As of­fices sit empty, feds eye huge new com­plex

Plan in works for decade filed with city hall months into pan­demic

Ottawa Citizen - - Front Page - JON WILL­ING

A 26-acre site near St. Lau­rent Sta­tion is still eyed for a new fed­eral gov­ern­ment com­plex as ques­tions build about how the COVID-19 pan­demic will for­ever change office work­places.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s de­vel­op­ment plans for 530 Trem­blay Rd. at St. Lau­rent Boule­vard have been in the works for sev­eral years, but it wasn’t un­til last month that city hall re­ceived a de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion for part of the mas­sive mixed-use project.

Pub­lic Ser­vices and Pro­cure­ment Canada (PSPC), which owns the land, is work­ing with the Canada Lands Com­pany (CLC) on trans­form­ing 18.6 acres of the prop­erty into a res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial neigh­bour­hood, while re­tain­ing the re­main­ing 7.8 acres for fed­eral of­fices.

While planning for the ma­jor de­vel­op­ment has been hap­pen­ing for about 10 years, the pan­demic has forced fed­eral em­ploy­ees to work from home and the gov­ern­ment to con­sider fu­ture office space needs if re­mote work cul­tures become a legacy of the pan­demic.

PSPC couldn’t re­spond to a ques­tion by dead­line about whether the need for the new fed­eral of­fices will be re­viewed in light of COVID-19 im­pacts.

There are two sep­a­rate but com­ple­men­tary pro­cesses in the works at the Trem­blay Road site: one led by PSPC to de­velop the fed­eral of­fices and the another led by CLC to de­velop the sur­round­ing res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial build­ings.

De­vel­op­ment doc­u­ments filed by the CLC in­di­cate the feds are con­sid­er­ing a 150,000- square-me­tre office com­plex, but the lay­out hasn’t been de­ter­mined.

A sep­a­rate PSPC-run re­quest for qual­i­fi­ca­tions to de­velop the office com­plex, which de­scribes the gov­ern­ment leas­ing back the space from the builder over 25 years, sug­gests 8,000 fed­eral em­ploy­ees would work out of the “cam­pus,” with two uniden­ti­fied or­ga­ni­za­tions us­ing just over 60,000 square me­tres each. The rest of the space would be for “generic port­fo­lio space.”

Pre­lim­i­nary plans in a 2011 pub­lic works re­port con­sid­ered the Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency as an ideal tenant for the com­plex.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment is eye­ing 2024 to 2026 for em­ploy­ees to move into the office com­plex in phases, according to the re­quest for qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

For the res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment, CLC held pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions in 2019 to get a sense of what res­i­dents want to see in a new high-den­sity com­mu­nity be­side the fu­ture fed­eral com­plex.

The con­cept plan re­cently filed with the city plots low- and midrise res­i­den­tial build­ings up to nine storeys clos­est to the East­way Gardens neigh­bour­hood, and high­rise build­ings up to 30 storeys in the south por­tion.

The On­tario Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion pre­vi­ously owned the land. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment paid about $25 mil­lion for it in 2009 with the in­ten­tion of creat­ing an office com­plex, although the vi­sion be­came more of a mixed-use de­vel­op­ment that in­cludes res­i­den­tial units and re­tail space.

The site is deeply im­por­tant to the city’s tran­sit-ori­ented de­vel­op­ment strat­egy since it’s lo­cated near St. Lau­rent Sta­tion. A ma­jor mixed-use project with res­i­den­tial, re­tail and office com­po­nents has huge po­ten­tial to feed the LRT sys­tem with tran­sit cus­tomers. There would be a good ar­gu­ment to build another pedestrian bridge over High­way 417 con­nect­ing the sta­tion with the de­vel­op­ment, and in fact, the con­cept plan con­sid­ers the po­ten­tial for a cross­ing.

A trans­porta­tion anal­y­sis in­cluded in the de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion filed with the city es­ti­mates that the fed­eral office com­plex alone would gen­er­ate about 1,300 tran­sit trips in both the morning and af­ter­noon peak hours. The anal­y­sis doesn’t pre­dict how many new tran­sit cus­tomers could be gen­er­ated.

The por­tion of the land not in­volv­ing the office com­plex could also bring more prop­erty tax dol­lars to the city. In­stead of pay­ing prop­erty taxes, which it isn’t re­quired to do un­der law, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment makes pay­ments to the city in recog­ni­tion of the mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices it uses. The pay­ment in lieu of mu­nic­i­pal taxes for the en­tire Trem­blay Road prop­erty in 2018 was about $242,000, the Trea­sury Board sec­re­tar­iat says.

The de­vel­op­ment plan for the en­tire site in­cludes more than just build­ings. Land for a city park has been re­served along the southern bor­der of the prop­erty, and Trem­blay Road would be re­aligned to ac­com­mo­date the de­vel­op­ment. The road would kick south through the prop­erty and turn east to St. Lau­rent Boule­vard. jwill­ing@postmedia.com twit­ter.com/JonathanWi­lling

ASHLEY FRASER

This site along Trem­blay Road is slated for a pos­si­ble new gov­ern­ment build­ing, along with res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial projects.

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