Local News and Other Information

Local News and Other Information


That’s the multi-million-dollar question on the minds of everyone from developers and city planners to homeowners. When Stage 1 of Ottawa’s light-rail transit (LRT) line opens in 2018 and Stage 2 opens in 2023, will Ottawa magically turn into a denser, livelier city? Or will the city become a thicket of half-empty condos and neighbours angry about living in their shadow? How will the changes affect pedestrians and drivers, students and seniors, the well-heeled and the disadvantaged? And — of critical importance, if cocktail-party chatter is any guide — what will the LRT mean for property values?

The short answer to all these questions appears to be: it depends. In particular, it depends on what kind of real estate is built around the stations, how we address the needs of current and future residents, whether established neighbourhoods embrace change, and what sorts of policies we put in place at city hall.

Oh, and if the trains run on time, that will help.

The predictions are certainly enticing. In illustrations submitted by RendezVous LeBreton (RVL), which is developing the western section of LeBreton Flats near the future Pimisi Station, and Claridge Homes, in charge of the eastern half, people stroll along tree-shaded plazas flanking an aqueduct spanned by heritage bridges. Below the plaza, an LRT train glides by. In the distance, the new Senators arena glows in the sun. Soaring condo towers, glassy office blocks, and shiny shops stretch to the horizon.

An illustration by Rendezvous Lebreton shows
An illustration by Rendezvous Lebreton shows a pedestrian-friendly vision for the area between Scott Street and the Canadian War Museum.

And that’s just the area around Pimisi Station. Every week seems to bring news of other proposals, such as the cluster of huge towers for Bayview Station or RioCan’s plan to redevelop Silver City near Blair Station.

Is there really enough demand in Ottawa for all this?

John Smit, acting manager of policy planning and acting director of economic development for the City of Ottawa, is cautiously optimistic. After all, our population is forecast to grow from 912,250 in 2011 to 1.15 million in 2031. However, the city isn’t going to turn into midtown Manhattan overnight. Many proposals have timelines of 20 years or more. Historically, between 5,000 and 6,000 new housing units are sold (or “absorbed,” to use real estate lingo) in Ottawa annually. Given that fact — and Ottawa’s glut of unsold condos, which does appear to be easing — caution seems wise.

The long timeline also reflects the very human tendency to resist change. One of the reasons we haven’t seen development on this scale around transit stations in the past is that residents protested vehemently when densification began to rear its contentious head in the 1980s. The city eventually limited development, particularly in established neighbourhoods such as Westboro.

To ease residents’ fears this time around, the city has developed the Planning Primer Program — free public courses on topics such as the intricacies of the Ontario Municipal Board. Smit says the primer can help decrease resistance to new construction. “Once people start getting a little bit more comfortable … they start participating with the process as opposed to fighting the process.”

Perhaps. Although anyone who has ever attended a raucous town-hall meeting may disagree. And the process may move forward whether people are comfortable or not: many experts argue it’s too late to stop intensification, because cash-strapped cities simply can’t keep building expensive roads and sewers into virgin farmland forever. “This sort of densification is inevitable in cities,” says professor Eric Miller, director of the University of Toronto’s Transportation Research Institute. “It may be disruptive for the people living nearby, and that may be cold comfort for them, but in the bigger picture, this is the sort of thing that has to happen.”

On the other hand, those who would like to move to those established areas but can’t currently afford to do so may have some reason for optimism. For instance, the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation (a non-profit organization that manages housing for low- and moderate-income people) is a partner in the RVL proposal; that plan includes 1,100 affordable housing units on LeBreton Flats. That will put a small but welcome dent in the city’s waiting list for affordable housing, which stood at some 10,000 households in late 2016.

IBI-TO-VIZ_Blair(1)_NightView_12000px
A sketch of Blair Station in Gloucester. The station might be overshadowed by a residential tower and dwarfed by a new Costco

Suburban empty nesters may also be cautiously hopeful. Many want to free up cash by moving to a smaller property without stairs. However, if the available condos cost as much as their current digs — and they have to pay land transfer taxes and condo fees — the Freedom 55 set may just stay put, says blogger and former Transport Canada planner Eric Darwin.

So here’s another big question: How will the LRT affect Ottawa property values?

In general, values rise around rapid-transit stations, says Rachel MacCleery, senior vice-president of the Urban Land Institute, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. However, she cautions, “A lot of the property value effects will depend on how much of an improvement in service and quality, reliability, frequency … happens as a result of the light rail.” The bottom line is that transit development doesn’t just happen; maximizing the value of transit takes a concerted effort.

OC Transpo estimates that the LRT will eventually shave five to 15 minutes off the average commute. Studies have shown that the average distance people are willing to commute in major cities hovers around 30 minutes, so even a five-minute difference could make a neighbourhood more appealing to homebuyers.

The city is encouraging office development around LRT stations as a way to ensure that the trains are used throughout the day, and not just at peak commute times.
The city is encouraging office development around LRT stations as a way to ensure that the trains are used throughout the day, and not just at peak commute times.

Here’s the catch: If those efficient trains are mainly funnelling suburban workers into downtown, they’ll be packed on their way downtown and virtually empty during the day. However, if people are getting on and off the train throughout its route, the train will be less jammed at any particular point. That might make transit more appealing. If ridership rises, it is economically feasible to run trains more frequently. That’s one reason the city is encouraging office development around LRT stations across the system.

Office space in the core beyond Centretown and the Market might be a hard sell. After all, Lansdowne Park still had over 72,000 square feet of empty office space in early 2017. Smit acknowledges companies have been slow to move in but stands by the city’s decision to encourage commercial construction there, despite what potential purchasers said at the time. “We were told that when we were doing Lansdowne that office development might be difficult to have absorbed. But we felt it was important to ensure that we had that element.”

So if we build these dream communities of tomorrow, will enough people come? Maybe — if we can make them economically feasible for empty nesters, if traditional neighbourhoods embrace change, if companies lease offices outside the core, if developers build a range of housing stock, and if city rules make all that possible. And, yes, if the trains run on time.

Looks like we have our work cut out for us.

Source: Laura Byrne Paquet for Ottawa Magazine 

Ottawa condo builders easing back into market, CMHC says

Local homebuilders started the new year with a bang, driven by new condo construction, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Ottawa, February 8, 2017 – The national housing agency said developers broke ground on 561 new homes last month, a 63 per cent jump over January 2016 and a three-month high.

The increase was driven by new condos, although levels remain some 60 per cent off the peak reached in January 2014, Anne-Marie Shaker, the CMHC’s senior market analyst for Ottawa, said in a statement.

She added that condo builders may be spurred on by strong local employment, but said condo developers should still show caution.

“Builders will need to monitor the high level of apartment inventories when considering launching new projects in the future,” Ms. Shaker said.

While the city’s glut of unsold condos is easing, several experts told OBJ late last year that they are not expecting a large uptick in the market in 2017.

In addition to reporting actual housing starts, CMHC also calculates a seasonally adjusted six-month rolling annualized average to show trends in new home construction. By this measurement, housing starts in Ottawa were trending at 6,565 units in January, compared with 5,991 units in December.

Last year, housing starts in Ottawa were up 6.5 per cent to 5,298 new homes, but that was below levels recorded over the past decade.

Nationally, the pace of housing starts across Canada picked up in January compared with December, fuelled by multi-unit projects such as condominiums and apartments.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts was 207,408 units in January, up from 206,305 in December, the CMHC said.

Economists had expected the annual rate to come in at 200,000, according to Thomson Reuters.

January’s stronger-than-expected housing starts follow a year that saw a record number of Canadian home resales, noted Royal Bank senior economist Nathan Janzen.

“The recent strength in housing starts has been largely concentrated in Ontario, where resale markets have also been the hottest in recent months (and January temperatures were warmer than usual),” Janzen wrote in a report.

