Colliers International associate vice-president Tristan Spark checks out an antique decorative light fixture at the foot of the stairwell on the vacant main floor of the Carnegie Building

BUSINESS BEAT: Victoria heritage buildings doing well in transition

Many older downtown buildings are being upgraded to attract high-tech tenants, among others

Looking around the empty main floor of the Carnegie Building, which began life as the Greater Victoria Public Library in 1904, one can almost picture an upscale boutique or some form of creative enterprise operating here.

The classic building at Yates and Blanshard streets, with its combination of interior pillars, artistic mouldings and other appealing design features, has a definite dramatic appeal. But the reality is, it needs seismic upgrading and accessibility features to allow for a change in use to something like, say, upscale retail.

The Carnegie, last renovated in 1984, is one of many beautiful downtown heritage buildings for which commercial real estate company Colliers International is looking for tenants or buyers.

“The market is soft right now and there’s lots of competition out there. It’s really a tenant’s market,” said Tristan Spark, associate vice-president for Colliers in Victoria.

As evidenced by recent successes, however, the company is looking increasingly to high tech as a source of solid commercial tenants. But that shift comes with certain structural demands. Spark offers up the Temple Building at Fort and Langley streets as an example of a heritage building that has been completely upgraded, and enhanced with such features as hardwood floors, a return to the original high ceilings and big windows, and exposed brick.

“That’s almost what some companies expect to walk into,” he says.

Many of the building owners that have done modern upgrades in recent years are seeing the rewards, securing high-quality tenants such as Microsoft, in the Dogwood building at Fort and Wharf Streets, and social media game designer Zynga, in the Board of Trade building at 31 Bastion Sq.

“It’s hard to spend money on a vacant building (at a time of reduced revenue), but we try to tell them, ‘if you do it they will come,’” Spark says.

Other examples of heritage buildings receiving modern upgrades are the Rithet Building at 1117 Wharf St. and the Rattenbury-designed 1005 Langley St., housing Black Hat Bistro at street level.

Colliers recently hosted a seminar in Victoria on the changing work environment. Grouped work stations and open floor plans are becoming more common, as are larger kitchen areas, where brainstorming sessions often happen, Spark says. “People are rediscovering the role of the office.”

As for the Carnegie, a beautiful building with plenty of potential on both of its Yates Street-facing floors, its local ownership group may need to look at the market trends to attract the right clientele.

– Colliers International, 250-388-6454; colliers.com/victoria

Fry’s Bakery giving public their Thanksgiving bread

To celebrate their first year in business, Byron Fry and his crew at Fry’s Bakery are hosting a Thanksgiving bread day this Sunday, Oct. 13. Unlike other days at the popular Vic West spot, however, the cash register will be turned off. Fry says the gesture is designed to help out people who can’t afford bread for Thanksgiving, and community members who support the store through the year. Opening time is between 10 and 11 a.m. and the bakery will stay open until there’s no bread left.

Child care centre hosting grand opening

Kids and Company has opened its second franchised child care operation in Greater Victoria, at 965 Langford Pky. Corporate CEO Victoria Sopik will be on hand for the grand opening, set for Tuesday, Oct. 15 from 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Open houses are also scheduled Oct. 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Oct. 16, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Ross Place residence hosts care worker celebration

Greater Victoria’s community health care workers are invited to Ross Place Retirement Residence Oct. 18 to take part in as part of Health Care Assistant Day. The region’s roughly 1,000 care aides will be celebrated with everything from food and prizes to complimentary massages and gifts. The event runs from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at 2638 Ross Ln., off Hillside Avenue.

Who’s making waves on the business scene

Registered physiotherapist Jodi Ganton brings her specialized “pelvic floor rehabilitation” treatment to Peninsula Physiotherapy in Sidney. Ganton worked for the past 10-plus years at Lifemark McKenzie Physiotherapy …  Joanne DeVolder of J & J Family Hairstyling celebrates the grand opening of her company’s second shop, at 707 Goldstream Ave. on Oct. 26.

Send your business news to ddescoteau@vicnews.com.

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