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Alberta’s commercial real estate market has had its fair share of problems throughout 2020 and well into 2021. The pandemic has taken its toll on virtually every sector of Canadian CRE, hitting office and retail markets the hardest. 

While the bleak outlooks of 2020 have left investors concerned, Q1 reports of 2021 show signs of quick recovery in Alberta. CRE markets are already bouncing back in Calgary, and while Edmonton is still overcoming pandemic-related obstacles, the vaccine rollout is set to yield positive results. 

Office sector expects a bounce back 

The pandemic has had an immense impact on the office sector in Alberta and Canada as a whole. Business closures, lockdowns, and social distancing measures have left many office buildings all but empty. Additionally, the return to offices has been slower than expected in Calgary and Edmonton, mainly because of the convenience and effectiveness of remote work. 

In Calgary, the office sector had only six transactions amounting to $29 million during Q1. That is an 80% decrease compared to the Q1 of 2020. 

Edmonton’s office sector fared slightly better, with 11 transactions totaling $48 million. While that is a drop of 61% compared to Q4 2020, it is a 180% increase compared to Q1 2020. Still, investors stay optimistic, expecting a bounce-back by the end of 2021. 

Industrial CRE continues to surprise 

Throughout the pandemic, industrial CRE continued to be a top performer with no signs of slowing down. The need for more industrial space, like warehouses, skyrocketed due to a hike in online orders during brick-and-mortar store closures. 

The industrial sector remains favorable in 2021, as well. In the first quarter in Calgary, industrial CRE had 48 transactions, bringing $195 million to the table, and showing an increase of 49% compared to the last quarter of 2020. 

Edmonton’s industrial sector did not fall behind in Q1, recording 40 transactions with $157 million – a 15% improvement compared to Q1 2020. 

Other top performers in Alberta include multi-family and land sectors, with transactions in these sectors making up 46% of investment total in Calgary. In Edmonton, industrial, multi-family, and land sectors contributed to 47% of all CRE activity. 

Retail CRE bouncing back 

After a tough year, retail CRE in Alberta is slowly bouncing back, according to the Q1 reports in 2021. Calgary saw 28 retail transactions totaling $141 million. Compared to Q1 2020, that’s a significant increase. 

Edmonton’s retail CRE has not achieved such success. With only 16 retail transactions equaling $42 million in Q1 2021, Edmonton experienced a 63% decrease compared to Q1 2020. 

Experts estimate that the faster vaccine rollout and increasing numbers of vaccinated people throughout the province will positively impact the retail sector in Edmonton in the following months. 


While some CRE sectors are still struggling to regain their footing in Q1 of 2021, Alberta’s CRE is still on a path to recovery. Industrial, land, and multi-family sectors lead the way, while retail and offices are slowly starting to keep up. 

Investors setting their sights on Canadian CRE will be able to benefit from positive shifts in the market. 

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