However, Janzen expects the pace of housing starts will slow as the year progresses.

The increase in overall home starts in January came as an increase in multiple-dwelling projects offset a decline in single-detached construction.

The rate of multiple urban starts increased by 4.2 per cent to 125,886 on a seasonally adjusted basis in January, while the rate of single-detached urban starts fell 4.6 per cent to 63,802 units.

Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17,720 units.

CMHC said the six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rate was 199,834 units in January compared with 197,881 in December.

Regionally, the annual rate of urban starts increased in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, but fell in British Columbia, the Prairies and Quebec.

The annual rate for urban centres in Ontario came in at 96,883 units, up from 77,474 in December. The pace of urban starts in B.C. fell to 26,308 compared with 39,011 in December.

– With reporting by the Canadian Press

Ottawa real estate investments hit three-year high in 2016

Despite a sudden drop-off in the second half of the year, a handful of large commercial real estate transactions that closed in early 2016 pushed total investments in Ottawa to $1.49 billion, according to brokerage firm CBRE.

Ottawa, February 22, 2017 – That’s a 24 per cent increase over 2015 and a three-year high, the real estate services firm said in a year-in-review report on Ottawa’s investment market, which CBRE said lagged behind other major Canadian cities.

It was an uncharacteristically light year for both office and industrial transactions, with relatively few properties changing hands.

By contrast, multi-residential properties “were the most sought-after asset class,” with $680 million in closed transactions, or 46 per cent of the overall volume.

Looking ahead, CBRE said there is a “strong case to be made for optimism in Canada and Ottawa/Gatineau” as both international and domestic investors view this country as one of the safest markets in which to place their capital.

Top 2016 transactions

  • Minto suburban multi-residential portfolio, sold to CAPREIT Apartments for $180.25 million;
  • Ottawa Marriott Hotel, sold to InnVest REIT for $111 million;
  • Lord Lansdowne Retirement Residence, sold to Chartwell Retirement Residences for $68.35 million;
  • 160 Chapel St. (rental apartment building), sold to Morguard North American Residential REIT for $67 million;
  • Duke of Devonshire Retirement Residence, sold to Chartwell Retirement Residences for $63.65 million

Source: Ottawa Business Journal, CBRE

 

Spring market is primed for competitive season ahead

Ottawa, March 3, 2017 – Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold 1,010 residential properties in February through the Board’s Multiple Listing Service® System, compared with 908 in February, an increase of 11.2 per cent. The five-year average for February sales is 872.

“Numbers continue to indicate a positive trend for Ottawa as a whole,” says Rick Eisert, President of the Ottawa Real Estate Board. “Even with the additional day in February last year due to the leap year, sales this year are up in both the residential and condo property classes. Keep in mind though, that all real estate is local, and that prices and conditions will vary from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.”

“A total of 2,066 homes were listed this month, up almost 25 per cent from January, while inventory on hand still remains low compared to last year,” explains Eisert. “Now is a great time to list your home in anticipation of the increase of buyer interest in the spring that will pick up as early as March.”

February’s sales included 233 in the condominium property class, and 777 in the residential property class. The condominium property class includes any property, regardless of style (i.e. detached, semi-detached, apartment, townhouse, etc.), which is registered as a condominium, as well as properties which are co-operatives, life leases and timeshares. The residential property class includes all other residential properties.

The average sale price of a residential-class property sold in February in the Ottawa area was $417,374, an increase of 8.5 per cent over February 2016. The average sale price for a condominium-class property was $258,397, an increase of four per cent over February 2016.

“This month revealed a larger average price gain in the residential property class than usual due to an increase in the number of properties sold in the $750,000 to $999,999 and over $1 million price range, similar to what occurred with condo prices last month,” explains Eisert. “For example, in the over $1 million price range alone, there was a significant increase in sales over last year; 20 units sold in 2017 versus 6 units in 2016. It is important to note that dramatic changes in the average sale price is not indicative of all property values. We encourage buyers and sellers to talk to a REALTOR® for more information about the housing market outlook where they live, or want to live.”

“In the residential market the most active price point was the $300,000 to $399,999 range for the month of February, followed by the $400,000 to $499,999 range, combined accounting for 54.6 per cent of the market. The condominium market was most active in the $150,000 to $249,999 price range, accounting for 54.9 per cent of the market,” says Eisert. “In addition to residential and condominium sales, OREB members assisted clients with renting 392 properties since the beginning of the year.”

Source: Ottawa Real Estate Board

Seniors’ homes planned for Westboro Superstore

Longtime Westboro residents will remember the development controversy behind the big Loblaws grocery store.

Ottawa, May 10, 2016 – Now, almost 16 years later, an Ottawa city councillor is piloting a new online consultation tool to hear what people think about an additional seniors’ residence planned for the site on 190 Richmond Rd.

Choice Properties REIT, which owns the Real Canadian Superstore property on Richmond and Kirkwood avenue, is proposing two connected six-storey towers for that site. The plan includes 193 rental spaces for seniors, including assisted living. It would front onto Kirkwood Avenue, with room for 109 below-ground parking spaces and 48 bike spots.

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper has enlisted Milieu, a new Ottawa-based consulting firm, to create a website and gather feedback on the development. The $5,000 pilot project is coming out of his office budget.

It’s partly for Mr. Leiper’s own sake. While the councillor is usually quick to say whether or not he approves a development plan, he has yet to make up his mind on this proposal.

“I don’t have a sense, right now, of what the mainstream thinking is about this development,” he said, adding that he has heard from residents who are both wary of the height and intrigued by the idea of a seniors’ residence in the neighbourhood.

“We know that density is coming in Westboro,” said Mr. Leiper. “We know that intensification is coming and the challenge is to keep the scale that is appropriate for the neighbourhood.”

Mr. Leiper will also send the feedback from the site to city planners working on the file.

That Loblaws site has a complicated history. In 2000, councillors voted in favour of the controversial store, which was seen by many as a giant grocer in a then-sleepy neighbourhood. At the time, there was a residential component on the plate, albeit in the form of townhouses. Some neighbours say the seniors’ homes should be kept to the original scale.Mr. Leiper said Choice Properties has submitted the application for the proposal, but the project likely will not go before the planning committee until the fall.

Kim Lee, Choice Properties’ vice president of investor relations, said the project “expands the community’s offering of living alternatives within a vibrant neighbourhood,” adding the plan could still be tweaked before it reaches the planning committee.

Last week, community members met at the Churchill Seniors Recreation Centre to hear more about the plan. A second public consultation is tentatively planned for June.

What is Milieu?

The app, available on desktop and mobile, allows residents to view a long list of on-going development projects, which are mapped by neighbourhood.

The project was co-founded by Carleton University graduates Luisa Ji and Lee-Michael Pronko and was created by a larger team in Ottawa.

Clicking on a development will take you to a page showing the address, images and status of the development and planning documents from city hall.

The idea is to open up the traditional consultation process of open houses and public hearings, which take a time commitment not all residents are able to give to municipal planning issues.

“By incorporating citizen feedback from pre-consultation we aim to facilitate rapid, participatory and effective decision-making in planning and development,” reads the website.

The app also allows people to leave comments and vote in polls to give feedback to councillors and planning staff.

Mr. Leiper enlisted Milieu to do an “extra level of online consultation” and make the development application materials in a more easy-to-read format.

The city partly relies on a development application search tool to post its planning documents. Mr. Leiper said it can be difficult for ordinary citizens to use.

“There’s not a lot of pointers for people about what the various different documents mean,” he said. “I’m trying [Milieu] out as a way to create a bigger conversation online.”

Mr. Leiper is using the tool as part of a pilot project, but the platform has already won awards from the American Planning Association, the City of Ottawa and Ontario’s big city mayors.

