Feds seek private-sector partner to build new east-end office complex

Campus south of St. Laurent Shopping Centre would house two federal departments, documents say
599 Tremblay Rd.
The federal government is looking for a developer to build a 1.6-million-square-foot campus at 599 Tremblay Rd., just south of St. Laurent Shopping Centre. Image courtesy Google Maps

The federal government is seeking a private-sector partner to build a 1.6-million-square-foot office complex just south of the St. Laurent Shopping Centre as part of a plan to turn the site into a mixed-use neighbourhood with residential units, parks and shops.

Public Services and Procurement Canada put out the call earlier this month for qualified bidders to submit proposals to redevelop a portion of its 26-acre property at 599 Tremblay Rd. Under the terms of the project, the feds will lease the space from the developer for 25 years, after which full ownership of the complex will revert to the federal government.  

The federal government plans to relocate two departments to the new eight-acre campus in an effort to “centralize their staff and services from multiple locations throughout the National Capital Region,” according to a statement from PSPC. The statement said two departments with “ongoing space requirements” have been identified but declined to name them.  

“The new office space will provide employees with an energy-efficient and modern office environment,” the statement said. “In addition, once the project is completed the site will provide the government with additional swing space to relocate employees should the need arise.”

The campus will eventually be home to up to 8,000 federal employees, PSPC said, while about two per cent of its space will be devoted to private-sector retail operations.

According to documents attached to the request for qualifications, the federal office complex is just one aspect of a redevelopment plan that aims to convert the rest of the vacant parcel of land just south of Hwy. 417 into a “transit oriented mixed-use community with office, commercial, retail, and residential areas.”

The rest of the property will be sold to the Canada Lands Company, a Crown corporation that is working on a long-term master plan for residential and commercial development of the site.

According to CLC documents released after public consultations last year, the development will likely include a mix of “affordable, family-oriented” housing, commercial and retail space and several acres of parkland that could feature playing fields and public art installations. A pedestrian overpass is also expected to link the new development with the St. Laurent LRT station.

The Crown corporation said it hopes to submit a final plan to the city sometime this year.

PSPC said it hopes to choose a development partner for its portion of the property by next summer, with the aim of starting construction in 2022 and having the first buildings ready for occupancy by 2025 or early 2026.

The federal government bought the property, which is located just across the Queensway from a major LRT stop and one of the region’s largest shopping malls, from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation in 2009. An Ottawa Sun story in 2012 said the feds were looking at relocating the headquarters of the Canada Border Services Agency to the site, but that plan never materialized.

A leading commercial real estate broker told OBJ Tuesday the site is an ideal location because of its easy access to public transit and commercial amenities as well as its long-term development potential. 

“That was a smart buy by the feds,” said Michael Church, managing director of Avison Young’s Ottawa office. “There’s all kinds of things that can be done. I’m not surprised that it happened.”

Church said relocating two federal departments to the east end will help “spread the load” of commuters across a light-rail network that now transports thousands of public servants through the downtown core to large government complexes such as Tunney’s Pasture.

“It’s about making that system efficient,” he said. “It’s the natural progression along major transit stops. To my mind, it’s all about spreading out the load of LRT.”

The longtime real estate executive said the feds should have no shortage of bidders willing to put their names forward. 

“For a developer … it’s a no-risk thing,” he said. “Because they know at the end of the day, the government is taking it.”

The federal government isn’t the only landowner looking to add to the growing number of transit-oriented development projects along the eastern portion of the Confederation Line. 

On Monday, Colonnade BridgePort announced it’s partnering with a Toronto investor to build a mixed-use “urban village” on five acres of land just east of the Via Rail terminal and Trembly LRT station.