Patrick Nurse and Nishit Shah
Manager, Tenant Relations and Senior Manager, Smart Buildings
At Cadillac Fairview, Patrick and Nishit have very different responsibilities. On one hand, Patrick brings over 20 years of experience with him in his role as Tenant Relations Manager at Toronto’s renowned CF Toronto Eaton Centre Complex. He serves as the liaison between the landlord of the flagship property and its office tenants. On the other hand, Nishit brings over 27 years of technology expertise to the Cadillac Fairview portfolio. As the Senior Manager of Smart Buildings, he solves commercial real estate problems that can be resolved through technology innovations. Together, the pair collaborate to establish human-centric building experiences and implement the new operational standards of the future.
Let’s kick things off with a little insight on Cadillac Fairview. How does the company describe what they do and what is their vision for their properties?
Patrick: Cadillac Fairview is one of the largest owners of commercial real estate in North America. Our mission has always been set on innovation, especially in terms of the ways we engage with our tenants. Of course, my role involves ensuring that our clients are satisfied with their experiences, and that the services we provide deliver on what we’re promising. Ultimately, our objective is to ensure that our existing tenants renew and that we have the ability to attract new tenants.
To do that, we link up with people such as Nishit on the innovation and operational side to provide us with a steady stream of new technology that we can offer our clients in order to keep our buildings at the forefront of real estate. So essentially, that’s what we’re aiming to do. And we’ve successfully innovated in many different areas, whether it’s sustainability or leasing or things like that. It’s a very exciting time for Cadillac Fairview, but we never lose sight of client engagement because that’s where it all starts.
That’s wonderful. I also know you in particular focus on the CF Toronto Eaton Centre. Tell me a little more about that property and how these collaborations impact that property.
Patrick: Of course. The Eaton Centre has been a flagship property for Cadillac Fairview since it opened in 1977. It’s considered a landmark. It is the go-to destination for any tourist visiting Toronto. Most people visiting Canada probably have three destinations in mind; one of them is the Eaton Centre and the other two are places like the CN Tower and Niagara Falls. So it’s a key jewel in the Cadillac Fairview portfolio, not just on the retail side, but also on the commercial office side. It’s in an excellent location, and comprises four office towers including 33 Dundas which will open next year, that are connected to retail locations. That will welcome our biggest client, the Bank of Montreal’s Urban Campus. The other three towers have premium clients that have occupied space there for quite some time. There’s a mixture of government institutions and travel operations.
All of these clients are pretty sophisticated in their operations, so we lean on our national teams that are spearheaded by Nishit to ensure that we are providing a seamless operation for our clients. When I think of Cadillac Fairview and innovation, it’s not just about innovation in the buildings. Sustainability is also at the forefront of that conversation because we tried to make sure that we had a very small carbon footprint from very early on in the process. I remember when Cadillac Fairview launched its Green at Work program back in 2008, there were no other landlords that offered a holistic approach to reducing their carbon footprint. And Cadillac Fairview launched this program to engage with clients and involve them in helping us meet our goal. So, for the better part of 12 or 13 years that’s what we’ve been doing. We’ve been engaging clients to help us meet our goal, while at the same time helping them as they become more knowledgeable and aware of their abilities to help our planet and reduce waste, electricity, water usage, and things like that.
Sustainability is definitely a huge piece of every modern portfolio strategy.
Patrick: I’m extremely proud of what our partnership with our clients has achieved. It’s the same thing when it comes to client engagement. Tenant experience-related initiatives have really been a game changer for us when we onboard clients and let them know how these features are going to benefit their day-to-day lives. When they come to the office, the excitement they demonstrate is possible because it’s something new. There are some great features in our CF Concierge building app that are going to ensure that they can get into the office seamlessly, and can have various offers and services delivered to them. We want our app to be the one-stop-shop when it comes to connecting with Cadillac Fairview and the surrounding neighborhood.
And Nishit, from your perspective, why is the tenant experience aspect of the Cadillac Fairview portfolio so critical?
Nishit: I think it all starts from Cadillac Fairview’s vision and wherever you would like to go moving forward. Cadillac Fairview has $36 billion dollars in assets, including more than 35 million square feet of office and retail space. One of our visions is “Transforming Communities for a Vibrant Tomorrow.” And so part of this includes key initiatives and goals clearly outlined by our leadership team. It’s part of our corporate strategy which includes “Differentiation”. Our ambition is to differentiate our assets in the marketplace as Patrick has already highlighted. The client experience remains top of mind for this because everything starts with the clients.