Source: Ottawa Business Journal

City building core strength with LeBreton: Plan will have major impact, experts say

When the National Capital Commission announced RendezVous LeBreton group as their preferred bidder in the competition to redevelop LeBreton Flats, it marked a major next step in the ambitious project that promises to transform Ottawa’s downtown core.

An artists rendering of the proposed development at LeBreton Flats

 

Ottawa, May 9, 2016 –  The bid backed by Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk beat out rival Devcore Canderel DLS Group, winning the right to enter into negotiations with the commission.

The $3.5-billion plan would include a new arena for the Ottawa Senators along with thousands of residential units, nearly three million square feet of retail and office space and several other amenities.

The redevelopment is the city’s most significant in the past half-century. Here’s a look at some of its possible ramifications.

Impact on commercial real estate

The RendezVous proposal is far more than just a hockey rink. The three-phase project calls for five distinct neighbourhoods on the 21-hectare site, including 4,400 residential units and 2.8 million square feet of retail and office space.

“If I were an investor or a landlord, I would be very bullish on LeBreton,” said Bruce Wolfgram, vice-president of tenant representation at Primecorp Commercial Realty. “It’s going to be a big deal.”

Mr. Wolfgram said he doesn’t think the LeBreton development will compete with downtown office market; they’re two separate markets. Rather, it will compete with some of the outlying suburban environments such as Kanata or the eastern part of the city, which already has high vacancy rates.

“I’m a little bit concerned looking way out in the long term about suburban office portfolios,” he said.

However, it will fall to those areas to find ways to promote themselves, he added.

“If you talk to many businesspeople in Ottawa right now, it can be a challenge to attract skilled workers to Ottawa,” he said. “Skilled workers want to come to a location in a city that’s exciting.”

The LeBreton redevelopment will also introduce some competition for the nearby billion-dollar Zibi development project on nearby Chaudiere and Albert islands.

Those communities, Mr. Wolfgram said, fit the live-work-play model in demand among younger professionals.

“The days of Ottawa rolling up the carpets at 5 p.m., I believe, are long over,” he said. “We’ve already seen that in the downtown core, and I believe we’re going to see that much more with projects such as LeBreton and Zibi.”

Darren Fleming, principal at Cresa Ottawa, said the new rink downtown can only be an “enormous plus” for the downtown core.

“Right now we have tenants making decisions about where they want to locate, and there’s some tremendous deals available in the core due to the sheer volume of space, but there’s a little bit of a lack of buzz sometimes,” he said. “This could really up the buzz factor.”

Retail downtown and in Kanata

On the retail front, two questions dominate: what impact will the new retail developments have on the downtown core? And what of the stores in Kanata near the Canadian Tire Centre, the Senators’ current home?

Mr. Fleming said he doesn’t think the spate of new retail options at LeBreton Flats will take customers from retail outlets nearby, such as those in Chinatown and on Preston Street.

“I really don’t think a new retail node in and around a rink is going to take away from what’s going on on Preston Street and in Chinatown,” he said. “I think it’s only going to add to it.”

It’s possible that some nearby businesses will want to move to LeBreton Flats, though the rents will likely be more expensive than their current locations.

In Kanata, Mr. Melnyk has said the team has a plan for the Canadian Tire Centre once the team moves downtown but hasn’t released further details.

Mr. Fleming said it’s hard to say whether retailers will want to remain in the area once the draw of the rink is no longer there. Big retail outlets there include the Tanger Outlet Mall, Home Depot and a host of car dealerships.

He said it’s difficult to say how they’ll fare without the arena as a draw.

“Are they strong enough to be draws unto themselves? Most developers would say yes, those would be anchor type uses in other developments, so they may be just fine,” he said.

Nearby Wellington West

Zachary Dayler, the executive director of the Wellington West BIA, represents businesses in Hintonburg and Wellington Village.

The challenge, he said, is to avoid “an island in the middle of the city that nobody goes to other than on game day.

“If you take a look at the current stadium, it’s great, but you go for a sporting event and you leave.

Critical to the success of LeBreton Flats is integration into the neighbourhoods around it.”

Mr. Dayler said that means consulting clearly and openly with local neighbourhoods and nearby businesses as well as exploring opportunities for local partnerships. He cited Hintonburger’s sponsorship of the Ottawa Champions baseball team as an example.

With Hintonburg already on an accelerated growth trajectory, the other difficulty will be travelling to and from the neighbourhood. The Senators say they want to have an arena built for the 2021-22 season, a project that won’t come without a few inconveniences for shoppers and commuters.

“Getting there I think is going to be a real challenge,” Mr. Dayler said. “There’s going to be a lot of construction, a lot of congestion, and that can be frustrating for people.

“Often when you look at plans, the plan simply deals with the site and not necessarily the surrounding connections,” he added. “This development can’t happen without the consideration of the people and businesses who made up these neighbourhoods.”

Preston Street businesses

With Preston Street forming the western border of LeBreton Flats, the development promises to be a boon for businesses to the south in Little Italy.

“We think it’s going to be very good for our neighbourhood,” said Lori Mellor, executive director of the Preston Street BIA. “It’s the missing link, and we’re hoping that they will bring the grocery stores that are missing and the amenities that our land is too small to enable.”

Ms. Mellor said bars and restaurants on Preston Street will have a “symbiotic relationship” with the new arena and its immediate surroundings during Senators games.

“Ultimately, don’t tell Elgin, but we’ll be the next Red Mile,” she said. “Even those who don’t have tickets to see the actual game, when they make the playoffs, (fans) can come here and be part of the excitement.”

Alex Munro, vice-president for Heart and Crown Irish Pubs, which has a Preston Street location, said the area will provide an alternative destination for consumers.

“I think Preston’s done a nice job of maintaining who and what they are, even though it’s gone through a healthy evolution over the last decade. I think that’ll only get better because of this,” he said. “They’ll be able to identify themselves as being something different than the actual LeBreton project but still within that area.”

He said Bluesfest gives the Heart and Crown a 25 to 30 per cent boost in clientele, and he anticipates a similar impact from Senators games and concerts.

Source: Ottawa Business Journal

Second-best April on record for Ottawa resales

Ottawa, May 5, 2016 – Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold 1,714 residential properties in April through the Board’s Multiple Listing Service® system, compared with 1,567 in April 2015, an increase of 9.4 per cent. The five-year average for April sales is 1,568.

“The Ottawa resale market continued its steady pace upwards in April, making it the best April for unit sales on record since 2010,” says Shane Silva, President of the Ottawa Real Estate Board. “Units sold are up 548 since March, increasing in both the residential and condominium property class.”

April’s sales included 264 in the condominium property class, and 1,450 in the residential property class. The condominium property class includes any property, regardless of style (i.e. detached, semi-detached, apartment, townhouse, etc.), which is registered as a condominium, as well as properties which are co-operatives, life leases and timeshares. The residential property class includes all other residential properties.

“In April, 3,644 homes were listed, up 13.8 per cent since March, and down by 2.8 per cent over April 2015,” says Silva. “Inventory levels at the end of the month remain healthy heading into, what is normally, the most active month of the year for Ottawa Real Estate Board Members.”

The average sale price of a residential-class property sold in April in the Ottawa area was $403,603, an increase of 0.2 per cent over April 2015. The average sale price for a condominium-class property was $261,017, a decrease of 1.8 per cent over April 2015. The Board cautions that average sale price information can be useful in establishing trends over time but should not be used as an indicator that specific properties have increased or decreased in value. The average sale price is calculated based on the total dollar volume of all properties sold.

“The hottest segments in our market for April were sales in the $300,000 to $400,000 price range, followed by the $200,000 to $300,000 price range,” says Silva. “Residential two-storey and bungalows have the highest concentration of buyers in April. In addition to residential and condominium sales, OREB Members have assisted clients with renting 937 properties since the beginning of the year.”

