Ottawa Area Commercial Real Estate Revs up in 2018 as LeBreton Flats and Zibi Move Forward

The 2018 commercial real estate market in Ottawa is looking very strong, especially in the multi-residential and retail sectors. Construction was robust in 2017 and this trend looks to continue for the next few years, as mega-projects, LeBreton Flats and Zibi persist in their march through the approval process and planning stages. These projects have had their share of resistance and controversy to stick-handle through, but recent announcements indicate that final approvals are in sight, which will help to invigorate downtown Ottawa as a great place to live work and play.

LeBreton Flats Gets a Boost from a Change of Hockey Heart

To say that the Ottawa Senators are having a bad year would be an understatement. The Sens went to within an overtime goal of reaching the Stanley Cup final last year, to a dismal year this season, full of disappointment, multiple trades and no real chance of making the playoffs in 2018. Even during their epic playoff run last year, the best since their appearance in 2007 finals, the team had difficulty selling tickets for home games at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Will the Sen Move Downtown, or Even Remain in Ottawa?

The frustration of Senators’ Owner, Eugene Melnyk, boiled over in an interiew with SportsNet on the eve of what was supposed to be a grand celebration of hockey in the capital, with the outdoor game against the Montreal Canadians, at the newly renovated Landsdowne Park, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the NHL:

“Here, we’re fighting every day to sell a ticket, honest to God. When you get to the third round of the playoffs and you’re begging people to buy a ticket, something’s wrong with that picture,” Melnyk said.

As for the future of the Sens and where the team will be located, Melynk not only mused, that a move downtown might not make business sense, he went further to suggest that if the team continued its poor performance as a hockey draw, he might consider his options to move the franchise to a more attractive hockey market entirely:

“We have options for us, that’s the main thing. A lot of options,” he said, adding, “I don’t bluff.” A number of North American cities, including Seattle, Houston and Quebec City, are interested in acquiring an NHL franchise – SportsNet

Sens Fans Show Their Passion: Melynk Reverses Stance

These comments prompted a huge backlash, with Sens fans across Ottawa voicing their displeasure with Melnyk’s comments, heightening the stakes, and giving the billionaire entrepreneur serious pause to consider his “options” regarding the Senators franchise and where the team will ultimately be situated. Hockey passions seemed to come alive on all sides, and after a brief cooling-off period, and a change of heart and focus, the Senators’ owner offered the city an olive branch.

At the end of January, 2018, Melnyk reversed his stance by affirming his commitment to keeping the Senators in Ottawa and moving forward with the deal that would see the team relocated downtown, as the crown jewel in the massive LeBreton Flats redevelopment project:

“Whatever was said in December, it’s unfortunate that it hit a real nerve in Ottawa,” Melnyk said. “The reality is I love the city, I love the people, I love the fans, and it’s actually my privilege to be there and to ice a team like the Ottawa Senators.”

The RendezVous LeBreton group, led by Melnyk and John Ruddy of Trinity Developments, last week reached an agreement in principle with the National Capital Commission to redevelop LeBreton Flats with a $4-billion project featuring a new arena in its first phase. – Ottawa Sun

Optimism Heightens for LeBreton and Associated Ottawa Commercial Real Estate Projects

A collective sigh of relief spread across the city, among hockey fans, and amidst other developers slated for closely associated projects, such as the next phase for Claridge Homes LeBreton East Flats Project, announced in early March, 2018:

A five-tower, 1,950-unit development would be the next phase under Claridge Homes’ blueprint for the east end of LeBreton Flats, according to plans filed at city hall… The so-called East Flats project would add 164,500 square metres of floor space along Lett and Booth streets, northeast of the Pimisi LRT station under construction on Booth Street. The proposal includes affordable housing, a food store, and other commercial space. – Ottawa Citizen

The Claridge Homes’ plan also calls for a city-maintained park, straddling the aqueduct connecting parcels of land to the south along Albert Street. The City of Ottawa also has a planning application filed for a library district near the pending Pimisi LRT station, although no developer has yet been chosen.

Ottawa’s Distillery District – Booth Street Redevelopment

Another ambitious redevelopment project in the area is coming on board, along Booth Street, just south of Highway 417, which will see a group of out-dated government research facilities transformed into four mixed-use towers that prioritize walkability, public space, and modern urban design principles:

Architects and planners presented updated designs for a formerly industrial parcel of land along Booth Street at a public consultation on Thursday night, showing off a plan that aims to bring a heritage conservation aesthetic that has succeeded in Toronto’s Distillery District and Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhoods.

The plan, which will see four mixed-use towers of between 18 and 24 storeys jutting out of the facades of the former Natural Resources Canada complex, with parks and public spaces existing throughout the nearly 6.5-acre block located south of Highway 417, between Booth and Rochester streets. – Ottawa Business Journal

Zibi Strikes a Balance Between Interests of First Nations and Urban Development

Zibi is another huge development project, in the immediate vicinity of LeBreton Flats, aiming to redevelop 37 acres of post-industrial land, which was formerly used for lumber milling operations as a key driver of industry in Ottawa during the 19th century. The site sits on unceded Algonquin territory, and is considered sacred by the Algonquin people as it has been a tribal meeting place for centuries, creating some opposition for its use in urban development:

Not all members of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation, however, oppose plans by the Windmill Development Group and Dream Unlimited to build a $1.2-billion project, known as Zibi, on Chaudière and Albert Islands.

The planned development is to include condominiums, hotels, retail space and parks, all built in consultation with the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagan First Nation in the Ottawa Valley. The islands fall within the community’s land claim — the largest in Ontario — and its leaders consider the Zibi development an appropriate way to reclaim an area lost to industrialization – Ottawa Citizen

Zibi is now under review by the City of Ottawa’s built heritage sub-committee, representing a significant step forward for this massive development project, which will contribute to the revitalization of downtown Ottawa and Gatineau, in no small measure.

2018 Looks to be Another Banner for Commercial Real Estate in Ottawa

According to Morguard’s 2018 Canadian Economic Outlook and Fundamentals Research Report Ottawa is expected to experience a boom in commercial real estate activity this year:

“Sustained progress is forecast for the Greater Ottawa Area retail sector over the near term, in keeping with the recent trend,” reads the report. “The healthy fundamental outlook will attract considerable interest in this market on the part of investors.” BuzzBuzzNews

A recent high-level industry survey Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2018, by PwC, found that “Survey respondents rank Ottawa the No. 4 market to watch in Canada for investment prospects.” Ottawa presents a viable renting alternative to the GTA for young, price-sensitive professionals with work/life balance top of mind.

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