One London Place is a high-rise office building in Downtown London, and is also the tallest structure in the city. Completed in 1992, One London Place stands at 113.4 m tall, and characterizes the downtown skyline, even at a great distance.
In addition to an abundance of office space, One London Place features a complete fitness centre and gym, a restaurant, newsstand and convenience store, a car wash, and an underground parking lot for 382 vehicles. Sifton administration and property management also have an office in the building. One London Place touts some 372,000 square feet of energy-efficient office space for businesses looking to rent an impressive space for their staff and clients to enjoy. Sifton prides itself on state of the art property offerings with all the trimmings, and One London Place stands as a shining example of their commitment to excellence and ability to their ability to attract and support a rental clientele of leading industry brands.
Every 22 minutes the structure’s central air system completely replaces the air automatically. Individual temperature zones spanning 600 square feet are located throughout the building for businesses that wish to control their own internal climate. Four columns support the structure at every floor, each floor featuring 8 corner offices. The building has 24 floors with views of the city skyline.
One London Place is managed by GWL Realty Advisors, a leading Canadian real estate investment advisor, with expertise in asset management, property management, development and specialized real estate services. GWL Realty Advisors manages buildings on behalf of its clients to the highest standards and operating efficiencies with the efforts of an experienced team of property management professionals. Regularly, Londoners collect pledges to climb the stairs. One group even rappelled down its side to raise money for charity. The building boasts the fastest elevator in London. And there is no better high spot you can find for a wonderful, panoramic view of the entire city looking in every direction. Those with vertigo or a fear of heights may not wish to look down, however…
A Rally-Point for Community
The building’s size and spectacular appeal have made it an attractive site for numerous groups seeking a high-profile venue for publicity surrounding charitable causes. For about five years in a row, Londoners have pledged to a 116-metre trip to the bottom. In an event called The Easter Seals Drop Zone, the group annually sent dozens of donors, who each raised at least $1,500 to help kids with physical disabilities, over the side of One London Place for a quick, carefully controlled rappel down the building’s shimmering exterior. By all accounts, it was a fun and exciting event for everyone involved – and without a single safety incident in its history.
Drop Zone co-ordinator Stace Law is or record reporting that the event raise $490,000 over its first four years, and that the group projected earnings from the event to reach over half a million dollars in its fifth year. The efforts and commitment of participants lands close to home for many involved. “Either they are family or they know someone. They know how difficult (it is) for parents of children with a physical difficulty. It costs so much money, and often one parent has to stay home, and the other has to work,” she said. “A wheelchair can cost between $5,000 and $25,000 and they need to be replaced every five years, because those kids are growing.”
One rappeler, Colleen Wake, saw her participation as her triumphing over her lifelong fear of heights. “I heard the Drop Zone was going to be on my birthday,“ said Wake. “I’m terrified of heights, so I decided to do this to get over it.” When she asked her family to help, she was asking for their donations. “But then, my mom decided it was a good idea, too, and if she can do it, then I can do it, and I can’t chicken out.”
Wake’s mother, Mary Holmes, 89 – a consummate thrill-seeker had parasailed over the Pacific Ocean and ridden in a helicopter over Hawaiian lava fields, offered three reasons for wanting to take on the tower challenge. “First, it’s my baby daughter’s birthday, so we all joined in to help her. Secondly, one of my boys drives a bus for challenged kids and he tells us how they’re such great kids, and they need help. Thirdly, thank God, we’re all healthy and happy, and here we are.”
Wake to wavering slightly the morning she awoke before the event thinking “Oh no, really, seriously, I can’t believe I’m doing this.” Once fitted and safety tested in full-body harnesses, mom and daughter took the long elevator ride to the top of One London Place, posed for selfies and members of the press, were fastened to the ropes, and stepped up to the notoriously windy ledge. Unsurprisingly, participants usually report the first step as being the hardest part of the experience. When Wake and Holmes reached the ground, Holmes got a kiss from her daughter. “I did it, I did it, I did it. That was good. I enjoyed it,” Holmes said.
An Iconic Structure
One London Place was originally the joint-effort concept of two London-based real estate and property management groups – Sifton Properties Limited and London Life Insurance Company, both major employers in the area and highly visible brands. The Sifton website states “Through innovation in design, forms of housing and material usage”, Sifton remains at the forefront of the home construction industry. Their partnership represented a $100-million deal and related long term plan to permanently alter the city’s skyline.
One London Place has a unique post-modern architectural design that was developed by Crang & Bourke, an architectural firm based out of Toronto. As their website states “The current mandate of the firm is the advancement of research and development to facilitate high quality design to North American standards in the International offices.” The agency was selected for the ambitious project because of their demonstrated expertise in high-rise buildings and other similar undertakings for the same types of prospective corporate tenants.
This spirit of innovation remains today, and has enabled Sifton to diversify into office construction and leasing, retail construction and leasing, industrial construction and leasing, residential rental accommodation, including apartment rentals and townhome rentals, retirement living communities and property management.” As a matter of succession, the current ownership of the building was later transferred to London area financial services giant, Great-West Life. What’s more, the values and vision that inspired the inspiration for the project initially are echoed in the mission statements of Great-West Life’s entire family of financial services brand, including London Life and Freedom 55.