Source: Ottawa Real Estate Board

Houses of Hintonburg project documents a changing neighbourhood

Gentrification is slowly creeping into every Kitchissippi neighbourhood. Hintonburg is not immune to modernization and one photographer has taken to Instagram to archive the “grittiness” of the neighbourhood before it disappears.

David’s Segaert’s Houses of Hintonburg Instagram account – which can be found at instagram.com/houses.of.hintonburg – chronicles “one of Ottawa’s greatest neighbourhoods” with the help of a Samsung Galaxy S5.

As an operations manager for the Causeway Work Center’s groundskeeping company, he finds himself in Hintonburg every day.

“When it comes to the houses, there’s a lot of variety. Some are brick, some are stucco, some have interesting siding that you don’t really see anymore. There’s so many textures, colours and styles that I think that’s what keeps it interesting,” David says. “Hintonburg offers a lot.” [story continues below]

David Segaert stands next to one of his favourite houses on Armstrong Street. “The house is falling apart but it makes for by far the most interesting pictures. I’ve never actually seen anyone going in and out of there,” he says. Photo by Bradley Turcotte
David Segaert stands next to one of his favourite houses on Armstrong Street. “The house is falling apart but it makes for by far the most interesting pictures. I’ve never actually seen anyone going in and out of there,” he says. Photo by Bradley Turcotte

David says the project isn’t completely about the unique architecture found on any given Hintonburg street, but rather the neighbourhood’s character as “one of the only gritty spots left in town,” adding that houses in “rough shape” make for the most interesting snapshots.

“Hintonburg has an interesting style,” David reiterates. “There’s no real rhyme or reason to it especially now that houses are getting torn down and then getting replaced with those infill, super modern houses.

Hintonburg Community Association (HCA) board member, Linda Hoad, prefers the term “eclectic” over “gritty,” and acknowledges gentrification is happening in Hintonburg. She explains that Hintonburg’s “non-conforming” buildings are part of what makes the neighbourhood so unique. Many were built as early as the 19th century, before zoning guidelines existed.

The HCA’s primary concern with the changing architectural landscape is affordability.

“It has been in the past an affordable neighbourhood and it’s very quickly becoming unaffordable to the kinds of people who have long lived here. Even though we do infill and we replace one house with two we still get houses that are very expensive to buy,” says Linda, who has been a resident of Hintonburg for over three decades.

WEB_IMG_20151204_134955
View of Hintonburg, by David Segaert
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View of Hintonburg, by David Segaert
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View of Hintonburg, by David Segaert
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View of Hintonburg, by David Segaert

While the development of vacant lots is beneficial, the HCA works with the City and goes before the Committee of Adjustment to ensure new buildings are compatible with their surroundings in terms of mass and height. The height of infill homes continues to be a contentious issue.

“We have been fairly fortunate that we don’t have too many monster homes,” she continues. “That has happened a lot in Westboro.”

These monster homes or “McMansions” are not possible in Hintonburg, says architect Paul Kariouk of Kariouk Associates. Lots are smaller. Instead, “McBoxes” or tall infill homes are erected.

He fears if these homeowners don’t maintain their homes, Hintonburg could one day look like a slum.

As he watches Hintonburg’s evolution, David suggests gentrification is a dichotomy.

“The tear-downs that get replaced with modern infill homes scare me. I don’t dislike that style necessarily, but it certainly takes away from the character of Hintonburg. Hintonburg just wouldn’t be Hintonburg without all those ramshackle homes that are representative of the working class nature of the neighbourhood.”

Source: Kitchissippi Times

Extra day in leap year causes jump in sales for February

Ottawa, March 3, 2016 – Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold 911 residential properties in February through the Board’s Multiple Listing Service® system, compared with 850 in February 2015, an increase of 7.2 per cent. The five-year average for February sales is 908.

“Although the weather was very unpredictable this month, with many highs and lows and several winter storms, the Ottawa resale market only saw activity pick up,” says President of the Ottawa Real Estate Board, Shane Silva. “Residential and condo sales combined increased by 52.3 per cent since last month. However, we need to factor in the leap year, which added an extra day to the month of February, and 46 sales on that day alone.”

February’s sales included 199 in the condominium property class, and 712 in the residential property class. The condominium property class includes any property, regardless of style (i.e. detached, semi-detached, apartment, townhouse, etc.), which is registered as a condominium, as well as properties which are co-operatives, life leases and timeshares. The residential property class includes all other residential properties.

“In February, 2,312 homes were listed, up 26.6 per cent since January, and inventory on hand at the end of February rose by 10.7 per cent since January,” says Silva. “We’re starting to see more homes coming onto the market in preparation for the busy spring selling season. If you’re thinking of putting your home on the market, this is a great time to do so.”

The average sale price of a residential-class property sold in February in the Ottawa area was $384,632, an increase of 1.2 per cent over February 2015. The average sale price for a condominium-class property was $249,727, a decrease of 6.8 per cent over February 2015. The Board cautions that average sale price information can be useful in establishing trends over time but should not be used as an indicator that specific properties have increased or decreased in value. The average sale price is calculated based on the total dollar volume of all properties sold.

“The highest concentration of properties sold continues to be in the $300,000 to $400,000 price range, followed by the $200,000 to $300,000 range,” says Silva. “These price ranges continue to have the highest concentration of properties sold – residential and condo – while two-storey, bungalow, and one-level condos have the highest concentration of buyers. In addition to residential and condominium sales, OREB Members assisted clients with renting 414 properties since the beginning of the year.”

Source: Ottawa Real Estate Board

Almost 8,000 fill out LeBreton Flats redevelopment questionnaire

The National Capital Commission is “very pleased” with the community response to the two LeBreton Flats redevelopment plans, a spokesman said.

Ottawa, February 9, 2016 – Public consultations closed Monday at midnight and the NCC said Tuesday that it has received 7,939 online questionnaires from Canadians.

Of those responses, 82 per cent came from the National Capital Region, the NCC said in a release. There were also 11,600 interactions on social media.

“The high level of civic engagement and serious debate on the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats will help guide this historic project to a successful conclusion,” NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson said in a statement.

“A report summarizing the input provided by the public will be submitted to the evaluation committee for consideration in its assessment of the proposals,” spokesman Mario Tremblay wrote in an e-mail. “The report will be made public in April when the NCC board will vote on the recommended proponent.”

The Ottawa Senators are leading the RendezVous LeBreton bid, dubbed IllumiNATION LeBreton, while the competing bid, led by Devore Canderel DLS is called LeBreton Re-Imagined.

Both include new municipal public libraries, mixed-use buildings featuring a mix of residential and retail property, plenty of parks and public spaces and contributions from big-name local architects – Ritchard Brisbin for LeBreton Re-Imagined and Barry Hobin for IllumiNATION LeBreton.

LeBreton Re-Imagined also calls for an NHL arena, but Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk has repeatedly said he has no interest in selling the team or moving it to an arena he does not own.

Source: Ottawa Business Journal

 

Ottawa housing starts trend up in January: CMHC

Housing starts in Ottawa bucked the national trend in January, trending up slightly according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Ottawa, February 8, 2016 – Ottawa starts trended up 30, to 5,567 in January while the national rate trended down from 203,304 to 199,169.

A “bounce-back in condominium apartments” is credited with the Ottawa numbers, according to CMHC senior market analyst for Ottawa Anne-Marie Shaker.

“Historically high inventories of completed and unsold condominium units amid weak employment conditions in the CMA had led builders to reduce condominium starts over the last six months,” Ms. Shaker said in a statement. “This has led to the decline of under construction inventories to their lowest level since April 2012.”

The trend is a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of housing starts, meant to account for the possibility of wide swings in month-to-month numbers.

The SAAR for January was actually down from 5,116 to 4,740 as a decline in all low-rise dwellings more than more than made up for the increase in high-rise dwellings.

Ottawa starts trended up 30, to 5,567 in January while the national rate trended down from 203,304 to 199,169.

