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Sneak Peek: Dream Office REIT's Scotia Plaza Renewal

Toronto Office

Dream Office REIT is transforming Scotia Plaza, a WZMH Architects-led effort aimed at attracting tenants to the iconic tower and positioning it to compete with the new builds cropping up in the financial core.

We dropped by Scotia Plaza and snapped Dream Office REIT SVP Kevin Hardy—a panelist at Bisnow's upcoming Workplace of the Future and Adaptive Reuse Revolution event—with WZMH’s John White, who is overseeing the refresh of the 68-storey tower’s common areas.


Red-granite floors have been swapped out for a lighter granite, making the space feel larger, especially when reflected in the stainless steel ceiling (as seen in the image below). Heavy handrails were replaced with glass and frosted spandrel, and the underside of Scotia Plaza's four-storey atrium now has a back-lit ceiling, creating even more light (WZMH designed the building, completed in 1989).


Dream and H&R REIT bought Scotia Plaza in 2012 for $1.3B, Canada’s largest-ever CRE sale (the partners recently sold a 50% stake to KingSett Capital and AIMCo). The building was 100% occupied, but when a major law firm that'd been an original tenant decided to move, it created a 200k SF vacancy for 2017. “Not insignificant,” Kevin tells us. To fill that void, Dream Office REIT—which moved its HQ into the building—knew it had to address Scotia Plaza’s dated bank-tower image and make it a “compelling, AAA asset” that’s as good, or better, than the new buildings while retaining the structure's unique character.


Here’s a rendering of the new event space in Scotia Plaza’s concourse, which John notes is the crossroads of the PATH system. The $16M capital investment has involved swapping out spotlights for LED fixtures, plus new wayfinding signage. Other investments include new elevator cabs, common corridors and washrooms. More retail has been added, as well: 4,000 SF. The changes are achieving their aim, Kevin says: Dream has been seeing leasing interest from tech and creative users, with deals looming. “We’re changing the types of tenants this appeals to," Kevin says. "It’s not just banks or lawyers anymore.”


Next up, Scotia Plaza's food court will be reno’d to make it a more enticing spot for tenants to hang out. Thirty-seven floors above, Dream Office REIT’s new HQ showcases the kind of modern space that’s possible at the LEED Platinum-targeting tower: bright and open, with offices once located in the building's sawtooth edge removed for increased collaborative zones. All of it helped convince KingSett and AIMCo, which paid Dream $221M for a 16.7% stake. If Scotia Plaza still looked the way it did in 1989, “the price would be substantially different,” Kevin says. “There’s a lot of value in the money we’re spending.”

Hear more from Kevin at our Workplace of the Future and Adaptive Reuse Revolution event at 7:00am Oct. 25 at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto.