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AuxTown
Sep 1, 2008, 8:38 PM
Ottawa Sun - August 31, 2008

Developing downtown
Congress Centre one of many construction projects that will alter cityscape

By LAURA CZEKAJ

The face of the downtown core will forever be changed when what is being hailed as the largest redevelopment project in a decade gets underway this coming month.

The $160-million demolition and reconstruction of the Congress Centre will begin after a final event at the facility on Sept. 4 in support of the Ottawa Residential Youth Treatment Centre.

The city has confirmed that a demolition permit is in the process of being issued and work can begin in mid-September.

The old building, however, won't be coming down with a bang -- there will be no wrecking ball smashing into concrete, no explosion sending the building collapsing into itself. Instead, one of the city's largest demolition projects in years will be done with a surgeon's precision.

"They are going to have to be very careful about how they untangle the bits and pieces of the present facility from its surroundings," project engineer Graham Bird said.

The centre is nestled between the Rideau Centre and the Westin Hotel and efforts must be made during demolition not to harm the adjoining structures.

The focus on sustainability in the tear down and construction of the new building will require additional efforts on the part of the construction crews to meet those standards. As the building is torn down, for instance, workers will separate materials for potential reuse.

"It's going to be a careful exercise that will take a little extra time so we are anxious to get it going as soon as possible," Bird said.

By early spring of 2009, construction is expected to get started on the building that is slated to open early in 2011.

Demolition is expected to take between four and five months.

It's a major project that will alter the cityscape and provide expanded convention space in a capital that sorely needs it, according to many in the tourism industry.

It is also among the many large-scale commercial and residential construction projects that are or will soon be making their mark on the downtown core.

Commercial development in the core has been on the upswing in recent years after going through a five-year dry spell earlier this decade.

It bodes well for the city as it tries to entice developers to build both commercial and residential properties as a way to revitalize the core.

"We are glad to see this happening because it's a sign that developers are again interested in building office space downtown," city planner Stan Wilder said.

Gatineau has also benefited from the building spree as the federal government accepts tenders on the construction of two new office towers in Hull.

Claridge Homes is waiting to find out this fall whether the federal government will keep the portrait gallery in Ottawa, which would mean the local builder's plans to build office towers on Metcalfe St. to house the gallery would proceed.

When major developments are being proposed at City Hall, planning staff consult their counterparts in the city's transit service design department to identify the transportation needs of the new project, said Pat Scrimgeour, a manager in the department.

"We discuss projects all the time with land use planners in regards to how we make a better city," he said.

Residential developments downtown may not directly add to the pressures on the transit system, but commercial buildings will draw people from the city fringes into the core for employment purposes, he said.

Residential space in the downtown has also been on the rise after being identified as a method of injecting life into the core after business hours.

In the past decade, 11,000 people have moved into residential spaces in the downtown core, exceeding the city's expectations after the Downtown Residential Intensification Initiative launched in 1994.

The initiative offered developers a range of incentives to build in the core.

The result was the construction of 6,000 new residential spaces. The people attracted to these spaces tend to be empty nesters, single professionals and young married couples, Wilder said.

"Unfortunately, we haven't seen as many families living in the downtown," he said. "There are reasons for it, largely because the bulk of the 6,000 units are condominium apartments."

The price of available property in the core rose to reflect the increased demand, causing interested developers to opt for multi-level residential projects as opposed to ground level units that didn't maximize space.

Development in downtown has also taken a turn for the green as projects, such as Minto's 180 Kent St. office tower, aim for environmental construction standards as lofty as the buildings themselves.

It's one of the first buildings in the city to target the Canada Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification, meaning that it strove to be "Ottawa's greenest multi-tenant office building ever."

LEED standards are also being sought by the Congress Centre as it begins the overhaul that will provide the city with new convention space grossing about 375,000 to 400,000 square feet, with 200,000 square feet of that considered public space.

The response from the market for the new site has been enthusiastic, said Patrick Kelly, Congress Centre president.

Bookings for when the new facility opens have been coming in for some time and several staff members will be retained during the closure to continue taking reservations.

Site plans include the restructuring of Colonel By Dr. and the inclusion of a park-like, pedestrian-friendly setting at the entrance of the new building.

