Shopify vacating Elgin Street HQ as company goes 'digital by default'
OTTAWA -- Shopify is making a move.
The Ottawa-based tech giant is planning to vacate its huge Elgin Street headquarters in favour of a smaller space.
But what does this mean to the commercial real estate market in Canada's capital city?
This comes after Canada's most valuable company announced in March that employees will be working remotely until 2021 in response to the global pandemic. While Shopify would not comment directly on their plans, in a statement to CTV they write;
"The purpose and use of our physical spaces will change and we’ll be re-designing our office spaces to reflect a ‘digital by default’ mindset. While we anticipate some exceptions, the reality is that most people will be working from home versus coming into the office on a daily, recurring basis."
Shawn Hamilton is with CBRE, a commercial real estate agency. He says he heard that Shopify would be subleasing the multi-level, 170,000 square-foot space.
"Statistically it'll increase our vacancy rates and there will be those that will look at that and say it's bad news," says Hamilton; however, he is optimistic about the future of office use and says Ottawa remains strong.
"Right now there's a block of prime space on the market. I think if the market is brisk and takes that space up reasonably quickly, whether it be the public sector or the private sector, I think that will show some real strength in our leasing market and ultimately will be good news," he said.
Hamilton points to the tech bubble burst in 2000 and says there were more lease spaces available then compared to today, but COVID-19 will test whether companies continue to require that space.
"We've been decreasing office space per person over the course of the last 20 years. I think we're on the same trajectory we always were, but we might have accelerated it a bit."
He says commercial vacancy remains low but the downtown retail sector has suffered.
A few blocks away from Shopify, at Grounded Kitchen Coffee & Bar, in the city's business core, owner Amir Rahim has had steep declines in sales since March. However, says he is seeing a little bit of pickup with some regular customers returning.
Even though times are tough, Rahim has no plans to shut down and sees two opportunities right in front of him.
"I do see 170,000 square feet of space that's going to be hopefully sub leased at a good market value to a potential new group of people," he says.
And a new group of restaurant-goers, he hopes.
The other opportunity is directly across from the Gloucester Street shop: Shopify.
The company remains committed to the city where it was founded, and will continue to have offices at 234 Laurier Avenue.
"Ottawa remains an important talent market for us, it’s where Shopify was founded and our 234 Laurier office will be reimagined for our digital by default mindset," a Shopify spokesperson told CTV News.