LRT the ‘driving factor’ in Trinity’s planned residential builds in downtown Ottawa

A few blocks east of the Rideau LRT station, Ottawa’s Trinity Development Group has launched the first stage of its ambitious plan to build 2,700 new rental units near light rail stops over the next several years.

Last week, Trinity broke ground on a new 25-storey mixed-use tower at 151 Chapel St. near the corner of Rideau. The building will feature 315 rental suites ranging from studio apartments to two-bedroom units and will also have more than 9,200 square feet of ground-floor retail space, with occupancy targeted for some time in 2022.

A joint venture with fellow Ottawa developer Timbercreek, it’s the first of two apartment highrises the companies plan to build at the coveted development site located just a few hundred metres from the city’s largest shopping mall and one of its busiest transit hubs.

The second phase would be a 25-storey building with 318 rental units. In total, the site would have 477 parking spaces, most of them underground.

“We believe this is going to be very successful, and our hope is that we can roll right into phase two,” says Mathew Laing, Trinity’s senior vice-president of planning and development. “We’ve always liked the property.”

Trinity
Trinity and Timbercreek's planned build at 151 Chapel St.

The project has been years in the making. Five years ago, Trinity proposed a two-tower development at Chapel and Rideau linked by a shared podium that would have featured a supermarket as an anchor tenant. 

But after Timbercreek came on board as a partner, the two firms reassessed the project and determined that “breaking this into two phases was the way to go,” Laing says. “We put a lot of work into this redesign.” 

However, a phased approach meant scrapping the podium idea, and the builders were forced to rethink the retail mix at the site.

“We no longer had that large floor plate that a single large-format retailer (such as a supermarket) could use,” Laing explains.

He and his colleagues at Trinity have high hopes for the Rideau and Chapel development, but it’s far from the only transit-fuelled construction plans in the company’s project pipeline. 

Like other developers such as RioCan REIT and Killam Apartment REIT ​– who’ve teamed up on a plan to build a series of apartment highrises near the Blair LRT station in the east end ​– Trinity and its partners see massive potential for light rail to trigger new real estate opportunities in a city with a rental vacancy rate of under two per cent. 

“The LRT is definitely a driving factor,” Laing says. “For us, our focus has been really on mixed-use buildings and creating those environments where people can have those live-work-play type opportunities. That’s what we’re really focused on.”

Next up on Trinity’s to-build list is a three-tower mixed-use development at 900 Albert St., just steps from the Bayview LRT station where the Trillium and Confederation lines meet. 

Trinity is joining forces with InterReit REIT and PBC Real Estate Advisors on the massive project, which will include three highrises of 65, 56 and 27 storeys with a total of about 1,300 rental apartments. Laing said “ballpark figures” call for roughly 85,000 square feet of retail and half a million square feet of office space at the site.

The developers have yet to set a timeline for construction, but the retail and office components are “doing very well from a leasing perspective,” Laing says, adding “several large-scale tenants” are already on board. 

“Really now, it’s about getting that mix in place where you have your large-scale anchor tenants … and then you complete that picture by working with some of the smaller retailers as well to create that full dynamic that we want,” he says. “That entire project will have a real interesting life cycle because of all the different people that will be coming in and out.”

A few hundred metres farther south, Trinity is partnering with CLV Group and PBC Real Estate Advisors on a 745-unit apartment complex at the corner of Gladstone and Loretta avenues, near the future Gladstone LRT station

The proposal calls for three towers of 35, 33 and 30 storeys with a mix of residential, retail and office space.

Laing says the developers are still trying to figure out how to integrate the heritage Enriched Bread Artists building at 951 Gladstone Ave. into the proposal, but he says he expects a site plan to be filed early in the new year.

“We’re diligently working on that,” Laing says.

The executive says Trinity founder John Ruddy had company officials study all the proposed LRT lines years ago to identify possible nearby development sites. Those efforts are paying off, Laing says. “We’re really excited about what’s going on in Ottawa right now.”

If both projects come to fruition, they would add more than 2,000 new rental suites at two sites less than a kilometre apart. Laing says he understands fears that the developments will flood the market with excess units, but adds he thinks the neighbourhood can absorb the inventory.

“It’s always a concern, but we believe in the market,” he says. “The market will obviously dictate at the time when these are launched, what is ultimately feasible and what is not. That’s why we’ve phased these projects … so that we can adjust as necessary. We’re confident that we can fill these sites.”