With many office spaces left vacant because of COVID-19, some owners are turning to alternative ways to make the most out of the space.
La Finca was once a cafe and a shared office space rented out on an hourly basis on Bleury Street, but co-owner Geneviève Loignon-Houle says with so many people working from home, she had no choice but to change course.
"No one is coming downtown anymore. We hope they are going to come back soon, but we don't plan it to be any sooner than probably next year," she said.
The office space, which was often fully booked, lost 80 per cent of its clientele, Loignon-Houle said. Now it is a market selling local spices, fresh produce, coffee, pasta, beer and natural wine.
For two weeks at the beginning of the pandemic, Loignon-Houle says she sat outside, asking people what they thought was needed. She converted the space into a local market based on what she heard from those who were passing by.
Now, she says, she's seeing people coming back to pick up local produce and grab a cup of coffee.
Lloyd Cooper, the executive vice-chair of Cushman and Wakefield, a commercial real estate firm, says about 10 per cent of clients will end up closing their offices for good.
"Working from home is working, and [they] might not need as much space as they did before and are rethinking going forward," he said.
Some clients have opted to have employees go into the office only two or three times a week, he said, while others are choosing to take on shorter leases.
The pandemic, Cooper said, has already forced business to rethink the way they work, and to get creative about how work will function in the future.
But some firms say demand for downtown real estate may increase, despite more people working from home. Some clients are looking to lease more space — not less — in order to make sure their workers can maintain physical distancing in the office.