Events and networking

The Toronto Office Market – Getting Back to Basics

NAIOP gathered some of Toronto’s experts in Commercial Real Estate on a panel to share views on what has continued to be a hot topic throughout the pandemic, the state of the downtown office market. Moderator, Jon Ramscar from CBRE was joined by Alan Mackenzie, JLL Canada; Gordon Wadley, Dream Office REIT; and Nick Macrae, HOOPP; to reflect on 2020 and look ahead to what 2021 has in store.

It’s no surprise that the commercial office sector was one of the hardest hit this past year, with well over five million square feet of available space coming to the market. Last year at the same time, the office availability rate was at a mere 1.8%. The pandemic has certainly rocked the market. Over the course of 2020, downtown office availability rose to 7.2%.

While this may sound like doom and gloom, one thing the group agreed on is that these numbers in no way signal the demise of the office market, or of the businesses that reside in these downtown towers. Toronto is the fast-growing city in North America, so an increase in availability doesn’t necessarily result in a “tenant market.” This past year, companies put their business continuity plans into high gear and experts agree most were successful. The year signified a true marriage between landlords and their tenants – a partnership where they relied on each other, supported one another, and planned for their future together. Landlords had to be strategic when it came to mitigating risks for their tenants and empathetic to new payment arrangements, while tenants had to adjust KPIs, reallocate staff, and most of all really put their faith in their landlords and take a long-term view of their businesses.

It’s important to note that while many businesses packed up and went home for the year, it didn’t necessarily result in a vacant space. This was the year to sublet. Many coveted office spaces were scooped up by alternate companies (most notably in the tech industry), and both tenants and landlords were able to recoup a portion of their losses. Now, as more and more areas open up across the City, and people appear to be more optimistic in their decision making, it looks as though many tenants plan to reclaim their sublet space for themselves. While it may not be a year of long-term renewals or expansions, it will be a year of renewals no less, although shorter-term (1-3 years).

Perhaps what has changed most over the course of the year, and will for years to come, is an even greater commitment to health and wellness in the office sector. Sophisticated tenants will want (and be very willing) to pay top dollar to invest in healthy buildings to ensure a healthy, productive workforce. While health and wellness were certainly key priorities to landlords and tenants alike prior to 2020, 2021 has created a new definition for “A Class” building, with healthy buildings and amenities at the forefront of all decision making.

Panel participant Alan Mackenzie shared a research study conducted with 362 corporations across the globe. The study revealed which sectors were hardest hit by the WFH trend. For instance, the tech sector has 97% of its workforce working from home (only 3% in office), whereas the automotive sector has 76% (24% in office). Regardless of the industry, the study concluded that experts anticipate companies reaching 90% capacity in office by the end of 2021.

As Toronto’s vaccine plan rolls out, both landlords and tenants are hopeful for an economic bounce-back even as early as this summer, resulting from a very long year of pent-up demand. At the same time, they note we continue to face unprecedented times, and at the end of the day nobody has a crystal ball.

The office market is not dead; it will return. It’s just a matter of when.

to view the recording from this event click here.

NAIOP Bubbles – new networking initiative for members

Beginning in the summer of 2020, NAIOP Greater Toronto invited members to register and network in one of several small curated groups. Each Bubble is focused on a topic, area of expertise or asset class in commercial real estate. This new program was created for this time when meeting in large groups is restricted. It’s a unique opportunity to network with industry peers while respecting social distancing protocols. To sign up for the Bubbles Program, click below!

Bubbles now underway include: Canadian Investments, Global Investments, Development, Office, Industrial and Retail.

NAIOP Bubble participants will meet monthly to discuss issues that are relevant to their business, share best practices and brainstorm new ideas. (Note: given the nature of the pandemic, this is currently happening virtually).

Program Highlights:

  • Small groups with similar roles, asset class focus or specializations.
  • Monthly group gatherings for topical discussions and/or informal social events.
  • Exclusive to NAIOP Greater Toronto members.
  • No cost to participate.


Keep an eye on the website for updates on our bubbles program. Please send any questions to

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Event cancellation and refund policy

NAIOP Greater Toronto Chapter respectfully requests that event registrants treat NAIOP events as you would any other business appointment. If your plans change and you cannot attend, please advise us in writing in a timely manner as outlined below. Your thoughtfulness will help reduce waste and give others on a wait list the opportunity to participate.

NAIOP Member Cancelling Registration for a FREE Event

NAIOP Greater Toronto’s popular series of Breakfast events, plus Lunch & Learn and many social events are FREE for members, however, free for you does not mean free for NAIOP. The chapter incurs a food cost and administration cost with each registration. Therefore, if you find you cannot attend, it is important that you advise the administration office in writing no later than 10:00 am on the day before an event. Thank you for your respect and consideration in this regard. It allows time for someone on the wait list to be contacted and helps reduce waste.

Non-members registered for Breakfast and Lunch & Learn events

Non-members who find they cannot attend should advise the NAIOP Greater Toronto administration office in writing of their cancellation by 10:00 am, two (2) business days prior to the event. If notice is provided by this deadline, your payment will be fully refunded. After this deadline, refunds are not available.

Cancellation with Refund for a paid Special Event or Education Course

Members and non-members please refer to the respective registration pages on the NAIOP Greater Toronto events website for the cancellation policies for professional development courses and special events like the annual Golf Tournament. The advance notice required for cancellation and the window of availability for a refund may vary per course or event.