‘A really good aura:’ Calgary office tower dog friendly to attract tenants

CALGARY — Man’s best friend is moving on up — to the 16th floor of a downtown Calgary office building.

As the city continues to suffer from a severe economic downturn caused by low oil prices, real estate firms are struggling to fill a glut of empty office buildings.

When Aspen Properties took over The Edison, a mostly empty 30-floor building in the downtown core, it decided to follow businesses in Silicon Valley and make the tower dog friendly.

At Entuitive, a consulting engineering practice on the 16th floor, 14-year-old Jazzy, a Shih Tzu/toy poodle spends most of her day sleeping in a small dog bed next to her owner Nicole Wilson’s desk.

“My dog actually has separation anxiety so between my mom and myself we have to co-ordinate who’s going to take her because she really can’t stay home by herself. She actually makes herself super sick when she’s by herself,” Wilson said.

“Lots of people who are maybe having a rough day, they’ll come by our cubicles and give our dogs a pat and go about their day. It creates a really good aura throughout the office.”

David Leonard brings his rescue dog, one-year-old Riley, to the 45-person office to help socialize her.

“She’s got pretty high energy and it’s good to mentally stimulate her here. She just walks around the office with me and that’s enough to keep her satisfied,” Leonard said.

“She’ll just hang out in the boardroom and do her thing and keep everyone company. It kind of brings a lot of people together.”

Scott Hutcheson, executive chairman of Aspen Properties, said the firm is looking at putting out the doggie welcome mat at other buildings.

“In Silicon Valley, the bulk of the employees are probably under 40 and probably 10 to 15 per cent of the employees bring their dogs to work. It works,” Hutcheson said.

“There’s research done on it. You have three Cs: more creativity, more compassion and more connectivity in a pet-friendly environment.”

There are strict rules in the building, which is just over half full, he said. Badly behaved dogs aren’t allowed and there are separate elevators for people with pets. An outdoor park and pet spa is being developed on the third floor.

Hutcheson said companies need to address whether having dogs is compatible with their workforce.

“Do you have people who are violently allergic to an animal? If that’s the case then … you probably choose that person’s health over the dog,” he said.

“If you decide that this floor has dogs on it, you might move an employee to another floor or another area.”

With a vacancy rate hovering around 27 per cent, other Calgary real estate firms are opening their doors to pets.

Tenants will be permitted to bring their dogs to work at the 12-storey, Canadian Centre run by Artis Real Estate Investment Trust.

“Calgary is going through some challenges economically so there’s a lot of vacancies in buildings … We started to look around as to what people wanted in the marketplace,” said Artis leasing vice-president Bruce Nimmo.

“There are a lot of people who would like to bring their dogs to work who just can’t today.”

While some might welcome a furry colleague, a Calgary allergist says a dog-friendly workplace could cause problems for people with asthma.

Dr. Joel Doctor said improved air filtration and dog-free zones won’t solve the problem because Calgary does not have the same climate as Silicon Valley.

“If a building is very open to the outside, it’s less of a problem,” Doctor said.

“If you look at our buildings in downtown Calgary, where for six or eight months of the year the buildings are tight, tight, tight and there’s a certain amount of air recirculation, it could potentially be more of a problem.”

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