Podcast: Weathering the winter COVID-19 storm, Ottawa Athletic Club closes, new tower planned for Holland Cross

In this Behind the Headlines podcast episode, OBJ publisher Michael Curran speaks with OBJ editors David Sali and Peter Kovessy about some of the week’s biggest local business stories.

This is an edited transcript of the panel discussion. To hear the full interview, please watch the video above. Prefer an audio version of this podcast? Listen to it on SoundCloud or Spotify

CURRAN: The city is trying to help local bars and restaurants by extending the patio season and stepping up snow removal efforts. Peter, tell us about this development. 

KOVESSY: We’ve seen the number of registered patios go up from 100 in 2019 to 350 after the city relaxed some of its fees and restrictions, so this is really the next step in trying to alleviate some of the stress they are feeling from COVID-19. But, even with the extended patio season, this is going to be a huge challenge as we move into winter. The city is working to spread the word that it is safe to dine inside providing that proper safety precautions are followed, but it’s really going to come down to whether patrons are going to feel comfortable eating indoors. 

CURRAN: We heard this week that the iconic Ottawa Athletic Club is closing after 44 years in business. Dave, what’s happening with the OAC?

SALI: This is a story that really resonated with our readers and the broader community. When your whole business model is predicated on bringing people together in a confined space it’s really tough to keep the doors open. Friday is actually the last day in business for the gym, which is really emotional for many of the staff who have worked there for decades. Economically it became nearly impossible to keep the gym running with only 50 people allowed in at any time, when they usually would have seen 1,500 patrons a day. It really shows the devastating impact the pandemic is having on businesses and while this is the first big domino to fall, it likely won’t be the last. 

CURRAN: A fairly well-known development at Holland Cross was making news this week with some big expansion plans being revealed. Peter, tell us about that.

KOVESSY: LaSalle Investment Management announced they want to build a 29-storey residential tower at Holland Cross with more than 300 rental units in it. This parcel of land has long been slated for development, with plans to build an office tower there a few years ago that never came to fruition. However, if you look at Scott Street now, there are so many new high-rise projects popping up, all of which are within walking distance of an LRT station. This really shows that developers in Ottawa are buying into the vision of transit-oriented developments and putting people near transit stations, which LRT proponents had hoped for.