Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

RBC-Dominion Securities moving on up

Taking top floors of 201 Portage

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THE penthouse of Winnipeg's tallest skyscraper is preparing to welcome a new tenant.

RBC-Dominion Securities has signed a long-term lease to move into the top three floors and part of the 24th floor at 201 Portage -- the former offices of Canwest Global Communications -- this fall.

Alan Dunnett, branch manager of the local brokerage arm of Canada's largest bank, said there are a couple of reasons behind the move. First, its business is growing, so it needs more space for the 90 people currently on the payroll. Second, the chance to relocate into what is widely considered the nicest office space between Calgary and Toronto -- he'd be sure to get an argument from Hartley Richardson across the street -- was too good to pass up.

"It's a fantastic space. It's a great building and a little newer than the one we're in," Dunnett said, adding the firm will begin telling its clients about the move in the coming weeks.

"For Portage and Main, which is where we would prefer to be, this was the best space in one of the best buildings."

The 22,000 square feet of space on the 31st, 32nd and 33rd floors of 201 Portage, which features a 360-degree view of the city, has been completely gutted and every remnant of the former Asper-led media empire has been removed -- some of the glass has been donated to Habitat For Humanity -- except for the spiral staircase connecting the three floors.

The staircase was one of the primary selling features, according to Terry Orsulak, senior property manager at Creswin Properties, an Asper-owned company that owns the building.

"The clientele at Dominion Securities is very high-end, sophisticated investors. The staircase projects a very strong, solid image for them. They saw it as a high value to their business and their public image," he said.

The price tag isn't being released, but Orsulak said it's safe to say RBC-DS has signed on for the most expensive space in the entire 506,000-square-foot building. He said a wide range of companies, including local and national, "kicked the tires" but many of them were hoping the space would be made available at a fire-sale price.

"The fact that there isn't another location in Winnipeg currently with the view, the exposure and being at centre ice at Portage and Main, we felt that it wasn't in anyone's best interest, particularly the landlord's, to discount the space," he said.

With just under 30,000 square feet on the four floors, RBC-DS will be comparable in size to two other tenants in the building -- accounting firm MNP and law firm Thompson Dorfman Sweatman.

The top three floors of 201 Portage have been empty since November 2010, when Canwest's newspaper and television assets were sold off following its bankruptcy.

RBC-DS will vacate about 24,000 square feet of space on the eighth and ninth floors of the Richardson Building, but it's not likely to be empty for long. Dave Finnbogason, vice-president of corporate development at James Richardson & Sons Ltd., said he has a few irons in the fire, but it's too early to say when a new tenant or tenants will be finalized.

"We're working right now to backfill it," he said.

Big exposure for sale

WINNIPEG'S most visible billboard is up for grabs.

The space at the top of the outside of 201 Portage, formerly home to the Canwest Global Communications logo and the TD Bank logo before that, is being shopped by Creswin Properties.

Terry Orsulak, Creswin senior property manager, said this concept is new to Winnipeg.

"We're stepping into uncharted territory. It's a very prominent opportunity to have a billboard in a location where nobody else could. There hasn't been another location in the city that has been selling the rights at the top of a building. There has been the selling of naming rights, such as Investors Group Field, but nothing similar in an office building," he said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 23, 2012 B1

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