Prospectus: Revitalized Queen Street bringing life back to central Ottawa corridor

prospectus
The newly renovated National Arts Centre at the end of Queen Street.

In each edition of the OBJ newsmagazine, publisher Michael Curran shares his perspective on Ottawa's business community. This installment of his "prospectus" first appeared in the Jan. 2019 edition of OBJ.

Standing at the corner of Queen Street and O’Connor Street is a somewhat disorienting experience these days.

For years, the street was nondescript at best.

On a cold December evening, you can start to imagine the future of the street that sits above LRT’s Confederation Line.

At the east end, the $100 million spent rejuvenating the National Arts Centre is brilliantly on display. The 20-metre-high Kipnes Lantern is lit up like a giant Christmas present.

And, at the intersection in question, a Christmas light-like display is also illuminating entrances into the train tunnel below.

Back at street level, barren asphalt streets are now dressed up with paving stones, giving the area a much more walkable feel.

Finally, the darker curtains that once cloaked Hy’s Steakhouse have been thrown away, revealing the much more boisterous Queen St. Fare food hall accompanied by the thump-thump of live DJ music. (The 9,000-square-foot blend of upscale eateries, a cocktail bar and a live music stage opened in early December in the space Hy’s vacated three years ago. Before the food hall, the only boisterous activity on Queen Street was likely the rabble around the Glue Pot Pub and Barbarella’s.)

The owners of Sun Life Financial Centre (a.k.a. 50 O’Connor and 99 Bank) have clearly bought into Queen Street’s future, spending millions on renovations and attracting new tenants such as Telfer EMBA and Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP. (The building is also Ottawa’s first to gain LEED Platinum and BOMA Best Platinum status for green building efficiency.)

Now look farther west. This is harder to see. At the end of Queen Street is the future site of the joint City of Ottawa and Library and Archives Canada facility, the so-called “super library.” The $193-million project took a step closer to reality in mid-November when Diamond Schmitt Architects of Toronto and KWC Architects of Ottawa won the design competition. (It’s interesting that this is the same design partnership that undertook the NAC’s transformation at the other end of Queen Street.)

The NAC and super library will neatly bookend Queen Street, creating a much more lively corridor than ever before.

With LRT, better buildings, improved entertainment options and a trend for burgeoning tech companies such as Klipfolio and SurveyMonkey to settle downtown, it’s easy to see a more promising future for this once-tired old street.

The Queen is dead, long live the Queen.

OBJ's January newsmagazine

What's in store for Ottawa businesses in 2019? OBJ breaks down the trends that will shape tech, tourism and real estate in the coming year. Plus, read about the capital's booming animation industry as well as the region's top employers.

This issue of OBJ also contains the latest edition of The Networker, which features news, features and profiles from the Kanata North technology park. Read the full issue below.