National Real Estate Leader, PwC Canada
Mayor, City of Vaughan
Transit-oriented nodes like the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre are fast becoming attractive places for businesses to set up shop. Here’s why.
The suburban office is a trend that’s gaining traction across North America. As more residents migrate to the suburbs, more and more small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are flocking to communities like Vaughan, an attractive adjunct or alternative to a traditional downtown office.
A couple of key drivers are behind this trend, as identified in PwC’s Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2021 report. One is transit-oriented development. “This is about creating great real estate around transit hubs, for people to live, work, and play,” says Frank Magliocco, National Real Estate Leader at PwC Canada.
The other recent driver is COVID-19. “Many of the executives we spoke to told us that people currently feel more comfortable working from home or from a suburban office than getting on a congested transit system and charging down into a very dense area,” says Magliocco.
Easy access to highways and public transit
The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC) is an example of a transit-oriented suburban node. Offering a blend of subway and bus rapid transit — plus easy highway access to the 400, 407, and Highway 7 — the VMC is poised to become the financial, innovation, and cultural centre of Vaughan.
“Vaughan is a city of choice and a place where people feel confident investing,” says Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua. “Even in a global pandemic, the VMC — our emerging downtown core — continues to rise to new and unprecedented heights. It remains the largest and most ambitious city-building project in the city’s history. The VMC’s expansive growth contributes to Vaughan’s ongoing success and is forging our path to a strong and resilient recovery.”
The VMC’s convenient transit access and strategic location were critical factors in PwC’s decision to open an office there in November 2019, just prior to the pandemic. “A good portion of our workforce resides outside of the Greater Toronto Area and found the commute to the downtown office a challenge, plus a lot of our clients are in this area and we wanted to be closer to them,” says Magliocco.
The perks of an 18-hour city cycle
Whether opting to move entirely to a suburban office or to be part of a “hub and spoke” system (with both a main corporate downtown office and a suburban satellite office), U.S. businesses are embracing suburbanization at an accelerated pace.
“It’s not the cities like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago with strong, vibrant populations going 24/7, but what we call the 18-hour smaller, suburban areas like Austin, Texas, or Raleigh, that are attracting people, resulting in more jobs and more offices in these centres,” says Magliocco.
While the trend hasn’t taken off in Canada yet, Magliocco expects that we’ll see more transit-oriented suburban centres in the future. “Judging by the record growth in low-rise housing just in the latter parts of 2020 and early 2021, I think we’ll see more people looking to take up spots in these urban centres like Vaughan,” he says. “These are communities with an urban feel, not just with jobs, but everything else people in the community need, like great restaurants, outdoor recreation, arts, culture, and entertainment.”
What factors should go into a business decision to open a suburban office? “You want it to be cost-competitive, so at the end of the day you’ve got to be near clients, near talent, and near good transit,” says Magliocco.