Downtown building will have a bit of everything

It looks as though this computer store will stock everything from chips to freshly brewed coffee to restaurant eats.

“We wanted to put in a gamut of all the services people wanted or needed,” says Rob Benvie, president and CEO of the leading-edge SOTA Centre in downtown Calgary.

SOTA aims to be a state-of-the-art corporate computer supplier with a web lounge connected to the Starbucks next door and its own restaurant upstairs.

Once the restaurant is open, customers will be able to grab a quick bite while waiting for the operating system to be installed in their new machines.

Shannon Oatway, Business Edge
Rob Benvie with one of the laptops that will be assembled and sold at the SOTA Centre.

The one-stop facility will also feature a service department with one-hour turnaround, a wireless department, a PC-building department and the SOTA Trading centre.

The SOTA Centre, at 411 8th Ave. S.W., has a large open area on the main floor that looks like a trendy art gallery or a minimalist upscale living room. The site was once a trust company and later a bookstore.

Benvie says he wanted to create a gallery look, so SOTA has developed a corporate alliance with the folks behind Artspace at Crossroads Market. Works from a variety of local artists are on display, and are also available for purchase or rent.

The SOTA lobby will soon be linked to the adjacent Starbucks, creating a web lounge where customers can use their own laptops, or tap into one of SOTA’s in-house PCs, he adds.

Rollie Tremblay, vice-president of sales, says target clients include those involved in international sales, corporate accounts, resale and inside sales. Small businesses will likely be big users of SOTA.

Wireless at the SOTA Centre means networking PCs through a box that can connect 32 machines within the space of 50 kilometres.

Users won’t have to put cable into historic buildings and expanding companies won’t have to pay for changes to cabling.

SOTA will carry brand-name computers including IBM, Hewlett Packard and Compaq, but will also sell its own custom-built machines, says Benvie.

SOTA deals directly with computer parts manufacturers and will create its own house-brand computers, which will be sold under the SOTA label for 25- to- 40-per-cent less because there is no middle-man, says Benvie.

“We’re not just the leading edge but the bleeding edge of technology,” he adds. Customers will be able to develop their own custom computers through the window of the assembly room. They’ll follow their machines along like lunch at a submarine sandwich shop, selecting high-end, medium or low-end cases, motherboards, hard drives, communications cards and operating systems.

Laptop security features include an optional thumbprint reader for the start button.

The recycling department will take used systems for credit on anything at the centre, from a trade-in towards a new system to web-design services at the multimedia department. That means fewer computers dumped in landfills to contaminate the soil with a mix of metals.

Benvie is also considering handing over used computer systems to schools where the students may only need word processing capabilities.

Benvie says the centre’s key people have a variety of backgrounds in different companies.

Originally from Ottawa, Benvie has worked for Bell Canada, Microsoft and a chain of PC recycling businesses that he helped launch. Tremblay’s background is in telecommunications, with Telus and Stentor among his list of past clients.

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The scale of last Tuesday’s destruction in New York is almost beyond belief, even for me – who has never been to the city.

It came into focus during a recent visit to a local real estate office, when I looked at a large photo of Calgary. We do have a beautiful downtown in a beautiful valley. New York’s skyscrapers are larger than ours, of course, and the U.S. metropolis has a historic and striking commercial skyline.

How, then, could anyone destroy such beauty – especially when buildings such as the ill-fated World Trade Centre are the work environment for thousands of people each day?

The 20th century has seen two other ‘Crimes of the Century’ – the Lindbergh kidnapping in the early 1930s and the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995.

It’s still very early in the 21st century, but evil will have a long way to go in the next 99 years if it is to top last week’s New York atrocity.

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The value of August building permits was down just slightly from last year, but permits to build houses were way up.

City hall reports that building permits issued last month were valued at $181.8 million, down 0.2 per cent from the $182.2 million worth issued in August 2000. The city received 1,474 applications last month, up from 1,168 a year earlier.

The value of residential permits increased 14 per cent, up to $123.3 million from $107.8 million. The single-family share of that leapt by half from 2000, reaching $81.4 million last month compared to $54.3 million a year ago.

Non-residential permits dropped 21 per cent to $58.6 million from $74.4 million. Building permits issued so far in 2001 are valued at $1.37 billion, down five per cent from $1.44 billion for the same period in 2000.

The city notes that building permits measure the intentions of the construction industry and are not actual starts.

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A real estate investment trust with extensive hotel holdings will pay eight cents a unit to its investors.

The September distribution by Royal Host REIT will be payable Oct. 31 to unitholders of record as of Oct. 15.

Royal Host owns 36 hotels and the Travelodge master franchise for Canada, manages 77 properties and franchises 94 locations for about 15,000 guest rooms. Its units trade on the TSE.

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