A “bounce-back in condominium apartments” is credited with the Ottawa numbers, according to CMHC senior market analyst for Ottawa Anne-Marie Shaker.

“Historically high inventories of completed and unsold condominium units amid weak employment conditions in the CMA had led builders to reduce condominium starts over the last six months,” Ms. Shaker said in a statement. “This has led to the decline of under construction inventories to their lowest level since April 2012.”

The trend is a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of housing starts, meant to account for the possibility of wide swings in month-to-month numbers.

The SAAR for January was actually down from 5,116 to 4,740 as a decline in all low-rise dwellings more than more than made up for the increase in high-rise dwellings.

Record-breaking December, contributes to a strong 2015

Ottawa, January 6, 2016 – Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold 703 residential properties in December through the Board’s Multiple Listing Service® System, compared with 638 in December 2014, an increase of 10.2 per cent. The five-year average for December sales is 653. The total number of residential and condo units sold through the Board’s MLS® System throughout all of 2015 was 14,658, compared with 13,919 in 2014, an increase of 5.3 per cent. Separately, residential and condo unit sales each outperformed the 2014 numbers.

“Looking back at the 2015 market, we started the year off with extreme cold temperatures in the first quarter of the year, but that didn’t stop homebuyers,” says new President of the Ottawa Real Estate Board, Shane Silva. “We saw the busy spring selling season pick up as early as March this year, and continue well throughout the summer, with a small dip in July, followed by record-breaking sale numbers in September. Three months later, December broke the record for the highest number of residential and condo properties sold at 703 units, only comparable to 2011, when 699 properties sold.”

December’s sales included 160 in the condominium property class, and 543 in the residential property class. The condominium property class includes any property, regardless of style (i.e. detached, semi-detached, apartment, stacked etc.), which is registered as a condominium, as well as properties which are co-operatives, life leases and timeshares. The residential property class includes all other residential properties.

“The listing inventory for both residential and condos trended higher all year, showing signs of tapering off in October,” says Silva. “Increased inventory levels contributed to the market favouring Buyers for much of the year; however as the inventory levelled out in the fall, we moved into more balanced conditions. Cumulative days on market increased to 109 days in December, while the average for the year comes in at 86 days. Average residential sale prices are up slightly over last year, which is great for the Ottawa market. All combined, these indicators point to a stable real estate market.”

The average sale price of a residential-class property sold in December in the Ottawa area was $386,961, an increase of 5.5 per cent over December 2014. The average sale price for a condominium-class property was $250,393, a decrease of 7.5 per cent over December 2014. The year-to-date numbers for the average residential sale price in 2015 was $391,940, an increase of 1.9 per cent over 2014. While the average condominium sale price was $259,691, a decrease of 1.5 per cent over 2014. The Board cautions that average sale price information can be useful in establishing trends over time but should not be used as an indicator that specific properties have increased or decreased in value. The average sale price is calculated based on the total dollar volume of all properties sold.

“A trend all year long, the hottest segments of our market are properties sold in the $300,000 to $400,000 price range, with 31.6 per cent of the year’s sales, followed by the $200,000 to $300,000 range, with 26.2 per cent of the year’s sales” says Silva. “In addition to residential and condominium sales, OREB Members assisted clients with renting 181 properties in December, and over 3,000 properties this year.”

Source: Ottawa Real Estate Board

 

Two of four shortlisted groups submit LeBreton Flats proposals

One of the groups includes Senators Sports and Entertainment, whose proposal includes an NHL arena.

Only two of four possible groups submitted proposals for the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats by Tuesday's deadline. Photo – NCC

Ottawa, December 15, 2015 – The Ottawa Senators’ path to a playing in a downtown arena appeared to get much easier on Tuesday.

Only two of the four groups shortlisted to redevelop LeBreton Flats submitted detailed proposals by Tuesday’s deadline, the National Capital Commission said.

The NCC said DCDLS Group (formerly called Devcore Group) and Rendez Vous LeBreton Group are the two finalists to redevelop the prime parcel of land just west of downtown.

Rendez Vous includes Senators Sports and Entertainment, the company that owns the Ottawa Senators. Its proposal would include an arena on the site.

DCDLS’s bid was originally said to include multiple cultural institutions. However, multiple reports Tuesday said it also includes an NHL-calibre arena. Both proposals would also include residential and commercial elements, as well as green spaces.

The Senators, who have played in Kanata since 1996, covet LeBreton Flats because its more central location would give them access to a larger fan base from areas east and north of the city.

The NCC also made public the project’s request for proposals on Tuesday, which includes the design criteria that proponents were required to include in their submissions.

The two proposals will be made public Jan. 26 at the start of a two-day open house at the Canadian War Museum. The two groups will present their plans and people can ask questions and submit feedback.

 The event will be live-streamed, and the NCC will be taking online feedback until Feb. 8. It aims to announce the successful proponent in June.

The other two shortlisted groups – Claridge Homes and Focus Equities – did not give reasons for not submitting proposals, NCC spokesman Mario Tremblay said.

Claridge had proposed indoor and outdoor concert facilities, and Focus had proposed the headquarters of an international organization. Both proposals would have also included green space and residential and commercial developments.

The four pre-qualified groups were selected last February, and given $75,000 each to develop their proposals.

The original Oct. 30 deadline was extended to Dec. 15.

Government tightens mortgage rules on homes over $500K

Liberal election platform expressed concern over ‘escalating home prices in high-priced markets’

Ottawa, December 11, 2015 – The federal government is boosting the minimum down payment for higher-priced homes in Canada effective in the new year.

Homebuyers are currently required to put down a minimum of five per cent to qualify for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation insurance — protection that lenders insist on when providing a mortgage worth more than 80 per cent of the home’s value.

Starting in February, CMHC will require a 10 per cent down payment on the portion of any mortgage it insures over $500,000. The five per cent rule remains the same for the portion up to $500,000.

“We recognize that, specifically in the Toronto and Vancouver markets, we have seen house prices that have been elevated,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau told reporters on Friday, “and we want to make sure we create an environment that protects the people buying homes so they have sufficient equity in their home.”

Once the new rules are implemented in 2016, someone looking to buy a $750,000 home would need to have a minimum down payment of $50,000, which is what you get when you add five per cent of $500,000 and 10 per cent of the remaining $250,000.

Banks are forbidden to provide “high-ratio” mortgages — when the amount being borrowed is more than 80 per cent of the home’s purchase price — without taking out insurance for it.

$500K downpayment graphic

Source: CBC News

 

Zibi development begins construction with official ground-breaking

Community environmentalists, local politicians and Algonquin partners were invited to the launch of the $1.5 billion project in downtown Ottawa.

Ottawa, December 10, 2015 – “The fact that we’re standing here today putting a shovel in the ground a mere two years after announcing our intent to buy the property is testament to the cities realizing the vision for their downtown waterfronts,” said Jeff Westeinde, one of the founders of Windmill.

Zibi aims to be one of the most environmentally friendly communities in North America and has been endorsed as Canada’s first “One Planet Community” for sustainability.

Thursday’s event marks the beginning of the $200-million Phase One stage of the project. It will include the construction of two new residential buildings and the renovation of two former industrial structures as well as infrastructure.

Westeinde predicts the residential units will be move-in ready in by the spring of 2017.

The development will consist of both residential and commercial space – including a local brewery.

Westeinde said that Kichesippi Brewery wants a location on the islands and Wellington Street-based Thyme and Again wants to establish a café and catering business.

He said Windmill is also talking to a second brewery, a spa and multiple restaurants.

 “Those aren’t at a stage that we can formally announce them but there’s a lot of interest in the site,” he said. “It’s going to be a cool spot.”

Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin was also on site for the ground-breaking and praised the project’s role in the revitalization of downtown Gatineau.

