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Q&A: Dream Office REIT’s Hanley Koo On The No. 1 Thing New Tenants Want


Vacancy rates for office space in downtown Toronto are already at a record low, and according to Devencore, vacancy could drop even further, down to an unheard-of 2%. Commercial owners are scrambling to differentiate themselves from the competition, but common amenities and incentives are no longer enough. To sign new tenants and hold on to them for the long haul, building owners have to consider the complete tenant experience. Whether tenants are struggling to connect to WiFi or going out of their way to get their morning coffee, their day-to-day experiences can make or break long-term leases. 

Bisnow sat down with Dream Office REIT Director of Client Services Hanley Koo to learn more about what tenants actually want, and what Dream is doing to stay ahead of the competition and deliver an elevated experience to tenants.

Bisnow: Can you walk us through what you do for Dream?

Koo: I lead a team dedicated to improving tenant experience in Dream’s office properties. We focus on onboarding new tenants and streamlining each tenant's transition to their new building. We also act as a resource for teams looking to learn more about their properties and how they can build effective tenant experiences.

Bisnow: What amenities do you think tenants care about the most today, as opposed to say, five years ago?

Koo: The workplace is changing, and a lot of meetings are now happening outside the office. We think that, going forward, the most desirable office spaces will be the ones that offer amenities that complement and foster collaboration. That means great food and beverage providers, WiFi and connectivity, bookable meeting spaces and areas to do work outside the office.

Bisnow: How are you staying in touch with what tenants want at your properties?

Koo: We want all our tenants to feel like they are part of our Dream community. 

We’re using a new app to send tenants updates and exclusive offers and to get their feedback through surveys on what they want to see in their building. For instance, we polled our tenants at 36 Toronto and found that there was universal demand for coffee inside the building. So we partnered with Pilot Coffee Roasters to open a kiosk right in the lobby — and tenants are loving it. Now we’re looking into more building activations and tenant programming that our tenants have said they want.

Pilot Coffee Roasters kiosk at 36 Toronto St.

Bisnow: What is the most critical feature that prospective tenants are evaluating properties on today?

Koo: Connectivity is probably one of the most critical features for prospective tenants. Clients want to know that they have a partner who values and understands their connectivity requirements. When you receive an RFP and chat with brokers about their client’s needs, not having the right connectivity can be a deal-breaker. 

To demonstrate our commitment to connectivity, Dream has certified five of our Toronto office properties with WiredScore, a commercial real estate rating system for digital infrastructure. WiredScore entered the Canadian market in October 2017, and only one year later, there are already over 100 office properties across the country that have registered for Wired Certification, which goes to show how important connectivity is in today’s commercial real estate market. Dream’s Wired Certified Gold achievements signal to our prospective tenants that we have infrastructure in place to meet their business needs.

Bisnow: What kind of return have you seen from this connectivity certification?

Koo: From a client services perspective, there are distinct advantages to having our buildings Wired Certified. In the past, if a tenant had questions about setting up internet service, we would need to go to building operations to identify internet service providers. That bogged down the process, and often didn’t turn up all the ISP options. Now we have a much more comprehensive resource at our fingertips. WiredScore provides us with fact sheets and reports that give our team comprehensive information about digital connectivity at all times.

Bisnow: How have the changes you have made translated into increased tenancy?

Koo: What we’re doing is future-proofing our assets — making sure that we can attract and retain long-term quality tenants in all our buildings. Being ready for the next iteration of tenant experience and connectivity is what differentiates us from our competition, especially with the rise of smart technology and IoT. As we continue to improve our infrastructure, this commitment to future-proofing and customer service will allow us to keep up with the changing needs of new clients and allow us to retain our current ones.

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and WiredScore. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.