To give you the numbers, we have around 36 office buildings in Canada. Out of the 36 office buildings, every day we have 70,000 occupants going in and out of those spaces. So that’s huge. If you can make small improvements by delivering frictionless services, that creates a significant impact. On top of that, we also have around 600 office clients. They are using thousands of square feet of the space, meaning it’s also important to deliver value to them. That’s why I’m so focused on ensuring that we deliver the right value to our clients, and then extending our services in this digital era to a mobile-ready workforce. Everybody is carrying one or more digital devices on their own, so how can we increase the reach to all of those 70,000 end-users and empower people like Patrick who are very passionate about delivering enhanced client services? If I can extend our impact with digital engagement tools, and in turn allow Patrick and his team to increase their reach with clients and their employees at the touch of a button, that’s fantastic. To me, the client experience matters the most! It’s in line with our strategy and vision, and it’s about helping people to reimagine the workplace experience, simplify their day, and increase their productivity. It’s about powering the future of work.
You’ve both mentioned the mixed-use nature of your properties. Do you expand beyond the office and connect with local retailers as well?
Nishit: That’s a great question. Out of the 35 million square feet, 20 million is retail and 15 million is office space. Cadillac Fairview is one of the largest retail operators in Canada. In a simple example for Patrick, he’s serving his office client where we have three office towers with a retail property connected in between them. So there are 8 to 10,000 occupants in those three towers, and we have more than a million square feet of premium retail outlets there. It’s important for us to connect those people with our retail services. One of the things we partner with HqO on is figuring out how we connect our retail offerings within the app itself.
One of the main features that we’ve already launched is called Offers & Services, where we are now able to provide a platform for retailers to promote their products and services to the local community through the app. We provide this platform to our high-end restaurants and food court to bring them more traffic and make sure that people can find what they’re looking for with one click of a button. In addition, we launched our own other product called CF Eats, which is a restaurant directory that exists across the CF mall to provide enhanced dining experience. We can now bridge the gap of physical and digital by combining that retail directory with the Concierge app so users can access nearby available restaurants based on their locations. They can even order using their preferred way of doing it through whatever platform they like, whether it’s Ritual, UberEats, or another integration.
So far, we’ve covered how technology benefits your tenants. How has technology benefited your jobs and specific roles?
Patrick: One of the challenges that we initially faced was connecting with all of our clients. Nishit just highlighted how many actual employees come to work at the Eaton Centre, and that’s really not even including the retail employees. With 8 to 10,000 office employees alone, it was easy to bombard our main contact with a lot of information because it’s a huge complex in the heart of downtown Toronto. There’s always so much going on, and we have lots to communicate. One of the things we wanted to solve was reaching individuals and building relationships with not just tenant companies, but the people who work here every day. So, using a mobile app really helped us to do that and gave us the ability to develop a more personal relationship with people.
And it’s not just one way, right?
The great thing is it strengthens our outreach and creates a much more seamless experience for everyone. Whether it’s requesting a service or giving us feedback on an event, we can make sure people feel truly heard. You know, I talk to tenants on a regular basis, and I enjoy sharing our innovations with them. They get really excited about opportunities that actually solve problems for them. Even when you think about mobile access that is available through the app, that’s a huge deal. One of our tenants told me that over the course of the pandemic, most of their employees lost their physical key cards. However, they noted that everyone still has their phones. Things like this are the perfect chance for us to provide a solution and create a better, digital experience. This is an evolution for Cadillac Fairview. We’ve always been interested in technology and how it can benefit the day-to-day lives of our clients. These innovations really catapult us into the forefront of our tenants’ minds in terms of what we’re offering them.
Do you have a favorite program or event that you’ve put on through the app?
Patrick: I really do love the mobile access platform, it’s just so seamless. It’s something that I don’t even need to think about anymore. When new technologies get introduced, you sort of raise your eyebrows a little bit and wonder whether or not it’s going to solve the problems you want it to solve. But, the mobile access platform is probably the feature that I use most often. And I also really love the opportunity to touch all of our tenants in a meaningful way. With our Community option, there are a lot of great features for communication and content that our occupants can actually see. At Eaton Centre, we really do offer something unique in the marketplace. I can’t think of too many commercial office buildings that are connected to a top five retail shopping destination in North America. Though those two are my favorite, all of the other features contained within the app are also welcomed and successful.
