Scott Hutcheson, from left, executive chair of the board at Aspen Properties, with president and chief executive officer Greg Guatto and chief operating officer Rob Blackwell. Wil Andruschak, © Postmedia Content Works
Few areas of the economy have been knocked around as much as office real estate in Calgary since the downturn.
But where many may see challenges, one local real estate firm sees opportunity.
Rather than easing up over the last few years, Aspen Properties has been actively investing in downtown office towers, turning previously unloved, older buildings into state-of-the-art spaces sought after by large firms and startups alike.
“Our speciality is taking aging office buildings and making them wanted — and needed — by tenants,” says Scott Hutcheson, executive chair of the board of Aspen Properties.
Since its start 20 years ago, Aspen has built a reputation for repositioning office buildings. But the office real estate firm has upped its game dramatically amidst one of the most challenging economic periods in the city’s history.
“We’re doing what we have always been doing — only on steroids,” says Greg Guatto, president and chief executive officer of the company that operates in the Calgary and Edmonton markets.
Case in point is one of its most recent redevelopments, The Edison.
The 450,000-square-foot tower was “arguably one of the least interesting office buildings in the city,” says Rob Blackwell, chief operating officer of Aspen.
“We repositioned it in the market, and today it’s 90 per cent filled and has all the coolest amenities that an office building can offer.”
Central to Aspen’s success — more than ever — is its focus on ensuring that not only do these makeovers create buildings that are more aesthetically pleasing. Aspen also ensures these towers are full of new amenities — cutting-edge ones, like an open-air dog park on the third floor of The Edison. For that matter, the building — located across the street from the Fairmont Palliser hotel — also has a golf simulator, a basketball court, a high-end workout facility and the latest for IT infrastructure.
But Aspen is just getting started with its shock-and-awe makeovers of stale buildings.
Late last year it purchased the Sun Life Plaza. And more than 50,000 square feet of the 1.1 million-square-foot office tower will be dedicated to new amenities, including serenity and meditation rooms.
Aspen’s footprint in Calgary extends beyond office buildings, though. It also gives back to the community. Among its initiatives in this respect is encouraging employees to volunteer by allowing them to take two paid days off annually to do it.
“We really aim to create a strong work-life balance,” Blackwell says about Aspen’s corporate culture. “And that includes giving back in your community, whether you’re a coach of a soccer team or volunteering your time for a non-profit helping make our city better.”
Indeed, this theme balancing work with lifestyle is evident in everything it does, including its buildings.
“Our success is based not just on infusing properties with more creature comfort amenities,” Hutcheson says. “It’s about creating more desirable, casual and modern spaces to work, live and play.”
This feature was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.