When KPMG selected its new location, proximity to clients factored prominently, and the movement of its clients led the growing professional services firm to set up shop in Vaughan.
The office positions KPMG as the only professional services firm among the big four with more than a satellite site in York Region. The move also makes KPMG the first tenant to take up occupancy in Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.
“We knew this was a high-growth area, and we wanted to be here,” said Sebastian Distefano, regional managing partner, GTA, KPMG. “And we took a leading role: We’re the first in this area.”
With Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, the municipality is shedding its bedroom community status in building a new downtown from the ground up. The plan for a complete community provides for more than 1.5 million square feet of office space, 750,000 square feet of retail space and 12,000 residential units. Located at the crossroads of Highway 7 and Jane Street, the transit hub will connect to Toronto with a namesake stop on an extension of the Yonge-University subway line.
The KPMG tower will have access to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre subway station via underground path when it opens later this year. This quick link to its downtown office in the Bay Adelaide Centre, along with proximity to several of the 400-series highways, was a selling point in the site selection process, Distefano acknowledged.
“Two offices allow us the flexibility, so our people can work from both,” he said. “Not every client that we serve out of this office is in this area, some are downtown.”
Nonetheless, KPMG considered where the clients of its practice groups called home in establishing who would be relocating. The people who service banking and insurance clients remained in the core, while the people who service private companies, technology, media and telecommunications and consumer industrial markets moved north last fall.
The roughly 500 employees in the Vaughan office occupy operations floors nine through 13 of the KPMG tower with room to grow. They also have the use of the fourteenth floor, which is dedicated to meeting rooms save for the reception area.
Demand for meeting rooms outstripped supply in other KPMG locations, recalled Distefano. The fourteenth floor delivered a mix of spaces for employees to select from based on data captured by its booking systems elsewhere.
The largest meeting rooms are separated by Skyfold walls, which can be retracted to accommodate up to a couple hundred people. Rather than running along the windows, as is typical, the meeting rooms run in parallel. The result, explained Distefano, is that the glass-walled meeting rooms retain the benefit of natural light but also provide a quiet corridor in which to have a private conversation, as opposed to the more public reception area.
Technology is a staple of the meeting rooms, from Crestron’s Skype for Business solution to plug-in devices that sync laptops to screens. Multiple screens allow for multiple feeds, with some rooms containing grids of up to nine screens, enabling simultaneous streams of people and presentations. This sort of connectivity is expected to contribute to sustainability efforts by allowing colleagues to collaborate virtually, said Distefano.
Less physical travel will mean less environmental impact as well as more time for in-person meetings with clients, he noted. Also eco-friendly is the internal staircase — set against KPMG’s signature blue — that transcends the operations floors, offering an alternative to the elevator. Other sustainability efforts include locating in a LEED Gold-targeted building as well as energy- and paper-saving measures, such as motion-sensor lighting and dual monitor-equipped workstations.
Just off the internal staircase on each operations floor are cafes with restaurant-style booths ideal for collaborating in small groups. Across from the glass-clad side of the internal staircase, each operations floor features wall adornments that nod to the surrounding community, such as the silhouette of rollercoasters, which call to mind the close by amusement park, Canada’s Wonderland. And, in place of what might otherwise have been another elevator bank, each of the operations floors features a nook with an activity such as mini putt or ping pong.
Being brand new puts KPMG’s Vaughan office at the forefront of the professional services firm’s portfolio as it updates its spaces. The downtown location, for example, retains exterior offices and larger, assigned workstations. The Vaughan office, by comparison, reflects current workplace trends of interior offices and meeting rooms and unassigned, or hoteling, workstations.
Most people have moved to hoteling, said Distefano, although partners have assigned offices. The move facilitated a more efficient use of space, he added, aligning the new location with KMPG’s global benchmark for square feet per full-time equivalent employee. In assigned offices and at hoteling workstations, Bluetooth-connected laptops and headsets have largely supplanted phones, and keyboards run on solar power.
A year-and-a-half ahead of the move, a steering committee began the change management process, involving employees in choices of coffee provider and task chairs, among others. Many of the design decisions, such as selecting grey rather than white carpeting, were made with longevity and future agility in mind.
“Designs are changing so quickly,” explained Distefano, “The more flexible you are, I think it just gives you a longer runway in terms of the use of the space.”
On the thirteenth floor, a large café outfitted with high-end appliances gives employees to a place to congregate over coffee or lunch, or, as has already happened, to watch playoff Blue Jays games. Its sweeping views of Vaughan show the progress of development in the new downtown.
And there has been a good deal of progress since KPMG committed to anchoring the tower in which it now resides. Miller Thomson, one of Canada’s largest full-service law firms, will be joining the professional services firm in the KPMG tower, with 30 of its lawyers expected to take up occupancy of a full floor soon, as SmartREIT recently announced.
SmartREIT also expects to launch sales for two 35-storey towers comprising 700 residential units this spring or summer. And The Gupta Group recently unveiled plans for 20,000 square feet of at-grade retail space and 1,140 residential units in 51- and 53-storey towers, the latter of which will become Vaughan’s tallest tower.
“With house prices and where they’re going, this area, with its connectivity to the subway, will be fast-growing,” said Distefano. “We’re really optimistic about being here and what we can do being so close to our clients.”
Michelle Ervin is the editor of Canadian Facility Management & Design.