Kelly said a rebranding of the facility may be in order to emphasize its enhanced size.

"It's a very significant construction project," Kelly said. "You would have to go back to the construction of the original Congress Centre and the Rideau Centre in 1983 to find a project of the same magnitude in the downtown."

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ONGOING AND UPCOMING RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL BUILDING PROJECTS

1. 500 Preston

Proposed redevelopment of an existing parking lot.

Type: Mixed-use building, combining retail, office and condominium apartments.

19 storeys; 29 units.

Developer: Carling Laser Clinic in Trust.

2. 130 Rochester (Lotus Court)

Previous building destroyed by fire.

Type: Mixed use with loft condominium apartments, retail use.

4 storeys. 22 apartments. 6 commercial units.

Developer: Phoenix Homes.

3. 34 Fleet (LeBreton Flats)

Land purchased from the National Capital Commission. Brownfield site and significant soil remediation undertaken.

Type: Two condominium apartment buildings under construction.

Phase 1 - 122 units. 14 storeys. Phase 2 - 166 units. 13 storeys.

Developer: Claridge Homes Corp.

4. 235 Kent (The Hudson Park)

Site of a former funeral chapel and parking.

Type: Two condominium apartment buildings, under construction.

Phase 1 - 123 units. 17 storeys. Phase 2 - 110 units. 19 storeys.

Developer: Charlesfort Development Corp.

5. 390 Bank

Proposed redevelopment - demolition of a commercial building.

Type: Mixed use building, including retail, office and residential units.

57 units. 7 storeys.

Developer: 176929 Canada Ltd.

6. 453 Bank(Central)

Former Metropolitan Bible Church property.

Type: Mixed use building incorporating the facade of the former church. It will include condominium apartments above ground floor retail.

228 units. 9 storeys.

Developer: Urban Capital Group and Taggart.

7. 324 Laurier W.(Mondrian)

Formerly a parking lot.

Type: Mixed use building with ground floor retail, above grade public parking and condominium apartments.

249 units. 23 storeys.

Developer: Urban Capital Group, Taggart and Tamarack.

8. 424 Metcalfe

Former Beaver Barracks property.

Type: private non-profit rental apartments and townhouses.

185 units.

Developer: Centretown Citizens Ottawa Nonprofit Housing Corp.

9. Northeast corner of Kent and Albert St.

Type: Approval being sought for a 17-storey office tower on a large parking lot.

Property Owner: Brookfield

10. 199 Slater

Currently a parking lot.

Type: A 16-storey office building is in the approval process for a parking lot next to the newly constructed Telus House building on Slater Ave.

Developer: Broccolini Construction Inc.

11. 180 Kent

Under construction.

Type: A environmentally green office building project that is nearing completion. It features 370,000 square feet of space.

Developer: Minto

12. 55 Colonel By Dr.(Ottawa Congress Centre)

Type: The complete demolition of the existing Congress Centre and the construction of a new 200,000 sq.-ft. building on the same site. The construction project will cost $160-million.

The opening date for the new centre is slated for April 2011.

13. East side of O'Connor Ave., between Slater and Laurier Ave. (Export Development Canada)

Type: A demolition permit has been sought for an existing five-storey apartment building which will be replaced with an office tower to house EDC.

Tenders are being requested for the building.

Most of these projects we are actively discussing here on the forum, but I had not heard about the EDC tower on O'Connor. Does this have a thread yet?

Has anyone seen any renderings of what the Rideau Centre parking structure will look like when completed? I really hope they do something interesting with the side facing Nicholas so that it integrates better with the old department store at Rideau and Nicholas. Once the Congress Centre is completed, they should begin work on the Rideau Centre Expansion, which I assume will occur along Rideau....hopefully including some stores with street and mall entrances (maybe H&M :tup: ).

ajldub
Sep 2, 2008, 2:03 AM
Nice little piece of Ottawa boosterism. Ottawa has really turned a corner in the last decade...

Richard Eade
Dec 9, 2008, 3:50 PM
The City has a list of 2003 to 2008 projects in the central area.
http://ottawa.ca/residents/planning/downtown/construction_en.html

How many will actually be finished in 2008?