED Gold certification and include an on-site conference facility, fitness centre and landscaped gardens.

With floor-to-ceiling class windows, the elliptical-shaped building will provide outstanding views of the city core and the Rocky Mountains when it opens in March 2017. Construction is expected to get underway in early 2014.

“We’re trying to make as many of our new acquisitions and developments LEED-certified,” Willcocks says. “Tenants are demanding new workspace environments.”

The insurance giant, whose real estate portfolio is valued at about $9.3 billion, also recently began work on 980 Howe Street, a 16-storey, 250,000 square foot office building in downtown Vancouver and acquired five Montreal-area commercial properties, totalling 440,297 square feet, for $75.9 million from the Redbourne Realty Fund.

In June, John Hancock, the U.S. division of Manulife Financial Corporation, acquired the Landmark Square office building in Long Beach, Calif., from Brookfield Office Properties for approximately $136 million.

Calgary’s 707 Fifth will be designed by architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, known for their work on Terminal 1 at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and for the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa. The tower will be managed by Calgary’s Pivotal Projects.

Brion Energy will be lead tenant

Brion Energy, formerly Dover Operating Corp., will serve as the building’s lead tenant.

“Brion Energy is excited to have a long-term solution to our office space requirements and a place to call home,” says Zhiming Li, Brion president and CEO.

“As a growing company, we have been challenged to find a large block of vacant office space in Calgary’s core that meets our needs. Manulife’s other properties are impressive and Brion can’t wait to be in what we know will be a beautiful facility in the heart of Calgary.”

707 Fifth will increase Manulife’s Calgary portfolio to 1.3 million square feet, including 566,520 in office space and 114,886 in other lands.

That includes a 32-year-old office building at 1122 Fourth Street, featuring 14 storeys, 125,533 square feet, a traditional brick exterior and rooftop atrium.

The 12-storey Manulife House on Seventh Avenue, 13-storey Calgary House on Sixth Avenue and 736 Sixth Avenue SW, a 22-storey, 30-year-old office building are also part of their Calgary holdings.

Four others are ground leases or part of a development site.

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