Class A office space

Jennifer Barrett •

If you’ve been paying attention to St. John’s politics recently, especially the Fortis and Woolworth’s property debates, you’ve probably heard the term “Class A office space” thrown around a lot, and how there is a shortage of it here in the city.

You also may have wondered,“is my office ‘Class A’?”

The bad news: Probably not. The good news: There’s nothing official stopping you from saying it is.

“Class A” is a term created and used in real estate circles to designate a category of prestigious office space. The definition from the Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA—a real estate industry group) defines Class A buildings as the “most prestigious buildings competing for premier office users with rents above average for the area.” These buildings have “high quality standard finishes, state of the art systems, exceptional accessibility and a definite market presence.” So, basically, it means new, classy, and with lots of cool doodads.

“I don’t know if you know, but the vacancy rate for class A office space is something like 0.2 per cent,” said mayor Dennis O’Keefe in a meeting earlier this year. Where did he get that number? I’m not sure, and for him to give such a specific amount is misleading. How can you quantify something as subjective as prestige?

BOMA themselves admit it’s difficult, and they recommend against calling a specific building Class A or B…

Say if I were to build a nice, new building next to what people called a “Class A” office building here in St. John’s, it would probably seem more “Class B”, because in comparison, it would be less prestigious.

The term is also self-applied. I could put a cardboard box in my back yard and no one could stop me from marketing it as “Class A office space.” They may also think I’m crazy, but whatever.

Of course, I don’t mind an industry using their own terms, but I wish our elected officials would stop slipping us invented statistics.


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1 April 2011

  1. well... · April 1, 2011

    The whole terminology is kind of BS, but when you go inside of self defined “Class A” buildings it’s more obvious. I find they are buildings with proper air conditioning systems, functioning elevators, disabled access, modern design and a workable layout. Considering most of the office space downtown is on rickity old town houses with no ventilation, proper electrical systems, or ANY disabled access – the definition becomes more clear. The fact that so many Law firms and businesses work out of crap locations like that in St. John’s is actually embarassing. Then of course they burn down.

  2. Andrew Harvey · April 1, 2011

    The needs of tenants for office space, such as being accessible, functioning air conditioning, and design features, may be real, but “Class A” is not.

    I agree that there is some usefulness in industries having criteria for needs, but they are probably more useful as general guidelines. Trying to quantify something subjective and presenting it as a statistic is inappropriate and irresponsible. Saying we need more office space with nice amenities is probably true, and fair. Saying that we have a 0.2% vacancy rate for a category of need that is industry-defined and driven is misleading (I feel).

    More than anything what I would like to see is more transparency and honesty in our discussions around development. If developers see a need for nice office space, then they should build nice office buildings. They can even make up categories such as “Class A”, and use them when trying to sell or lease their properties. What I don’t want is something which is impossible to quantify, to be turned into a stat which is then used as rhetoric by our elected officials.

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