Distant horizons in all four directions aren’t something you’d normally see from a city’s downtown.
But that’s the view from the upper levels of Executive Place — the 12-storey office building nearing completion on the corner of Ross Street and 49th Avenue.
From the top floor, and even the 11th — which opens onto an exterior patio to the south and east — the sightlines are interrupted only by Checkmate Court and the Capri Hotel and Convention Centre on the South Hill.
“You can see almost to Blackfalds,” pointed out Bert Messier, president of developer Beca International Ltd., during a tour of the building.
In addition to a bird’s-eye view of Red Deer and the surrounding landscape, the 112,000-square-foot structure — which includes 103,500 square feet of rentable space — boasts an underground parkade with approximately 100 stalls, three elevators and a state-of-the-art heating and air-conditioning system. Tenants will be able to control temperatures in different zones of their premises, even from a computer at home.
Exterior work on Executive Place should wrap up in about 30 days, said Messier. Much of the interior is ready for leasehold improvements now — if there were tenants to perform such work.
“There are letters of intent and minor offers on some space, especially on the main floor,” said Glenn Moore, a Realtor with Century 21 Advantage Commercial and one of the leasing agents for the property.
But Messier doesn’t want to fill the south side of the ground level, which is designated for commercial use, with cafés, coffee shops and other small businesses.
“We’re still of the opinion that the main floor should be a bank or a financial institution,” he said, explaining that the street-level retail area could be tied into office space above. “It’s ideal for that sort of thing.”
He’s also like to see a major tenant occupy the top two floors, or a portion thereof, and connect operations via an open staircase. Although designed for office use, Messier said other options might include a high-end restaurant and lounge.
Currently, however, Messier and Beca’s joint venture partner in the project — Clark Builders — are just anxious to find occupants. They’re willing to be creative in structuring lease rates, provide finished space on a turnkey basis and even condominiumize and sell floors in the building.
But prospective renters, still stinging from the recession, are cautious, said Messier. It was a different market in 2007 when work on Executive Place began.
“When we went into the ground, we had verbal commitments from people for at least five or six floors,” said Messier. “But all that went down the toilet.”
He’s confident in the long-term prospects of Red Deer’s commercial leasing market, and senses a growing optimism, but so far this hasn’t translated into signed leases. What Executive Place needs, said Messier, is a bit of momentum.
“If you can get about two floors leased, after that it creates a certain amount of urgency.”
Although lease rates at Executive Place are higher than most local alternatives, Messier said they’re comparable to other upper-end office space. And he expects his building’s operating costs to be much lower.
“It’s probably the best energy efficiency building in the city of Red Deer.”
The final cost of the building is expected to be between $42 million and $43 million, said Messier. More than $8 million of that was incurred before the structure cleared ground.
“We realized we were in trouble when we dug the hole,” he said, explaining that unexpected flows of sub-surface water had to be dealt with.
There’s still a positive buzz surrounding Executive Place, which could ultimately have some 350 people working there.
“It could be a huge boom for the downtown,” said Laura Turner, executive director of the Red Deer Downtown Business Association.
The concentration of businesses and people at the site, she said, should have a “synergistic effect.”
Meanwhile, work has begun on the new Veterans’ Park in the shadow of Executive Place. City manager Craig Curtis described it as an extension of City Hall Park and a major step forward in plans to improve the area.
“Basically, it was one of our first initiatives out of the Greater Downtown Action Plan.”