The project has created a division between different Algonquin bands that went to the AFN earlier this week. It has also drawn protesters to the site that want to see the sacred islands converted to parkland and given to the Algonquin people.

Only supporters attended Thursday’s event. Among them were elder Cliff Meness from Pikwàkanagàn and Andrew Decontie, president of Kitigan Zibi-based Decontie construction.

Decontie described the partnership with Windmill as “a dream come true.”

Windmill Developments officially began construction Thursday on Zibi, welcoming environmentalists and Algonquin partners to the launch of the $1.5-billion project on the banks of the Ottawa River.
Source: Ottawa Metro News

Mild weather and post-election enthusiasm spurs on homebuyers

Ottawa, December 3, 2015 – Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold 990 residential properties in November through the Board’s Multiple Listing Service® System, compared with 891 in November 2014, an increase of 11.1 per cent. The five-year average for November sales is 944.

“Mild temperatures in November, combined with increased activity post-election, were key factors in the Ottawa resale market performing exceptionally well in November,” says David Oikle, President of the Ottawa Real Estate Board. “The positive increase in condo sales may be explained by buyers moving to Ottawa to accept positions with the new government. There may have also been some pent up demand of people who chose to sit on the sidelines until after the election was over.”

November’s sales included 199 in the condominium property class, and 791 in the residential property class. The condominium property class includes any property, regardless of style (i.e. detached, semi-detached, apartment, stacked etc.), which is registered as a condominium, as well as properties which are co-operatives, life leases and timeshares. The residential property class includes all other residential properties.

“The condo market has picked back up over the past few months – a very positive change from the first half of the year, and now year-to-date condo sales have surpassed the numbers of units sold in 2014,” says Oikle. “Inventory levels are balancing out, cumulative days on market increased to 104 days, and average residential sale prices remain steady. This is very typical of a market that’s heading into the winter season.”

The average sale price of a residential-class property sold in November in the Ottawa area was $380,761, a decrease of 0.4 per cent over November 2014. The average sale price for a condominium-class property was $275,332, an increase of 9.9 per cent over November 2014. The Board cautions that average sale price information can be useful in establishing trends over time but should not be used as an indicator that specific properties have increased or decreased in value. The average sale price is calculated based on the total dollar volume of all properties sold.

“The highest concentration of properties sold remains in the $300,000 to $400,000 price range, followed very closely – behind by only 26 properties – the $200,000 to $300,000 range,” says Oikle. “In addition to residential and condominium sales, OREB members assisted clients with renting 247 properties in November, and over 2,800 since the beginning of the year.”

Source: Ottawa Real Estate Board

 

No Ontario communities outside Toronto to have land transfer tax

Toronto, December 01, 2015 – The 444 municipalities across Ontario will not be given the same power as the city of Toronto to impose a land transfer tax.

Municipal Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin says he consulted a wide range of groups following last year’s local elections and found there was no call for a municipal land transfer tax.

He says local governments are looking for new revenue tools, but adds there will be no extension of a land transfer tax to any municipality beyond Toronto.

The Progressive Conservatives celebrated in the legislature after McMeekin’s surprise announcement during question period.

Deputy PC leader Steve Clark had campaigned hard against giving cities and towns the ability to create a land transfer tax, which he warned would hit home buyers with a bill averaging an extra $10,000 on closing.

The Ontario Real Estate Association and several mayors also had warned the province that a land transfer tax would hurt home sales and the economy.

Source: The Canadian Press

 

New Glebe development along canal gets committee approval

A new development along the Rideau Canal in the Glebe was approved Tuesday, but with some complaints outstanding. 

Rendering of the proposed development, viewed from the south-east corner of Queen Elizabeth Driveway.

Rendering of the proposed development, viewed from the south-east corner of Queen Elizabeth Driveway.

Ottawa, September 22, 2015 – Glebe residents came to the city’s planning committee in force on Tuesday, weighing in on a Fourth Avenue development that would require re-zoning.

City staff recommended that committee approve the re-zoning, but a number of delegates spoke out against the new apartment buildings, which would be four stories and consist of 18 units.

Committee approved the development, but Capital ward Coun. David Chernushenko encouraged developer Barry Hobin to address complaints from delegates about shadows, noise and tree removal.

Some delegates, including Carolyn Mackenzie, head of the planning committee of the Glebe Community Association, wanted modifications made to the design instead of rejecting the plan outright.

Others made it clear they would not welcome the re-zoning.

“This ‘fitting’ in could be best accomplished by fitting it elsewhere,” said Desmond Doran, a 20-year resident of the area. “It does not fit into the neighborhood.”

“What I can see here now upsets me thoroughly,” agreed resident and architect Herbert Schiler in an emotional statement. He said he did not put in an offer on house nearby because of the new development.

Two of the homeowners who own the current houses on the property, Amber Nicholson and Brad Sigouin, explained their rationale for supporting the new build.

“Parking is always an issue and snow removal is a nightmare,” said Sigouin.

“The houses are deteriorating, and homeowners are putting less and less money into them. Along the canal, that’s what you’re going to see. We’re happy with the project and we’d like to go forward,” he said.

Nicholson said the new properties, which have an elevator built in, would be a chance for her to live in the neighborhood and have her elderly mother visit.

Architect Barry Hobin said the design was “Consistent with the official plan and well considered.”

“You may see it differently than we do, but there’s been effort to make this building fit in and add to the community,” he said.

Source: Ottawa Metro News

 

Island Park Drive 100-year development plan nearing expiry

Plan made in 1922 by NCC pre-cursor lays out how homes can be designed

Island Park Drive is mostly made up of large, single-family homes, but Kitchissippi Ward councillor Jeff Leiper said there will likely be a push from some groups for more density.

Ottawa, October 4, 2015 – Island Park Drive is mostly made up of large, single-family homes, but Kitchissippi Ward councillor Jeff Leiper said there will likely be a push from some groups for more density. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Rules covering what kinds of homes can be built alongside Ottawa’s Island Park Drive for 100 years are now a few years away from expiring, leading the area’s councillor to start looking ahead to what may happen early next decade.

The Ottawa Improvement Commission, a precursor to the National Capital Commission, signed a deal with Robert H. Cowley on Feb. 9, 1922.

Cowley would get various parcels of land beside what is now Island Park Drive until 2020 or 2021 after agreeing “that certain building restrictions shall attach to and run with the land immediately facing on both sides of the Driveway” for a dollar, roughly the equivalent of $13.84 in 2015 dollars.

The street today is mostly made up of large, single-family homes, but Kitchissippi Ward councillor Jeff Leiper said there will likely be a push from some groups for more density.

“I think there is a charm about Island Park [Drive] the way it is right now, it’s a historic street. There’s something nice about the big broad front lawns,” he said.

“Certainly I’m aware it’s a very desirable address and one of the things we’re going to have to reconcile as a city.”

Leiper said he’s setting up meetings between homeowners, the NCC and the city to talk about what the street should look like once the zoning rules start to expire in 2020.

The NCC declined an interview, but said in an email it’s committed to working with the community and will explore a number of options to maintain the area’s character.

Source: CBC News

 

Gladstone theatre will be sold, will still act as theatre for 3 years

Ottawa, October 7, 2015 – 

After a summer of uncertainty over the fate of the Gladstone Theatre, its sale is due to conclude by Oct. 31 but it will remain a cultural centre for at least another three years.

Owner Steve Martin put the small theatre, located at 910 Gladstone Ave., up for sale this summer. The Properties Group Ltd., an Ottawa-based real estate investment firm, is buying the building through partner Brian Lahey.

Local theatre company Plosive Productions has been leasing the space for the past few years and renting it out to other companies for performances. With the sale due to conclude at the end of October, Plosive has signed a three-year lease that will see the venue continue to be used as a centre for the arts into 2018.

“People are really happy to see it staying open,” says Teri Loretto, co-founder of Plosive Productions. She says it’s both a relief and a great joy to see their lease continue.

