City unveils latest plan for derelict Bayview Yards
Officials aim to complete $30M Innovation Centre by 2016
By Joanne Chianello, OTTAWA CITIZEN March 5, 2014 8:05 PM
OTTAWA — The windows are smashed and boarded up, pigeons and squirrels have made it their home for years, but the derelict buildings at Bayview Yards finally appear to be destined for a new life as an Innovation Centre if council approves a $30-million plan to transform the site.
The proposal is impressive: redevelop close to 46,000 square feet of old, empty factory space into a complex that will house budding entrepreneurs, new companies that need help getting to the next level of business, and more established firms. The city’s arm’s length economic-development agency, Invest Ottawa, also plans to move to the new complex.
And a number of amenities — a café, green rooftop and “techno-lounge” -- will be open to the public.
Mayor Jim Watson joined the city’s economic development branch in giving the first official tour of the dilapidated old buildings on Wednesday morning. Even though the structures are in rough shape, the potential for the buildings to be a showcase for the city is obvious, from the floor-to-ceiling pane-glass windows to the garage doors that provide outside access to the exposed brick. The views of the Ottawa River from the top floors (and future rooftop patio) don’t hurt, either.
Experts have argued the 1940s-era industrial buildings have heritage value — and the city agrees, promising not only to keep the look and feel of the old city site but to designate it a heritage site later this year. A study is being conducted to see how many of the windows and garage doors can be upgraded to meet today’s environmental standards. If some can’t be salvaged, the city says it will replace them with historically appropriate replicas.
The first phase of the plan is so far scheduled to cost $30 million. The province committed half the money last year; the city will provide the remainder, including the property, which is assessed at $8 million.
Although governments are putting up the capital for the project, operational costs are to be self-sustained by the tenants’ rents, even though some startups will qualify for subsidized rents and others will pay market rates.
“One thing we want to make sure of is, once this is up and running, it doesn’t become a finance burden on the community, on the different levels of government,” said Saad Bashir, the city’s director of economic development.
The Ontario government must approve the business plan this spring, although city manager Kent Kirkpatrick said provincial officials he met with last month “were very impressed with the progress that’s been made to date.” Once the province gives its stamp of approval, the proposal is headed to council’s finance and economic development committee, likely in early May.
Plans then needs to be approved by full council before a request for proposals for the project is held. Still, Bashir believes construction can start this summer. The completion target is 2016.
The entire project is being run by a non-profit entity with a board of directors that consists of five members, including the mayor and Nordion chief executive Steve West, who’s the chair. Interviews are ongoing for another six board members.
While an outside organization can be more nimble than a government bureaucracy, it isn’t necessarily as transparent. For example, the company that did the conceptual designs for the project was sole-sourced.
PrototypeD worked with the city last year to figure out whether it was feasible to use the Bayview Yards buildings as an Innovation Centre.
Because of “very tight timelines” and the fact that the PrototypeD team “was very impressive,” the board of directors felt “comfortable” assigning the company the job, said Bashir.
- $30 million
- $15 million from province
- $15 million from city, which includes the value of the land and buildings, appraised at $8 million
Target occupancy: 2016
- Present business plan to council’s Finance and Economic Development Committee on May 6th
- Shortly thereafter, designate the Bayview Yards buildings as heritage
- After full council approval, tender the contract and begin renovation
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