Ottawa City Council to vote on program to convert office space to housing

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The City of Ottawa’s Planning and Housing Committee has recommended that the city should pilot an incentive program to encourage the repurposing of existing office buildings as residential spaces.

Council approved the recommendations at its Nov. 8 meeting.

While the federal government’s plans to reduce its office spaces in the National Capital Region provided the impetus for the initiative, the committee noted in its report that the proposed incentives could apply to office buildings in all sectors.

The suggested incentives include a waiver of application fees for official plan amendments and streamlining the site plan control process to reduce those fees by approximately $30,000.

The committee also recommended that the province consider simplifying the regulation for record-of-site condition, which can be a time consuming and costly process.

“The committee also directed staff to pilot a financial incentive program for office-to-residential conversions within Somerset Ward. Staff would continue to meet with stakeholders to further explore the potential impact of additional financial incentives and report back to the Committee in the first quarter of 2024,” the report said.

The recommendations also include allowing residential uses in office buildings where no additional storeys or additions are proposed, and exploring approaches to stormwater management that could save developers thousands of dollars.

The report also outlined opportunities for streamlining the development approval process for such conversions.

In other business, he committee approved a zoning amendment to facilitate development of a 19-storey apartment building on Isabella Street, between O’Connor and Bank streets. The proposed building would include 234 dwellings — mostly one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.

The amendment would increase permitted height, adding high-rise apartment as a permitted use along with several non-residential uses for the ground-floor commercial space.

The committee also approved zoning to accommodate a four-storey apartment building that would add 18 dwellings on Baseline Road, east of Lexington Street. While the site is already zoned for residential use, the amendment would change the zoning from Residential First Density to Residential Fourth Density to permit the planned low-rise apartment. The amendment would also reduce required resident parking for this property that is well served by transit.

In Riverside South, the committee approved a zoning amendment to facilitate construction of an industrial subdivision along Twin Falls Place. The amendment would rezone the property from Development Reserve to Light Industrial, consistent with the vision set out in the Riverside South community design plan.

If Council approves, the land-use permissions that the Committee recommended on Nov. 2 will help put applicants in a position to build 252 new dwellings in Ottawa.

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