In this year’s theatre season alone, Loretto explains that at least 15 shows are currently scheduled that might not have otherwise found a home. Part of what makes Plosive’s operation of the Gladstone so important for local theatre is the co-operation and independence it offers to artists.

“We don’t have to program within a certain mandate,” says Loretto., “in general, it just gives us so much more freedom.”

One major change that comes with the new lease is that it will now cover 365 days of the year, rather than the previous September to May theatre season. Loretto says Plosive hopes to add more diverse programming, such as late night music performances or arts camps in the summer.

“We’re looking at expanding the value of the Gladstone in the community at large.”

Though the current lease only covers the next three years, Loretto is confident that Lahey plans to keep the Gladstone as a centre for the arts in Little Italy after the building passes into his hands.

As she puts it, the security from the sale will allow for “more growing pains rather than birth pains” for Ottawa’s local theatre scene.

Source: Centretown News

Westfest finds a new location in Mechanicsville

Ottawa, October 8, 2015 – Westfest is moving east. Not far east, mind you. Its new home in Laroche Park in Mechanicsville is just 3.5 kilometres from the corner of Churchill Avenue and Richmond Road, epicentre of Westfest for the past 12 years.

Westfest director Elaina Martin said the new spot is perfect for the free festival, which will take place June 10-12, 2016.

“Laroche Park has still got its old roots and it’s such a blend of people,” Martin said. “It’s kind of like Westboro was 13 years ago. Back then, when I talked to people about Westboro, they’d say, ‘Where’s that?’”

“We’re bringing the stimulation of everything we offer to an area that needs a little love and attention.”

The announcement comes a month after the Westboro BIA cut its $125,000 subsidy to the half-million-dollar festival, a move that “shocked” Martin and even caught many Westboro businesses by surprise. But Martin says she harbours no hard feelings.

“We feel like we did our job and provided great stimulus for that area. If you remember Westboro from 12 years ago, it’s a completely transformed neighbourhood. We have nothing but great memories and great respect for everyone in that neighbourhood.”

Tucked between Parkdale and Bayswater avenues near the Ottawa River, Laroche Park has a high concentration of public housing and has been identified by the city as a disadvantaged community. A planned community skating rink sponsored by the Ottawa Senators Foundation was derailed last summer when soil tests showed the area would require expensive decontamination during construction.

But Martin touts its advantages as a festival site. It’s seconds off the Ottawa River bike path and adjacent to the Bayview Transit Station, and there are thousands of parking spots three blocks away at Tunney’s Pasture.

What it doesn’t have are the shops, restaurants and beer patios that were a big draw in Westboro, but Martin says she’s heard from about 30 vendors — from Westboro and nearby Hintonburg — who want to have booths at the new site. Food will come from an “urban food truck zone,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Westboro BIA is asking for proposals for a new, as-yet-unnamed street festival next year, said president Dan Hwang, a dentist on Byron Avenue. The organization has already applied for a street closure permit for the same weekend as Westfest, though that will now likely be changed to avoid a conflict.

The $125,000 Westfest subsidy consumed 65 per cent of the BIA’s budget, and the organization wanted to fund a better mix of year-round programming, Hwang said.

The Corner Bar and Grill was one of the Westboro businesses surprised by the BIA’s decision to pull its sponsorship. General manager Michael Hall said Westfest was the busiest weekend of the year for his restaurant.

“No staff booked that weekend off. They wanted to work. It was big, it was busy, it was fun,” he said.

He’s hopeful the new festival will help to plug the hole left by Westfest’s departure.

“The festival itself is important to have, but I don’t think the name matters much,” Hall said. “But if we’re sitting here in June and there is no festival coming our way, then that’s when we’ll be, ‘This kind of sucks’.”

But Hall wondered whether Westfest had grown too big. Last year’s headliner, Sarah Harmer, was a big draw for music fans but might have had less benefit for Richmond Road retailers.

“The ambitions of Westfest as a whole, as far as the music that was going on, may have been a little grandiose. It could have focused more on having people come out and having a good time, not necessarily on having a big headlining act,” Hall said.

Source: Ottawa West News

Street mural coming to Hintonburg

Garland Street retaining wall to come alive following committee motion

 

September 30, 2015 – Hintonburg, a community long known for its artistic prowess, is set to become a little more colourful.

On Sept. 22, the city’s planning committee gave the green light to a planned mural that would adorn a concrete retaining wall that faces Garland Street, just south of Scott Street. Council voted in favour if it the following day.

Following the submission of a report by Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, the committee waived two bylaws in order to allow the mural, whose actual street address would is 3 Lowrey St. The installation is part of the city’s mural program, an initiative designed to enliven streetscapes throughout the urban area.

The mural, which will be privately funded, was requested by the property owner of 3 Lowrey in order to beautify the street, deter graffiti and promote the local arts scene.

“Roger Senecal, an area realtor, suggested painting a mural (on the wall),” said Leiper. “It has been a couple months in the works because it requires a rezoning … I hooked him up with local artists and did a quick consultation with the Hintonburg Community Association’s arts committee.”

Leiper, who called the mural concept “absolutely gorgeous,” said that with colder weather approaching, time was of the essence in requesting the rezoning. At committee, he asked his council colleagues to adopt the agenda item for the council meeting held the following day, something he wouldn’t otherwise have done.

Normal process calls for the item to go to the council meeting two weeks hence, which would have seen approval granted in mid-October. The colder the temperatures, the less likely the mural would be painted before the onset of winter.

Ottawa artist ARPi has been tapped to paint the mural, which will be a depiction of urban plant and wildlife. Residents in homes adjacent to the mural have given their consent to the project.

Source: Ottawa West News

City approves more funds for parks

Ottawa, September 24, 2015 – 

This month, Ottawa city council voted to put more of the funds collected by the city’s cash-in-lieu of parkland program into use.

The decision came despite some Centretown residents’ concern about the rules governing how that money will be used. As Somerset ward councillor Catherine McKenney explained, many fear the changes will divert money from much needed parkland expansion and used for simple maintenance.

“You put a thousand more people into a condo, you have to expand the parks nearby,” she says. “(Maintenance) needs to come out of our overall budget.”

Usually, land developers in Ottawa must set aside some land from their new developments to be used as parkland by the city.

But under the cash-in-lieu program introduced in 2011, the city may accept financial compensation instead.

The program brought in nearly $29 million from its creation to 2014, according to a city hall report. All that money is earmarked to fund work on the city’s parks – either acquiring new land, or more commonly adding new equipment and facilities to existing land. The wards which collect the money split it 60/40 with the city.

On Sept. 9, city council voted on a revision to the rules about how officials could spend that money which would have prevented them from using it for park maintenance.

 The revision failed, meaning money that was once useable only to add to parkland facilities can now be used to maintain them as well.

McKenney was one of the five councillors who voted for that revision. She says letting money go to lifecycle repairs will take it away from expansions needed to accommodate a growing Centretown population.

“Now we have an expectation that ‘well, I have an old swing, I’d like that (replacement) financed’ and there’s no guarantee that money will ever be returned,” she says. According to McKenney, the problem is that maintenance hasn’t been factored into this year’s budget.

Ottawa’s parks, buildings and grounds budget – which includes parkland maintenance expenses – has steadily increased across the past few years, growing from about $149,000 in 2013 to just over $159,000 in 2015.

The 2016 budget isn’t out yet, but McKenney says cost cutting will take money away from parks that need it, leaving the cash-in-lieu funds to fill the gap.

Until now, much of the cash-in-lieu money remained in reserve in city accounts.

McKenney says her ward’s account had about $900,000 at the last tally. She stresses that the money wasn’t sitting idle; rather, it was waiting to be used when projects like new playgrounds and sports facilities came up.

