11 March 2010 edit: website http://www.rehotelandresidences.com/
NCC plans new mixed-use tower for Sparks Street
The Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
OTTAWA - It's been a dream at the National Capital Commission since the 1980s: Breathe some life into Sparks Street with a distinctive new building where people live. Now the commission feels it finally has the right plan that will make it happen.
The NCC this week approved a two-building complex at its "Canlands A" property, which is between Sparks and Queen streets, just west of Metcalfe Street and within easy walking distance of Parliament Hill. Today the Sparks Street side of the property is two boarded-up buildings and the Queen Street side is a parking lot.
The commission, after many years of false starts, has chosen David Choo's Ashcroft Urban Developments as the developer for the property, with a design from Ottawa architect Roderick Lahey. Under the deal, the developer will have use of the land for 66 years, beginning Dec. 1 of this year, paying $166,500 each year. The two parties can renew the lease when it comes due.
Ashcroft won the project after a national request for proposals. The NCC has owned the land since the 1970s.
Ashcroft is to construct a building that is six storeys on Sparks Street and a building that is 16 storeys on the Queen Street side, where ground level is much lower. The development is to have rental units in the lower floors, perhaps a small hotel. In the upper floors there are to be condominium units. In total the plans call for 135 units. On the ground floor, stores are to front on Sparks Street. There will be some offices, underground parking and a restaurant on the Queen Street side of the complex.
The design includes a stairway between Queen and Sparks streets to improve pedestrian access and a courtyard between the buildings planted with ironwood trees. The project requires the use of clay brick and high quality materials and the restoration of the facade of the 1873 Centre Theatre building on Sparks Street. The TD Bank building next door will be torn down.
Peter McCourt, director of real estate management at the NCC, said that if people live on Sparks Street or occupy hotel rooms, businesses will operate to support them and the street will become "more interesting and lively," which is what the commission is after. Sparks Street is dominated by business and federal government offices, which has led to complaints that the street dies after five o'clock in the afternoon.
Mr. McCourt said the project will complement the other NCC residential project at 126 Sparks, where Morguard Corporation created 35 suites that are rented out.
"We're quite excited about this," said Mr. McCourt. "I'm hoping for good things here."
NCC chairman Russell Mills said: "We've needed that for a long time."
For the architect, Mr. Lahey, the project is something that has taken a long time but holds great promise. The project began in 2006 and could face two more years before construction begins, due to the City of Ottawa's slow approvals process.
Ashcroft will need a minor variance from the permitted zoning, though there should not be significant opposition since the change will not block sunlight to neighbours, which has been one of the biggest stumbling-blocks for new buildings on Sparks Street. The project represents a lot of what the city is after in urban development: a mix of business and residential uses, as well as building in an older neighbourhood that already has city services.
The project is a rare opportunity because of the uniqueness of the site.
Above the seventh floor people will have a spectacular view of the lawns and buildings of Parliament Hill. Those on much higher floors will also have views of the Ottawa River and the landmark buildings of the capital.
"It's one of the most unique sites in Canada," said Mr. Lahey. "It's going to be a shot in the arm for Sparks Street."
© The Ottawa Citizen 2008