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As Toronto Tech Surges Ahead, How Sharp Is CRE's Digital Edge?

Technology companies have been the driver of Toronto’s remarkable resurgence over the last decade. But even as tech becomes a defining feature of their city’s economy, real estate owners and operators in Toronto may lack the digital literacy to keep up with what their tech-forward tenants need.

In order to make the most of Toronto’s tech influx, landlords need to critically assess their existing digital infrastructure, immerse themselves in the latest tech trends and update their buildings accordingly. 

“Asset and property management teams are facing a knowledge gap around the tech infrastructure currently in their buildings, and around the trends that are changing tenant requirements, like 5G and cloud computing,” said Andrew Freitas, the newly appointed head of the Canadian market for WiredScore. “It is now the landlord’s responsibility to deliver a well-connected building.”

Technology has become a cornerstone of Toronto’s economy. In the record month of September 2018, $1.4B in investment poured into the city from some of the largest, most innovative tech companies in the world, including Microsoft, Uber and Shopify. All that money goes toward hiring, innovation and, of course, office space.

Freitas is among the experts and technologists helping building owners close the digital literacy gap. He oversees a portfolio of more than 130 buildings from Halifax to Vancouver that are registered with Wired Certification, WiredScore’s metric for in-building connectivity and digital infrastructure. WiredScore not only assesses the physical and digital networks inside buildings, but also advises landlords on how best to improve their technology to enhance tenant experience and future-proof their assets.

“Technology is increasingly important to tenants across all industries,” he said. “The new class of tenants in Toronto relies on videoconferencing, collaboration tools, and virtual and augmented reality capabilities. Being able to address those needs will be increasingly important for landlords.”

Before joining WiredScore, Freitas spent seven years as a leasing broker at Devencore, then at Ellison Partners, a boutique brokerage in downtown Toronto. As he helped connect tenants with office space that suited their needs, he watched firsthand as digital infrastructure became a deciding factor. 

Later, at CoStar, Freitas worked with companies across the CRE industry to understand and leverage data and market intelligence. His job, as he describes it, was to understand trends and nuances within the market. With technology so crucial to many tenants’ operations, those nuances included which buildings offered better wireless bandwidth, in-building cellular networks and digital security.

WiredScore Head of Canada Andrew Freitas

Now at WiredScore, Freitas is helping landlords across Canada understand what their digital offerings are. The goal, he said, is to increase transparency in the office space marketplace. The better that building owners know their own digital systems, the better they can demonstrate their offerings to potential tenants and make calculated investments in their buildings.

Those investments could have a direct impact on buildings’ valuations. Tenants are willing to pay a premium for tech-enabled office space, and with the continued growth of tech throughout Toronto, those premiums are set to increase, Freitas said.

Though there is a gap in landlords’ understanding of digital trends, Freitas has faith in the real estate industry’s ability to learn and pivot in the face of change. 

“The Canadian CRE industry is very sophisticated,” he said. “We react and adapt well to trends. This makes it an ideal market for WiredScore and our mission.”

As far as WiredScore is concerned, the adaptation has already begun. The company has certified over 44M SF of office and residential space in Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, Halifax and, of course, Toronto. The buildings are owned by some of the largest names in Canadian real estate, including Ivanhoé Cambridge, Hines, Cadillac Fairview and GWL Realty Advisors.

For Freitas, one of the most rewarding parts of WiredScore’s growth in Canada is seeing the Wired Certification seals appear one by one in buildings’ lobbies around the city.

“I walk through Commerce Court and see the ‘Wired Certified Platinum’ plaque and know that we’re making a difference in the market,” he said.

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