Partners in Trust
“Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life have long histories and deep roots in our communities. Over many decades, individuals, families, businesses and organizations have been able to count on us to deliver on the promises we make. We strive to be a socially responsible company that takes a proactive approach to ensuring we make a positive impact in everything that we do.”
Their website also states “In addition to providing a broad range of financial security products to individuals, families, businesses and organizations, we are a strong supporter of communities across the country. Our success comes by working directly with hundreds of national, regional and local community organizations, through our head office locations and our network of field offices across Canada.” The time-tested mission statements of the Great-West-Life and London Life family of brands have guided, committed to their surrounding communities, and the people who live and work there, making their role in management of One London Place – a building whose design and purpose was conceived with these very ideals in mind – a wonderfully logical and fitting relationship.
The idea from the outset in the late eighties was to create a monumental landmark representing success and the growth of commerce in the city – a shining beacon for future growth and investment in downtown London. The building also set a new standard for commercial skyscrapers in southwestern Ontario, being clearly the tallest among London’s neighbours’ Downtown cores.
According to the arrangement between the two leading partners, Sifton Properties was left responsible for the sites’ development, while co-founders London Life pledged to invest a considerable portion of the bill and also agreed to occupy at least seven floors of the space once the building was open and operational in order to sustain its ongoing overhead and to help attract other brands of scale.
One London Place is located at Wellington and Queens at the site of the former London YMCA, which caught in a disastrous fire in 1981 that saw the existing structure utterly destroyed. By 1992, construction was completed and One London Place officially took its place as London’s tallest building, where it has held bragging rights ever since.
The Building as its Own Brand
As it turns out, One London Place’s official address, “255 Queens Ave”, is rarely used. The name was designed to be as iconic as the structure itself. Inspired by other skyscrapers in Canada, such as Toronto’s First Canadian Place and Place Ville Marie in Montreal, One London Place was chosen as a name that would give the site renown – a central landmark that supersedes the need for a street address or postal code. Its easily identifiable name lends itself well to its reputation as one of, if not the London core’s most prestigious buildings, and a signpost for investment, commerce, and growth.
In fact, One London Place is not only the tallest building in London, but also the tallest in Ontario, outside of the golden horseshoe – the area of Ontario that exists beyond the Greater Toronto Area and the western shore of Lake Ontario, which also includes major urban centres like Hamilton and the Niagara region. Reaching 113.4 meters tall and half a block wide, the building’s design reflects light, increasing pedestrians’ and motorists’ ability to ‘see’ the sky from street level, supplying the greatest possible access to natural lighting on every floor of the building.
It is almost as though the building changes shape as one walks around its triangular base, looking up. The tower’s irregular lines and glass ‘cliffs’ completely change the appearance of the building’s structure based on your location. Depending on the perspective, it can look rectangular, triangular, octagonal, or hexagonal.
The structure is planted in a foundation of indigo granite, with reflective blue glass reaching up and around practically every surface of the structure. The glass surface reflects the London sky and even appears to change colour and hue as the natural light moves and weather changes throughout the day. London’s own “looking glass” as it has been called – when the sky is overcast the building’s finish is consistent with that of a gunmetal grey battleship, but on clear and sunny days, it shines an iridescent blue – light reflecting off its multiple surfaces, even shining natural lighting into smaller, adjacent buildings that would otherwise receive no direct natural lighting at all.
The Two Towers?
One London Place is impressive by itself. But the original scheme provided for the construction of not one but two towers. One can imagine the scale of double the visual effects of One London Place had the structure’s proposed little sister seen the light of day.
The original promotional brochure to attract tenants reveals the original plans for the complex, including a second 18-story tower designed for the south-east corner of the site – the design originally intended to connect to One London Place by a glass atrium with high, lofted ceilings.
Because One London Place opened in the midst of the economic recession that struck Canada in the early 90s, experts surmise that the construction of the second tower was delayed and ultimately cancelled. What was constructed was the underground infrastructure for a second tower, including a parking garage, access stairs, and foundation, was constructed at the same time as One London Place, keeping the option of building up later.
The Future of One London Place
Over the years, officials from the Sifton Properties group have indicated that they would be ready and willing to build the sister tower, but only if a sizeable anchor tenant is found. While one could argue that a second tower take away from the significance of One London Place’s grandeur and visibility, at the time of the writing of this article, it stands on its own.
Perhaps the site will one day see construction begin on the second tower that had always been an element and significant consideration of the original proposed design. If the right Canadian company seeks to build its castle in London Ontario, this could be an eventuality not too far off in our downtown’s future. In fact, over the last two decades alone, London’s tech and design agency scene has experienced incredible growth, heightening the profiles of numerous scrappy players who have proven themselves, and may one day wish to join and / or lead the ranks of the big brands inhabiting One London Place.
What is certain is that this prestigious and highly-visible structure that characterizes London Ontario’s downtown skyline will persist as a spotlight and flagstaff of our business community, attracting new ideas, new commerce, and new investment to our city, while embodying the vanity mirror that reflects in its edifice our environment, surrounding neighbourhoods, and our unique set of cultural values that helps us build one another up and make our city great.
One-London Place – a badge of our heritage and a glimpse into our future as a city.