Slate Properties poised to buy downtown Ottawa library land for $20M

Library
(Google Street View image)

As the city moves forward with plans to construct a new central library, municipal staff say they’ve negotiated a deal to sell the site of the current library to a private equity firm that owns an adjacent 19-storey office tower.

In a report being tabled next week at the city’s finance and economic development committee, municipal staff say the current downtown library site at the corner of Metcalfe Street and Laurier Avenue W. is a “unique, complex bundle of property interests,” including leases.

In short, the city and the Ottawa Public Library own the land and have leased out the air rights, which permitted the development of the Sir Richard Scott office building, owned by Slate Properties. Similarly, the city has leased out the rights that permit the four-storey parking garage on the property. The agreement is slated to terminate by 2034, at which time ownership of the office tower would revert to the city and library.

City staff are recommending the sale of the 19,860-square-foot site, along with the air rights lease, to Slate Properties – the current owner of the office tower and leaseholder – for $20 million.

City staff say the figure “reflects market value appraisals” and say the deal offers benefits to both sides. Slate is familiar with the building and all the land parcels, and is also offering flexibility in closing dates so that the library can remain at the facility until the new central library is ready for use.

The report adds that the acquisition would enable Slate Properties to better plan an office leasing strategy at 191 Laurier Avenue W. as well as a life-cycle renewal program.

Ottawa’s new central library will be co-located with Library and Archives Canada at 557 Wellington St. in LeBreton Flats.

The report being tabled next week also refines the project’s cost and timeline. The city now says the project will cost $174.8 million – up from the $168 million previously floated – and be complete by the end of 2024.