Opinion: An expensive delay?

Contractor could be forced to ante up late fees

A new public garage should ease a parking shortage around the Rideau Centre in time for the Christmas shopping season, but the builders may face a penalty for finishing the project late, sources say.

The new garage - with an entrance on Nicholas Street and space for 435 cars - is expected to open 12 days behind schedule, on Nov. 13.

The garage replaces a crumbling old municipal parking facility that stood on the same site. Under terms of the construction contract with the Rideau Centre, the new facility was to open Nov. 1.

Rideau Centre general manager Cindy VanBuskirk, however, declined to say whether EllisDon would face any late penalties. "Both sides have agreed not to discuss contract terms," she said.

Ian McKie, operations manager for EllisDon, said the company is in discussions with the Rideau Centre on whether a penalty will apply. "The question is when a penalty would take effect," Mr. McKie told OBJ. He said EllisDon had encountered unexpected challenges with the foundations of the old building, causing a delay.

Asked whether penalties could be as much as $25,000 for each day the project is deemed late - as a source indicated to OBJ - Mr. McKie said they would be much less.

Regardless, any penalty would be a fraction of the $17 million spent by the Rideau Centre on the entire demolition and construction project.

That price tag includes the cost of an automated payment system for parking.

The Rideau Centre has had only about 1,000 available parking spots in the 10 months since the old Nicholas Street garage closed.

Under the new garage's payment system, motorists will pay into a machine, just as at several city-owned parking garages. The Rideau Centre's underground parking garage, which remained open during construction of the new four-level garage, will continue to operate as before with attendants collecting payment and making change.

Within a few years, it's expected that two more parking floors will be added to the new garage, raising below- and above-ground parking capacity to about 1,700 vehicles.

The Rideau Centre has limited the new garage to four levels for the time being, to ensure construction would be completed in time for Christmas shopping this year.

The centre is one of the country's busiest shopping complexes: business - as measured by dollar volume - was up six per cent in the first nine months of this year, said Ms. VanBuskirk. She added she expects a highly successful Christmas season.

The new Nicholas Street parking garage represents the first piece of a massive expansion of the Rideau Centre and surrounding area. The expansion will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and is expected to commence as construction on the Ottawa Congress Centre winds down.

Viking Rideau Corp., owners of the Rideau Centre, are then expected to go ahead with the redevelopment of the area at the corner of Rideau and Nicholas streets.The Westin Hotel, also part of the Rideau Centre, is also carrying out tens of millions of dollars in renovations and changes, including the installation of a new restaurant.