Nishit: For me, it’s programming. Three or four weeks ago, Patrick actually hosted a virtual yoga session. Me and my family, as occupants of the space, joined the class. I was really able to enjoy that event in my home together with my family. That was just one of the memories technology has created and its ability to deliver services whether you are away from the office or within the office is really enjoyable. This is something that Patrick would not have the capacity to do in the past, but now he can do it easily through the Concierge platform. My son always used to brag to me about staying fit, and now, I can brag to him about becoming fit and it’s amazing.
Nishit, I love that you attended one of your own virtual wellness events!
Patrick: We actually engaged a local partner to host some of these workshops. This is actually the first time I’m hearing that Nishit participated in one! That’s why this is all so great, because we are in a unique situation where we are really spearheading these great innovative products out of our corporate offices. We’ve had more attendance for these workshops than we really expected to have given that many people are still working remotely. Cadillac Fairview is really engaged in health and wellness offerings, so we can make the work environment more than a work environment. We’ve been delighted with the reactions and turn out. I think it just reinforces that we’re on the right path and offering the opportunities that our tenants really want.
Nishit: Another thing I would add is that now we have a foundation in place where we can be more intuitive and provide a seamless experience for the mobile-first world. We currently have lots of users coming up with creative ideas for our properties because they’ve had such great experiences. For example, some clients want to find ways to use mobile access technologies beyond our base-building spaces. As a result, in our office buildings, we are working on extending our programming to other areas so that people can use it all the way from bicycle lockers to their workplaces. There have been a lot more asks lately, and it’s a great thing. We now have an opportunity to establish two-way dialogue using digital connectivity. The app actually triggers emotions and shows us where the future lies. This is just the beginning of what innovation can do. We believe this will enable our clients to attract and retain the best talent for their properties.
You mention the future. What do you think the future of the workplace will look like?
Nishit: My background is in leading smart city and smart building transformations, and I truly believe in creating “live, work, and play” hubs. Most of our office towers are located downtown with access to best-in-class retailers nearby. So for us, it’s a great way to help users get into the building, stay productive at work, get the conveniences they really need throughout the day, and empower them to use our digital amenities to do what they need to do after hours or while working remotely. It’s about connecting our physical assets and services with digital amenities like the Concierge App. To me, the app is really redefining “live, work, and play” for our clients and their employees. It really helps us to position our assets differently. Now, at Cadillac Fairview buildings, you have this wonderful way of working, connecting with the physical environment, and receiving enhanced services .
Patrick: I’d also just add that the flexibility of this app lends itself well for cross multi-functional organizations and different locations. If you imagine, I might commute to other Cadillac Fairview properties across the country and I could have access to those buildings through this app. So if I’m traveling from Toronto to a Vancouver office, I could still simply use my phone to access all of the building’s services and amenities without having to do much at all. I agree with Nishit. We’re really only at the beginning of this evolution. And I think that his point about conversations with our tenants and end users means that we’re going to also get opportunities to learn more about what they actually want to see. Things we haven’t even thought of at this point in time.
Nishit: Agreed. We truly believe that the Concierge platform is going to support our clients for the return to office and beyond. We’ve rolled out features like Capacity Manager and Visitor Management. We believe that this is an important element for them to bring people back to buildings while resting assured that their health, safety, and wellbeing is taken care of.
To wrap things up, what advice would you give to someone who is new to this industry?
Nishit: My suggestion is this: dream big, start small, go deep. and learn fast. Just do the proof-of-concept, you will learn so much!
Patrick: And this is an industry with a lot of opportunities. It’s beginning to lead in terms of technology, and that shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s extremely stimulating, and it’s great for the advancement of our visions and our clients’ visions.
Conversations was a monthly blog series that featured the managers and partners who use HqO at the property level — the things they saw, the challenges they had, and how they thought technology impacted them. You can still catch these stories by subscribing to its podcast counterpart: Conversations with HqO. For more information about Cadillac Fairview, click here. For more information about how HqO can elevate your tenant engagement strategies, schedule a free demo today.