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BMO Moving Some Staff to Eaton Centre

Bank and Developer Cadillac Fairview Confirm CoStar Exclusive that Pair Will Redevelop Sears Head Office
March 1, 2018
Bank of Montreal is opening what it calls an
"urban campus" at the Toronto Eaton Centre, leasing 350,000 square feet of space that will feature a four-storey atrium.

As first reported by CoStar News, the bank is taking over four floors of space that was formerly the head office of Sears Canada at 290 Yonge St. The space was vacated after Sears went into restructuring in 2017.

"This is really the last piece," John Sullivan, president and chief executive of Cadillac Fairview, said in an interview about a cumulative $1.4 billion redevelopment of the shopping centre. Cadillac Fairview, a subsidiary of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board, said it is North America's busiest mall based on foot traffic.

"We bought the (Hudson's) Bay building, put Saks Fifth Avenue in there, we put the new bridge in (connecting it) to the Eaton Centre, we've redone the mall and remerchandised it and put Nordstrom on one end," said Sullivan. "This was the last piece, the culmination of a six- or seven-year journey to create an asset unparalleled in North America."

The chief executive said the massive floor plates, about 100,000 square feet, made the redeployment of the office space, which once housed retailer offerings from Sears and the old Eaton's chain, a unique opportunity, but also a significant challenge.

"Large floor plates used to be a liability but they are turning into an asset, and we learned that in Pacific Centre in Vancouver," he said, referring to the development in British Columbia that converted four floors of retail space into office that now houses key tenants like Microsoft Canada. "The reason they are an asset is because of the way people are working. Before, everybody wanted a closed office. If you have 100,000 square feet of space, what do you with 80,000 that is interior? Now it's much more of an open plan."

Bank of Montreal officials would not comment on where within the Greater Toronto Area the 3,500 employees will come from for the "BMO Campus", which is set to open in 2021.

"This investment is central to the transformation agenda that is going on at the Bank of Montreal," Darryl White, chief executive of Bank of Montreal, told a throng of employees brought in for a press conference at the shopping mall. "This is a new progressive workspace right here in the heart of Canada's most iconic commercial."

Without elaborating, the bank CEO said the new space is central to the "business transformation" of the bank and this "accelerates change" to help it serve customers.

Toronto Mayor John Tory attended the event and said he was gratified to see the bank build out a new campus downtown.

"If BMO wants to invest in the kind of innovative centre they are going to have, they could have had it in downtown Toronto; they could have had it somewhere else in Toronto. They could have had it outside the city or outside the province of Ontario," he said.

Tory said the problem isn’t getting people to live in downtown Toronto - people are gravitating to the core. But getting people to work close to where they live is just as important.

"The more jobs that we can have close to where they are living…hopefully they can walk or cycle to work or take transit, the better for the city," said Tory.

Garry Marr, Toronto Market Reporter  CoStar Group   
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