By Sophie Desrosiers
Special to Ottawa Construction News
Members of the local construction scene were given a chance to mingle and network at the Construction Specification Canada (CSC) Connections Café at Algonquin College on Feb. 19.
The event was also a chance for local companies to learn about current major projects.
Three developers reshaping Ottawa’s central area described their projects and the direction they see the city going.
Brad Lamb, president and CEO of Lamb Development Corp., Bernie Ashe, chief executive officer of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) and Jonathan Westeinde, managing partner of Windmill Developments spoke to the group of about 100 guests.
Lamb Development Corp. is responsible for high-rise projects in the city’s downtown area, including the planned redevelopment of the current Ottawa Construction Association (OCA) headquarters at 196 Bronson Ave.
“We’re building a 17-story condo called the Gotham in the center of town at Lyon and Gloucester,” Lamb said. “We’re currently marketing and have approved a 23-story tower called SoBa at Catherine and Bank. We should break ground on that in May, maybe June. We bought the (OCA) office on Bronson and we have a project there we’ve named Bronson, which we’ll be bringing out in probably six months to a year, marketing wise. It’ll be, hopefully, an 18-story 250-unit building.”
Lamb is bringing his business to Ottawa in hopes of bettering the city by building up instead of out.
“We want to be able to build affordable housing, which is what 95 per cent of people live in. It’s going to be cities. If we don’t want to waste the inventory of city land, we need to go high,” said Lamb. “It’s just a more efficient way to use the land and services to be able to provide affordable and reasonable places for people to live in and have a nice life.”
Lamb’s speech spoke to each guest on a personal level as he described the industry from his own perspective.
He shared fabricated tale of developing and building a project from the developer’s point of view. In Lamb’s scenario, the developer runs into almost every problem imaginable, from losing lenders to hitting rocks during construction, but not before finding the remnants of a collapsed building on the site. Guests laughed, being able to relate to the experiences.
“Just then, the phone rings. It’s your favourite commercial real-estate broker calling. ‘Hey, are you in the market for a great site?’ You pause, and say ‘Of course I am. What do you have?’” said Lamb, wrapping up his speech while painting a portrait of the cycle. “It’s never been an easy business, but I love it.”
Ashe, representing OSEG, showed guests plans for the Lansdowne redevelopment and explained what the city can expect upon completion of the project during his speech.
“I think it’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in Ottawa in a generation or two,” said Ashe. “Tonight, I have 10 minutes to introduce you to Lansdowne.”
While the plans for Lansdowne have been made pretty public in Ottawa, Ashe took industry guests through a more in-depth virtual site tour. He explained the 40-acre property would include 360,000 sq. ft. of retail, residential and commercial condos and towers, the preservation of the historic Aberdeen Pavilion, and of course TD Stadium which will house football and soccer teams as well as outdoor events.
Ashe explained the Lansdowne redevelopment is one-of-a-kind for Ottawans because it offers a new lifestyle not common in this city. Once completed, the park will offer amenities making it possible to live, work, play and be entertained all within the same park, which also offers a picturesque view of the famous Rideau Canal.
“It’s so different,” said Ashe. “That’s really what’s captured people’s attention.”
“It’s a unique destination for Ottawa,” he said.
The project is slated to be completed in phases spanning out over a year, first with TD Stadium opening this summer to accommodate the Redblacks and Fury. Ashe indicated some retail space will also be ready to open then, with the remaining projects, including a skating rink similar to the Rink of Dreams in front of City Hall, all opening in the following year.
Westeinde of Windmill Developments was the final guest speaker. Windmill signed off on the purchase of the Domtar lands on the Chaudiere Islands in early December, meaning the project is still too young for many details to be made available just yet.
But Westeinde is excited about the possibilities that come with the historic land.
“We consider ourselves really lucky in the sense that it’s a real jewel in the middle of the city that is somewhat undiscovered,” he said. “The fact that we were able to get our hands on it, you know real estate is all about location. I don’t think you can get a better location in this city as far as redevelopment goes.”
The intent is to use the roughly 40-acre area to create a mixed-use community that will bring together Gatineau and Ottawa through the use of the land on the river, which was formerly a paper mill, but has been gated up for about a hundred years now.
“This site is divided by a border, and that border is pretty wide,” said Westeinde during his speech, “both in the context of real estate values, as well as the texture and urban fabric.”
One of the unique aspects of the redevelopment, he pointed out, is having the City of Ottawa, the City of Gatineau, and the NCC working hand-in-hand and coming together to form a committee to facilitate the work for Windmill.
Westeinde hopes Windmill Developments will be able to start marketing for the project this time next year. And in a perfect world, he says, construction could begin the following year. He hopes the project will bring a new and unique experience to the National Capital Region.
“Something we really want to emphasize here is that for a waterfront city here in Ottawa, to find a place to go have a beer on the river is pretty hard,” Westeinde said during his speech, his statement met with a round of applause and cheers.
After the speeches there was a quick panel discussion where guests could ask the three developers questions. Many guests spoke of feeling excitement over the upcoming projects.
Kanata-North councillor Marianne Wilkinson was among the guests present. While she was particularly interested in the Chaudiere Island redevelopment as she’s known Westeinde and his family since he was a young boy growing up in Kanata, she was also looking forward to getting information on the other projects as well.
“It keeps me in-tune with what’s happening in the city,” said Wilkinson. “I’ve always found as a political person that keeping in touch with what’s going on around you helps you do a better job.”
Ottawa Construction News was the event’s media sponsor. Deloitte Private Client Services was platinum sponsor.
By Sophie Desrosiers