“To redo a park might take $800,000. It’s the same as if you need new hardwood floors in your home, you may have a few thousand sitting there, but if you need $10,000 it’s not just sitting idle,” she says. She explained that now the cash-in-lieu money won’t be available when new projects come.

 Source: Centretown News

Mayor leads tour of OAG expansion, Arts Court Redevelopment project

Ottawa, October 2, 2015 – Calling it “a new chapter in Ottawa’s cultural history,” Mayor Jim Watson led a tour Friday of the Ottawa Art Gallery expansion and Arts Court redevelopment construction site.

“The progress we’ve seen today is preparing the foundation of a long-standing vision for a municipal arts centre for the visual, performing, literary and media arts and for the revitalization of Ottawa’s downtown that will be celebrated for years to come,” Mr. Watson said in a statement.

With construction in the excavation stage, crews are using controlled blasts to excavate a deeper space for the parking structure. The first concrete pour is expected in December and the mayor said the project will be complete in time for the the country’s 150th birthday party in 2017.

The project will result in a larger OAG and Arts Court expanded on to city-owned land on the corner of Daly Avenue and Waller Street. A public-private investment of more than $100 million will see a 21-storey tower at 60-70 Waller St., with Le Germain Hotel occupying space up to the 14th floor and condos from Montreal-based DevMcGill taking the upper floors.

The redeveloped space will also include a 250-seat multi-purpose and film screening room, along with a new 120-seat theatre and four classrooms for the University of Ottawa.

Source: Ottawa Business Journal

 

NCC extends deadline for LeBreton Flats proposals

Ottawa, September 8, 2015 – The four groups competing for the contract to develop up to 21.6 hectares of land at LeBreton Flats will now have until Dec. 15 to submit their proposals, the National Capital Commission said Tuesday.

The original plan was to have the submissions in by November, but the NCC said the extension was granted “at the request of proponents.”

Claridge Homes, Devcore Group, Focus Equities and RendezVous Lebreton Group are all competing for the right to build on the land.

The RendezVous Lebreton Group, with which Windmill Developments is a partner, is proposing a new home for the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, as well as residential, commercial and green space.

Claridge is proposing indoor and outdoor concert venues and cultural enterprises, again with green space and residential and commercial development.

Devcore Group is planning multiple cultural institutions “developed around a grande allée,” along with green space and residential and commercial development.

Focus Equities is proposing to house the headquarters of an international institution, accompanied by cultural venues and the ubiquitous green space and residential and commercial development.

A decision is expected by mid-2016.

The NCC board meeting also heard negotiations are continuing for the transfer of a small portion of federal land to Windmill for its $1.2-billion Zibi development at Chaudière Falls, and that all land transactions needed to complete the first phase of the LRT have been completed.

Source – Ottawa Business Journal

Former CFB Rockcliffe redevelopment proposed

CLC's Rockcliffe property in Ottawa, Ontario

Ottawa, September 17, 2015 – The City of Ottawa’s planning committee is set to consider a detailed and ambitious blueprint for redeveloping the former Rockcliffe military base to accommodate thousands of new homes over the next 20 years, making it the largest residential development inside the Greenbelt in a generation. Matthew Pearson explains.

Land transformed

CFB Rockcliffe, which was a functioning military base up until 2004, is a 131-hectare site roughly bounded by the Aviation Parkway to the west, the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway to the north, the National Research Council campus to the east and Montreal Road to the south.

Most of the land is now owned by Canada Lands Company (CLC), a federal Crown corporation, but a small sliver belongs to the National Research Council.

The last remaining development site of its size in Ottawa’s inner core, the plan envisions a “contemporary mixed-use community that is walkable, cycling-supportive, transit-oriented and built at human scale.”

Expect about 5,300 new homes to accommodate nearly 10,000 residents. Another 2,600 people will work there. It will be more dense than the suburbs, but less dense than downtown, and the variety of housing types will include single-family homes, row houses and apartments.

Integral partners

This is a second attempt at devising a plan for the lands. An earlier process was halted in 2008 due to an Algonquin land claim for the site, which was eventually settled. The land was transferred in 2011 to the Canada Lands Company and the community design plan (CDP) process began again in 2012.

The Algonquins of Ontario will be an integral partner throughout the development. An area will be set aside for Algonquin commemoration at a ridge overlooking the Ottawa River and, subject to further consultation, street naming, public art and commemorative signage will be used to celebrate the association of the site and the region with the Algonquin peoples. The site’s military heritage will also be recognized through street and park naming, public art and commemorative signage.

Roadmap for redevelopment

Once adopted by the city, the plan will act as “the roadmap” for development, with some aspects entrenched in a secondary plan and zoning bylaw amendment.

Canada Lands will sell serviced blocks to multiple developers who will construct housing, mixed-use, retail and office buildings according to design requirements established by the CLC.

“Builders will have to follow architectural guidelines so that the land use and design vision is realized,” the plan says, noting Canada Lands will monitor this, as opposed to the city.

There will, however, be “some flexibility” in interpretation, provided the general intent of the policies and principles are maintained, the plan says.

Tree huggers

There are many significant trees and tree stands on the site, including a Burr Oak that is estimated to be more than 200 years old. Development will need to account for the location of these features, the plans says.

Schools, transit and other stuff

The plan calls for three elementary schools, four big parks, five small parks and one town square.

There will also be segregated cycle-tracks and new OC Transpo service. Four bus routes currently travel within a 10-minute walk of the site, but the development proposed will be sufficient to warrant the introduction of a transit route to serve new residents who move onto the site.

What Tobi thinks

Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum says he’s happy with the plan — on paper.

If it is followed, success could mean an “exciting paradigm shift” for building new communities in Ottawa, with a focus on active transportation and convenient transit options.

“It’s going to be critical that implementation respects the intent and spirit of the CDP,” he said.

Council will vote on the plan Oct. 14. Groundbreaking could be as early as next year.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

 

Developer proposes ‘landmark’ condo building for West Wellington

An artist's rendering for the new Mizrahi Developments condo proposal in West Willington
An artist’s rendering for the new Mizrahi Developments condo proposal in West Wellington

Ottawa, September 18, 2015 – A Toronto developer is proposing what it calls a “landmark” condo building for the corner of Wellington Street West and Island Park Drive, months after the city shot down the company’s first project.

Mizrahi Developments wanted to build a 12-storey building at 1445 and 1451 Wellington St. West, but council turned down the project because the proposed height exceeded what the rules allow for that location.

The developer appealed the decision to the Ontario Municipal Board, which offered two options in its May decision: Cap the building at nine storeys or demonstrate “landmark” architecture for the top of the building sufficient enough to persuade the board to allow 12 storeys.

Mizrahi Developments' first design for its West Wellington condo proposal. The company has offered a new proposal after this version was rejected.
Mizrahi Developments’ first design for its West Wellington condo proposal. The company has offered a new proposal after this version was rejected.
The latest renderings released by Mizrahi now show a building with a pronounced bronze and copper roof and pointy corner tower, a nod perhaps to the Confederation Building on Parliament Hill. Gone from earlier renderings are the glass-enclosed top floors and projecting balconies.

The company’s owner Sam Mizrahi says the building he’s now proposing is inspired by timeless architecture seen around Ottawa and will create “an iconic signature” on the prominent corner.

Mizrahi has pushed for the additional height because the site is contaminated and requires costly remediation. A nine-storey project just isn’t financially viable at the location, Mizrahi has said.

Although council refused the first proposal, the developer won over many nearby residents who were impressed with the company’s various attempts to consult the public and incorporate the feedback into the plan.

Mizrahi and Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper will co-host a public meeting on Sept. 24 to give residents an opportunity to comment on Mizrahi’s revised proposal. The meeting will be held at Kitchissippi United Church (630 Island Park Dr.) from 6-9 p.m.

Mizrahi and the city have until Nov. 7 to report back to the OMB.

Source: Ottawa Citizen