Ashcroft to break ground on long-awaited re Sparks Street development

Ten years after discussions first began about developing a prime Sparks Street property, one block south of Parliament Hill, Ashcroft Homes says it plans to break ground on its condo and luxury rentals development on Thursday.

“It took a lot of grit and determination to be patient,” Ashcroft Homes President David Choo told the Ottawa Business Journal. “I’m just glad that we are here now. And we are here now because of how special this site is.”

Ashcroft has been in discussions with the National Capital Commission (NCC) since 2006 about the finer details of the development, located between Sparks and Queen streets, just west of Metcalfe Street. The NCC owns the site it calls Canlands A and is leasing the land to the company for development, but negotiations between the groups have slowed on several occasions.

The development was originally slated to begin in December 2011 with completion anticipated for 2013. Ashcroft said at the time that delays came with the learning curve of applying for a series of development permits from the NCC, where a large priority is maintaining the heritage status of Sparks Street properties.

Ashcroft calls the development “re Residences.” The current plans are for two buildings, one six storeys and the other 16, featuring 92 condominium units and 110 luxury rental suites with amenities such as kitchens. The site includes space for a fine dining restaurant on Queen Street and 6,000 square feet of retail space along Sparks Street. A completion date is set for 2018.

The luxury rental suites were originally intended to be hotel units, but the new vision for the suites are for long-term rentals, likely ranging from as short as a week to as long as a year. Mr. Choo says that these suites would target a niche, high-end market.

On the condo side, Mr. Choo says more than 70 per cent of the units have been pre-sold, including buyers from the first sales period whose original prices will be honoured. He adds that many of those first buyers have since moved on, however, which has opened up many units with the development’s premiere views overlooking the parliamentary precinct. He says that he has no concerns about selling the remaining units.

“This site has always been an iconic piece of Canadian real estate,” he says.

The developer hopes that the overall impact of the property revitalizes the Sparks Street area, which has often been lamented by residents as failing to live up to its potential.

Mr. Choo says he is excited to finally realize his vision for the development and is not detracted by the delays. He says that the final product, not the timeframe, will be the measure of success.

“When it’s finished, I think the public will get a chance to vote and say whether they think David Choo got it right,” he says.