Ottawa-based Arnon proposes Little Italy development with grocery store attached

arnon development
A rendering of the proposed Arnon development in Little Italy.

A local builder has unveiled plans for a two-phased development in Little Italy that’s expected to include more than 500 housing units and bring a major supermarket to a neighbourhood the ward councillor referred to Monday as a “food desert.”

Arnon says its proposed project will be located at 450 Rochester St. on what is now a parking lot. Bordered by Preston, Aberdeen, Beech and Booth streets, the property is a prime piece of development land just a few hundred metres from the Carling LRT station. 

The area is already a hotbed of new construction, with more than 7,000 new rental and condo units either planned or already being built within a half-kilometre radius of the Arnon project.

“We’re turning a gravel surface parking lot into what we think is an important community development,” said Peter Hume, chief strategist of HP Urban, a consulting firm that’s helping Arnon steer the proposal through the approval process.

“For a long time, the city has been anxious to see them develop this parking lot,” he added. “Arnon has been very deliberate and cautious. They’ve been looking at this for quite some time and looking for the right time when all the mixes can come together so that they can create something that meets the community’s expectations.”

Phase one of the proposal calls for a series of buildings ranging from six to 15 storeys that would contain a total of 295 rental apartment suites along with 346 underground parking spots. The first phase would also feature about 40,000 square feet of retail space anchored by a 25,000-square-foot grocery store.

“That’s an exciting development,” said Hume, adding Arnon is in “very serious” talks with a leading food retailer to occupy the space.

“For a long time, that area has I think cried out for a grocery store. The timing is now such that Arnon is in a position to provide a commercial space (for a supermarket).”

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney, whose ward includes the proposed development, said a major food store is long overdue in that part of the city.

“The Little Italy area has seen rapid intensification in recent years but continues to suffer from the lack of a full-sized, accessible grocery store in the neighbourhood,” she said in an email to OBJ on Monday. 

“Residents have been living in a food desert in the urban core, and it is not acceptable. A grocery store in this location will positively impact residents in the surrounding area, as well as future residents of the multiple projects planned around Little Italy.”  

Other retailers in the first phase could include businesses such as an LCBO outlet or a pharmacy, Hume said, noting the proposal also includes plans for pedestrian plazas in between the buildings that will be geared toward hosting public events.

“This is something you don’t see very often in Ottawa,” he said.

The second phase of the project would include a 26-storey residential highrise with 245 suites and about 6,000 square feet of retail space. Hume said it’s too early to say whether the housing units would be rental apartments or condos.

“The market can change, but at this point it’s structured so that it can be (either),” he said.

Hume, a former Ottawa city councillor, said the builders plan to meet with McKenney and representatives from the Preston Street BIA “in the near future” to discuss the project. He said he expects the proposal to go to the city’s planning committee for approval in late February or early March, adding that if all goes according to schedule, construction of the first phase could begin in the spring of 2021.

Hume said Arnon plans to offer a wide range of rental accommodations, from bachelor apartments all the way up to “family-style” units as large as 1,200 to 1,300 square feet. 

“The rental market as we know is very robust in Ottawa, and there’s been a lot of talk about developments in the centre of the city often being focused on the smallest units possible,” he said, adding the family units will be targeted at long-term tenants who want to “create a home” in the rental complex.