ModernTO plan optimizes the city’s real estate assets to save cash

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city hall toronto

By Robin MacLennan

Ontario Construction News staff writer

A staff report that will be presented to the CreateTO Board Sept. 24 details an office portfolio optimization plan – the first phase of a Toronto-wide real estate portfolio strategy.

It’s being dubbed a new approach to optimize the city’s real estate assets while helping to modernize office space and save money.

“Bringing a strategic lens to Toronto’s extensive real estate holding improves our ability to deliver on important city-building initiatives like affordable housing, and by optimizing our office portfolio, the city can end 25 leases bringing employees into city-owned buildings and saving $30 million annually,” said Ward 14 Councillor and CreateTO board member Paula Fletcher.

City offices currently house more than 15,400 employees across three million square feet of space, including 52 owned and leased locations. The report calls the situation “a large, outdated and inefficient office footprint.”

In the five-year office plan, which will need CreateTO and council approval, is a self-funded program to reduce and revitalize the office footprint through the elimination of third-party leases and the re-location of staff to generate long-term cost savings.

The program identifies underused office space that can be repurposed to unlock city-building opportunities and allow for better use of the city’s real estate holdings.

Here’s what the plan would accomplish:

  • Reduce city office locations to 20 from 52 – mostly through collapsing of leases coming due in upcoming years.
  • Unlock eight properties for city-building purposes, including affordable housing.
  • Maximize key civic centres, City Hall and Metro Hall, turning the sites into modern office hubs able to accommodate up to 5,600 more employees through more efficient design.
  • Decrease overall office square footage by 25 per cent.

Five civic centres located across Toronto would be recognized as primary office buildings in need of long-term modernization investments as “transit-oriented civic hubs” for government administration.

These locations have been identified for city-building opportunities:

  • 33 Queen St. E.
  • 610 Bay St.
  • 931 Yonge St.
  • 1900 Yonge St.
  • 75 Elizabeth St.
  • 277 Victoria St.
  • 95 The Esplanade – Ground Floor
  • 18 Dyas Rd.

Public services will remain available to the community during any office location shifts and no decisions on services, locations or timelines are expected before “robust communications,” the report concludes.

“This is an opportunity to explore how we can make better use of public land to build more vibrant and livable communities with greater investments in services such as affordable housing, transit, parks and libraries,” said Ward 11 Councillor Mike Layton.

“The first step is to evaluate current and future uses of our public lands to see if they are still serving their purpose; then we must identify the needs of our communities, which in some cases might involve planning to use public land to better meet changing needs.”

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