FedEx Ground’s $10 million expansion combines development and environmental achievements

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By Heather-Seftel Kirk

Ottawa Construction News staff writer

A new $10 million (including soft costs and land) 47,561 sq. ft. FedEx Ground distribution centre on Moodie Dr., Nepean, proves to be a win-win for land development and environmental interests.

The project, constructed by Warlyn Construction, replaces an existing nearby facility and is part of a network expansion to increase FedEx Ground’s volume capacity, speed and service capabilities.

Primo Developments Inc. owns the previously undeveloped land between an existing commercial site and a designated wetland. Primo’s President Chris Milosek said the site was ideal for FedEx Ground because of its proximity to major highways and arterial roads, and its outdoor storage capabilities, adding that, as part of an industrial area, this location will keep additional traffic out of residential neighbourhoods.

“We’ve owned the property since the 80’s and have had FedEx Ground as a tenant for twenty years,” said Milosek. “Our plan was always to develop the land intelligently and when FedEx Ground expressed their desire to expand, this seemed a good fit.”

The site’s proximity to the wetland proved to be the biggest challenge. Warlyn’s vice president, Mike Ellwood said: “We knew the wetland would be something we’d have to work around so we began our site plan processes, working with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) in June and actually received their approvals before we got final approval from the City of Ottawa.”

Ellwood said the RVCA consultations identified concerns and solutions ahead so by the time the city came to review the application, several iterations had already been created, reports reviewed and criteria met. “The RVCA was great to work with. Everything was done on time and as promised, which allowed us to get an earlier start than might have been possible otherwise so we were able to get ahead of the winter weather.”

RVCA required a buffer zone between the development and the wetland, reforestation, creation of a wildlife beach area and specialized fencing to reduce noise and light pollution. These features added some costs but were worth paying. “FedEx Ground operates with a sense of corporate responsibility so the environmental aspect was important all around.”

Ellwood says site storm water management was critical to ensure the amount of water moving into the wetland didn’t change. “The building has a peaked roof so we had to ensure runoff was dealt with on site, and released in a controlled manner into the wetland.”

Storm water is directed into a filtering system, ensuring that only clean water will go into the wetlands.

Milosek took the view that there were efficiencies in developing the land for a pre-determined tenant. FedEx Ground made the process easier by deciding to make what was initially slated to be a two-phase development, a one-stage process.

RVCA planner Jocelyn Chandler says while she hopes all developers have good experiences working with conservation authorities, this is certainly an example of a win-win and a lot of work and co-operation was required on both sides to achieve the final results. “On our side we traded distance from the wetland for quality of the surrounding area and the developer provided the means for this to turn into a viable and habitable wetland, which we would expect to see fully settled in about five years.”

Chandler says there is a greater level of understanding on the part of developers and construction teams in general for the need for environmental consultation. She credits Primo Developments and Warlyn for their co-operation in finding solutions to meet everyone’s interests and needs.

With FedEx Ground’s lease set to begin July 1 and the need for installation of its own equipment prior to this, the team could not afford major construction delays. “There was a buffer in the schedule to give us some room but we had to find creative ways to meet the tight deadline,” says Ellwood. “Some of those ways included co-operation by the trades in working flexible schedules so the electrical for instance was installed before siding was fully in place. We certainly showed it is possible to work during the winter months and thanks to our trades being willing to be creative and work hard with us, the job is getting done.”

Though a late spring and high water levels delayed the landscaping and civil works slightly, FedEx occupied the building on July 1 as planned and landscaping is being completed now.

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