As offices sit empty, feds eye huge new complex
Plan in works for decade filed with city hall months into pandemic
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. email@example.com twitter.com/JonathanWilling
This site along Tremblay Road is slated for a possible new government building, along with residential and commercial projects.